Speculation of a possible return to competitive squash by former world ranked player Nicolette Fernandes grew among the squash purest after she participated in the recent Pan American qualifiers in the Cayman Islands.
It was easy to understand why devotees of the sport got so excited about a possible return since Fernandes is one of the region’s greats – a world-rated Guyanese who achieved success on many fronts. And, it didn’t help that she only dropped one match out of four as Guyana women’s team qualified for the 2019 Pan American Games in Peru.
Fernandes, however, laughed off any speculation of a possible return during an exclusive interview with Stabroek Sport.
The interview, nonetheless, took an interesting detour as she chatted about her life after retirement, her relationship with Mary Fung – A – Fat – who has embarked on her second stint as a pro athlete – and the intricate elements of the sport.
“Royston, I have no interest in returning to competitive squash,” the 35 – year – old said while wearing a relieved expression on her face.
“I wanted to give back to the sport, and I agreed with the [Guyana Squash] Association to help the girls qualify for Pan American Games, once they [team] were committed because I could remember persons doing the same for me when I wanted to achieve one of my goals of making it to Pan American Games,” Fernandes explained.
She is now in relaxation mode after an illustrious career which began when she was only six-years-old and after achieving a career-high No. 19 world ranking (2013) while winning gold at the 2006 Central American and Caribbean Games.
Fernandes said she is quietly embracing time away from the sport.
“Retirement has actually been beautiful. If you had asked me in the middle of my career how Nicolette would have been when she retired, I would have said ‘miserable and grumpy’ because I love squash so much but I was pleasantly surprised that the void that was left from squash was filled with so much beauty with my family, getting to do things that I couldn’t do.
“Because I was athletic growing up and I had to stop doing everything that wasn’t specific to squash because of the risk of injury but once I retired, I could now water-ski and play hockey, and I felt so much happiness.
“I had sacrificed so much and didn’t realize how much I sacrificed until I stopped but again, I would do it all over again.” Fernandes, however, spoke of the anxiety and blissfulness of getting to the stage of ‘letting go’ as she coasted into the sunset period of retirement and the joys that followed, many of which were gift wrapped in things that she is now able to do.
“I retired a lot longer than I officially announced but I never really wanted to make a big deal out of it. It has been nearly two years and when I stopped, I just needed a break from squash and removed myself entirely away from squash.
“Squash has been a huge part of my life since I started at age six and I retired around 33, so I was consumed. Squash consumed me, very happily. I mean I love it.
“I’d do it over again a million times over but when I finished, I just needed to be removed, and when I finished, I took about a year of complete removal.”
Fernandes is also now heavily invested in nuances of yoga – ‘Namaste’ – which played a big part in taking care of her body while being an athlete. She also does a little bit of coaching.
As it relates to the work she has done with Fung-A-Fat, Fernandes described her as a committed young athlete who can go the distance once she sticks it out during this turbulent period of going pro.