When Big Ben chimes at midnight to mark the start of 2016, Laura Massaro will have more than most to celebrate as she becomes the world’s number one ranked squash player, surrounded by her nearest and dearest.

Massaro will be just the third English woman in history to be recognised as the best squash player on the planet and she is the first since Cassie Campion in 2004.

The 32-year-old, from Chorley, won the British Open in 2013 and became world champion in 2014 but being first in the rankings had previously eluded her.

"Having already won a British Open and a World Championship, it was probably the last box to tick, so for me it is absolutely massive," Massaro told the BBC.

"There's nothing planned [to celebrate it] but, as it will be New Year's Eve, I'll be with friends and family and can celebrate as the clock ticks down.

"As number one, my level is obviously the best in the world at the moment and I just have to try and keep improving, so other people are looking at me as though that's where we need to be and who we need to catch.

"That's a nice goal for me to set my sights on."

Massaro’s feat is all the more impressive when you consider she took a break from the sport in March after a run of disappointing results culminated in a second round defeat to Emma Beddoes at the Windy City Open.

It was her first break in 12 years and was inspired by tennis star Petra Kvitova deciding to do something similar after her Wimbledon triumph.

Massaro marked her return in May by reaching the final of the British Open and recently went on a 14-match unbeaten run, which helped ensure she will replace Egypt's Raneem El Welily at the top of the world rankings on January 1.

She explained: "Danny and I went on holiday and I finally started to wake up not thinking about squash. The fog started to lift and I could see where I wanted to go in the future and that I had more to give to the sport.

"You don't want to take time off, but I came back and changed my physical trainer, shifted a few things around to get a little bit of freshness back and a new direction, and it's all worked really well."

"I've made a conscious decision to take a little bit of a break sometimes," she said.

"That's the deal I've made with myself... train hard but try and have weekend breaks and three or four days off every now and then.

"But when I'm in my training zone, I'm working perhaps harder than I've ever done before."

Sportsbeat 2015