FOR most athletes in their 30s, thoughts of retirement are well and truly rooted in their mind. For Lisa Aitken, though, it is the time she has hit the form of her life.

The 32-year-old has recently climbed to her highest world ranking of 32, as well as achieving her best result at the platinum-level US Open just a few months ago.

With the two weeks Aitken has ahead of her, she knows she will have to be at the top of her game if she is to achieve what she believes she is capable of.

Tomorrow, Aitken will begin her campaign at the British Open – the tournament she describes as squash’s equivalent of Wimbledon – before one of the biggest weeks of her career with the World Doubles Championships beginning in Glasgow. And she can’t wait.

In Hull for the British Open, she is set to take on the seeded  Nada Abbas of Egypt in round one.

“I’m playing at a level that I feel like I can give anyone in the world a run for their money,” she says. “I’ve noticed a real shift in my mindset recently in how I view the other players. I certainly have a lot more self-belief and that’s huge. I feel confident against anyone I might come up against and in all honesty, I haven’t had that before.

“One thing that’s helped me is that as you get older, you start to care less about little things and that helps a lot, I don’t waste energy on pointless things now. 

“Also, not long after the pandemic hit, I switched coaches and very quickly, I was able to see changes in my game. I know that I’m capable of doing things better than my ranking and so it’s a case of how do I get there.”

Aitken has not had an easy time, not in the past year nor during her career. In her mid-20s, the Dundonian caught dengue fever on a trip to Asia, with the after-effects keeping her out of the sport for several years.

And following her best result of reaching the last-16 of the US Open in October, Aitken suffered a partial tear in her bicep that kept her off court for four months. 

However, on her first event back in February, she surprised herself by picking up where she left off, once again reaching the last-16 of the platinum event in Chicago before losing narrowly to the world No.9.

It was a performance that brought with it both frustrations that she let her chance to win slip but also, a massive confidence boost that she has the ability to compete with the world’s best.

It is the World Doubles Championship the following  week, though, that has the potential to be one of the most significant weeks of her career.

She will partner Georgia Adderley in the women’s doubles and Greg Lobban in the mixed, with both partnerships having the potential to challenge for medals.

“It’s so good having such a massive event in Scotland,” she says. “I’ve never played with either of these partners before but in both events, I feel this is an excellent opportunity to win a medal.

“We’ve played a lot in practice and going by how that’s gone, we know we’re one of the best prepared teams at the tournament and I feel confident. 

“Both events have a different feel – in the women’s doubles, with Georgia being younger I’m there to reassure her and in the mixed doubles, Greg looks after me – and I like both. I can only go out there and play well and then see what happens.”

 The event in Glasgow has particular importance as it will decide both the qualifiers and the seeds for the Commonwealth Games this summer. Only Scotland’s top-two finishers in Glasgow, regardless of the event, will make it into Team Scotland for Birmingham 2022 and so the pressure is on for Aitken to  gain selection for what would be her third Commonwealth Games appearance having made her debut in 2010.

“I think the experience I have is definitely helping me deal with the pressure that’ll be on us in Glasgow and with Team Scotland having made the selection criteria in this way, it does put a very different spin on the Worlds,” she says.

“It’ll be good to get the qualification out the way because it has such an impact on decisions throughout the season – it’s constantly in the back of your mind.

“So I’m definitely looking forward to that being over with and that weight being taken off my shoulders and just being able to concentrate on playing again.”