She is one of the world’s best squash players, she represents the Czech Republic and she studies at Anglo-American University. Her name is Lucie Fialova, she is 24 and her life is not easy – she is busy all the time and crucial aspects of her life are in tight competition.
“Basically, my life is squash and studying,” she says. So what is more important for her – sports or her bachelor’s degree? And does she ever get tired of this?
Squash is similar to tennis, but there are also big differences. The court is a playing surface surrounded by four walls. The main rule is to bounce the ball against the wall within the limited field lines.
The game begins with the serve and the server draws by turning the racquet. Then, a player continues to serve until losing a rally. So it goes until one player fails to perform a proper hit. The ball must not hit the floor after hitting the racket and before hitting the front wall. Each set goes for 11 points.
Lucie learned all this as a child, growing up in Prague where she started with volleyball when she was 5. At 9, she turned to squash just for fun but after two years, she hit the tournament circuit. Now a pro representing her country to the world, she must spend countless hours training and competing abroad. Most recently, she played the Irish Open in Dublin and she is now prepping for the British Open.
The tactics that help her dominate have to do with focus. “I like to use power, to hit the ball hard and control the ball as much as I can,” she says. “I like to make my opponent run,” she adds with a smile.
She calls her favorite shot the “boast,” slamming the ball off a side wall at an angle, or the back wall, before hitting the front wall.
Fialova hit her highest world ranking, 34th, in December and she’s now 37th – but her sights are on the top 30. She was national junior champion in 2006 and five times national senior champion in 2011, a Czech Nationals winner, Polish Open champion in 2010 and scored third place in Individual European Championships in 2012 in Helsinki.
Her “rituals” during competitions are simple. “When I won and got to the next round, on the next day I do exactly this same – I wake up at the same time, I eat the same and I wear winning clothes.”
She claims never to have encountered an unexpected situation during a game – but admits competitions in Iran were interesting. “During the match, all men had to leave the squash court. They could not watch the game, because we play in short dresses and T-shirts. Only girls could be inside.”
She trains twice a day and is off the courts just one day a week.
“Squash is stressful, so I go to univeristy to rest,” she jokes.
On average, she goes for one tournament every month and plays in the league also. So where do her studies fit?
“All my classes are in two days, so the rest of the week is free of lectures and I have time for squash.”
What do her friends think about such a delicate balance? “I remember her turning in assignments even a few weeks early because she had match around the actual deadline,” says journalism student Marketa Horazna. “I don’t recall if she had any breaks from the teachers. I myself am glad if I find enough time to go to the gym twice a week – I can’t imagine what it’s like training professionally as a full time student.”
Fialova’s education has been almost as diverse as her touring schedule. She studied one year at AAU, then two years in Egypt, where she was living. When returned to AAU, as a second-year student, she got on track to finishing with a bachelor’s in international relations. She also thinks about studying psychology or journalism.
Fialova doesn’t have time for much else. “I even feel jealous of other students because they have got time for student meetings,” she confides. But for now, it’s all about her game, she says. “I want to see how far I can go in it.”
One day, there will be other horizons, though. She also loves golf, skiing, art and history – and has at least one non-squash dream: “I woluld like to learn to play piano and then to have my own concert.”