GREG LOBBAN is moving up in the world of squash but jokes he’ll only have properly made it when he flies home to Inverness Airport and spots a giant poster of himself staring back at him.

“Yeah, that’s the dream,” he laughs, acknowledging it would take something remarkable for that situation to ever materialise, as was the case on a recent trip to squash-obsessed Egypt where billboards featuring the game’s leading stars were commonplace.

Lobban may not enjoy that kind of devotion in his own country but, to little fanfare, the 28 year-old has manoeuvred himself into a position where he can now be considered an elite player in the global game.

Currently enjoying a career-best ranking of 21st in the world – the same, coincidentally, as his Australian wife Donna – the Sheffield-based player hopes a solid performance at the forthcoming Qatar Classic will take him closer to achieving his ambition of breaking into the top 20.

Having the requisite mental strength to believe he can do so is just as important as his performances on the court, something he worked on extensively with performance psychologist Jeffrey Webster during a period of lockdown downtime.

Lobban acknowledged that the Scottish gene of never wanting to be considered too big for your boots maybe plays a partial factor but felt that, when it comes to bolstering your self-esteem, there is nothing better than simply beating the best players more often.

“I feel confident heading to Qatar that my game is in a good place,” he said. “I know I can beat the top guys on a more consistent basis now which wasn’t always the case.

“I’ve had three wins over top 10 players that I didn’t have before last season so I know my level is up there. That gives you a bit more self-belief when it comes to critical points in matches.

“Maybe two years ago I’d play top 20 guys and just view it as good experience. Now my mentality is all about what I need to do to beat them.

“I guess as Scots we have a reputation of playing everything down, including our ability, and in team events we seem to do better when we’re the underdogs.

“That comes from a mentality of maybe not always believing that you’re the best. But as I get older you realise that winning is a habit.

“The leading Egyptian players have been the best every season from when they were 10 or 11 years old which wasn’t the case with me. I’ve caught up with many of them now but it’s taken years to get that experience and that confidence in myself.

“I did a lot of work in lockdown on my mental resilience which was probably the weakest part of my game. It was holding me back against the best players. In the past I was maybe blowing up too much with the referee or my opponent and now I can see that isn’t giving me the best chance of winning.”

Qatar is the third major squash event to be held since play resumed in September and Lobban admits those involved are fortunate to be able to return to competitive action.

It has been, though, a surreal experience with the Scotland number one not even allowed to share a room with his wife at tournaments.

“It feels great to be competing again,” he added. “We’re quite privileged in the sense that we’re allowed to enter the few tournaments that are going on at the moment.

“It was quite strange when we started back in Manchester as you were effectively restricted to your hotel room and there weren’t many chances to practise on court before the event.

“There were no fans there so it was almost like playing in a practise match. There was a bit more of an atmosphere in Egypt as fans were allowed to watch although there were still many of the same restrictions in place around the tournament.

“Donna and I travelled together but weren’t allowed to share a room or come within two metres of each other as you’re classed as being in the tournament bubble from the moment you arrive. We could still eat dinner together but on separate tables."

Lobban laughed that he wouldn’t be brave enough to bet against his wife – the former world no. 13 – about whose career prospects look brighter at this point.

“I don’t want that competition as there is only going to be one winner!” he admitted. “She’s got a significantly better record than me and won gold at the last Commonwealth Games so I’d say she’s got the upper hand on that front.”