Martin Ross helped create the world’s first robotic squash coach – now he’s homing in on glory at the Springfield Scottish Open.
The competition starts at Inverness Tennis and Squash Club on Wednesday and 28-year-old Ross, who hails from Inverness, goes up against Barcelona’s Edmon Lopez.
He is ranked 443 in the world, which is 328 places below the Spaniard, and goes in as a wildcard entrant two years after bowing out in the first round at the same venue in the same competition.
Ross is an Edinburgh-based graduate in PhD in computer science, who helped design the world’s first robotic squash coach as part of his course.
Seeking best ways to beat Spaniard
His homework this week, however, has been to find the best possible solution to getting the better of a dangerous opponent.
He said: “I have been studying Edmon’s strengths by watching footage of his games. Hopefully I can go in with the tactics need to try and beat him.
“Everyone has a different style of play, so it’s about trying to play to my strengths and hopefully that will be good enough on the day.
“Having played here two years ago, it’s about making the most of my opportunities. Tactically, I also can’t give anything too easy to him and go in and perform at my best.”
When asked about his robotics background from studying at Heriot-Watt University, the athlete said: “We worked on the first robot squash coach in the world.
“It was designed to help coaches in the interim between sessions to coach and give (players and coaches) feedback at individual practice.
“The PhD project was to develop and evaluate this. It was cool.
“The robot is not in use anywhere, it was just a proof of concept.
“We evaluated it with squash players over a six-to-10 week period and it managed to get people more motivated, and make more technical improvements within sessions than normal solo practice without the robot. So, there is definitely the potential for something in the future.”
Great atmosphere at Inverness
Ross is thrilled to be back home in the Highland capital and hopes the local backing can help drive him on.
He added: “I was a wildcard in the competition here a couple of years ago as well and that was a great experience.
“This is where it all started for me, so to come back and playing in the Scottish Open is special. The crowd got really involved in 2021 and I expect the same this week.
“It is always such a great atmosphere and great for me to play in front of people I’ve known when I was growing up.
“Everyone at the club really does get involved when these big tournaments happen in Inverness, so it’s always good.”
The Scottish Open prize fund, of around £16,000, will be split equally between male and female players. Several Scottish players are included in the field of 48, which will serve up some world class squash with 15 nationalities represented.
Scotland's flagship squash competition returns to Inverness for five days of world-class action this September.
Some of the world's top players will go head-to-head at the Springfield Scottish Squash Open 2023.
— Scottish Squash 🏴 (@Scottish_Squash) August 4, 2023
Also in action on Wednesday, at 2pm, is Glasgow’s Andrew Glen, who plays Belgium’s Joeri Hapers.
Eighth seed Alasdair Prott from Inverness, who won his maiden PSA Tour title this summer, comes into the competition on Thursday where he will take on either Miles Jenkins or Will Salter, who are from England.
Fans will also get to see Rory Stewart, who along with Highlander Greg Lobban won bronze at last year’s Commonwealth Games. He will meet Ireland’s Sam Buckley or England’s Lewis Doughty.
In the women’s draw on Wednesday, Scotland’s interest sees Ellie Jones face Switzerland’s Ambre Allinckx, Alison Thomson go toe-to-toe with Hana Ismail from Egypt, Robyn McAlpine face German opponent Keterina Tycova, and Katriona Allen take on Tessa ter Sluis from the Netherlands.
Top seed Georgia Adderley from Edinburgh enters the fray on Thursday and will play Allen should she come through her first-round tie.
The event will be streamed on to BBC iPlayer and BBC Sport website and app from the semi-finals onwards over the weekend.