Misaki Kobayashi started on the PSA tour in 2005. She had a wonderful career winning 8 consecutive Japanese titles. Misaki won several titles on the tour, and In 2012 she became the highest ranked Japanese player in history. Misaki reached 29 in the world rankings, and retired from the beautiful game two years ago.
We caught up to Misaki to find out more about her story.
Squash Pod: Misaki, tell us about yourself and how you got into squash?
Misaki: “I was born in Tokyo & grew up in Yokohama. Me and my brother Ryosei Kobayashi got introduced to Squash when I was 11. My dad played a lot socially but eventually got too busy with work. That was when he took us down the local club. We just played for fun for the first couple of months, but then dad asked us if we wanted to take it more seriously! We didn’t know what he meant at the time! He said to us “but if you do take it more seriously – because squash in a minor sport you have to be number 1″! We had never been heavily involved in sports but we said sure lets give it a try!!!!” I loved squash from DAY 1″
I looked up to Nicole David a lot as a teenager. She was one of the reasons I moved to Penang, Maylasia when I was 15 so I could train at the amazing Nicole David international squash centre. Unfortunately Nicole wasn’t there at the time. I lived in Penang for 4.5 years and I turned pro at 17 years old.
Where it all began
Squash Pod: So we understand that you retired a couple of years ago now? What was your motivation when you decided to start as a professional, and what do you now miss the most about squash since retiring?
Misaki: Yes I retired a couple of years ago, and I have to admit I havn’t been up to much but I did get married!!!!!!!! When I started at just 17 years old as a professional, I just wanted to be the best player I could be! The things I am most grateful for about my career are the opportunities I had to travel around the world. The opportunity to experience so many different cultures really inspired me throughout my career. I also miss my friends on tour and I miss having good times with them!
The Squash Pod: You and your brother have clearly laid down a marker for Squash in Japan. How popular is squash in Japan?
Misaki: Squash is still a minor sport in Japan. It is obviously getting better than when I started playing. I think Japan missed out on a massive opportunity to become very popular when we missed out on the Tokyo Olympics 2020. There are a few good juniors coming up who could have a bright future if they keep working hard. One difficult realities however is that we have been losing a lot of squash courts recently.
The Squash Pod: That seems to be a common thing across the world!? Why do you think that is?
Misaki: I think the reason we lose courts is because the sports clubs (mostly franchised clubs in Japan) like David Lloyd in the UK prefer to use the court space for something more profitable. For example a yoga class could have at least 20 people at once whereas squash can have maybe 3 Max. Actually if you think of the height of a squash court you could have two floors so 40 people if you divided it into two floors!!!
The Squash Pod: What are your plans for the future?
Misaki: Recently I have got involved in working in an operations team at the world swimming championships. This is something I have always been interested in. Its an amazing experience to be managing a big sporting event. Maybe id like to get involved in sports event management in the future!!!
The Squash Pod: Well let’s hope you can come and manage Squash events in the near future!!! Good Luck with everything and congratulations on a fantastic career!!!
Misaki: Thanks very much😊