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Experienced New Zealand squash player Joelle King will start her campaign at the British Open tonight (approximately 1am NZ time) and is excited at the prospects of being on court at the prestigious tournament again.
The British Open is being held in Hull this week and has King with a current ranking of 11 in the world up against Egyptian qualifier Mayar Hany ranked 33 in the first round in what she says won’t be an easy draw.
“It’s always one of the most prestigious tournaments on the professional calendar. I guess growing up I always watched Susan Devoy winning it. I’ve made the quarters four times and I’d like to go better. These days even playing a qualifier in the first round the depth of men’s and women’s squash has improved. Everyone is pushing each other more and even from first round, it’s really tough and you have to play your best squash to get through. “
After the domination of Malaysia’s Nicol David in women’s squash for so long King says it’s now an open tournament with more players able to win titles. However King admits her form going into the tournament isn’t what she’d like.
“There’s no dominating player. It’s really anyone’s game especially in the top four or five, everyone is really going for it from round one. I had a couple of tournaments in February which weren’t my best and I decided to go home to New Zealand and get myself rested and ready. When you get older you start knowing what is best for you. I think it was the best move really.”
But one of the biggest highlights for King, 28 is that the British Open is that for the first time there is equal prizemoney for the women’s event. A total prize pool of US$150,000 is on offer for each of the men’s and women’s draws in 2017.
“A large amount of squash is played in the US and they’ve had a huge push for equal prize money. We play the same, train hard, play the same sets, so I guess it was….why not? It’s great for the British Open to be equal. It’s really exciting time for women’s squash. Next year it’s just been announced we’re going to have a tournament of US$250,00 for both men and women so it’s great for the sport and it’s going to help squash keep growing.”
King who lives in Cambridge in the Waikato was a quarter-finalist on four consecutive years 2012-15 and seeded as high as fourth see on a number of occasions. She missed the 2016 Open through illness.
Fellow Kiwi Paul Coll ranked 16th in the world is in the main draw of the men’s tournament and plays England’s Declan James also tonight.
Another New Zealander, Campbell Grayson was beaten in the final round of men’s qualifying in four games by Englishman, Tom Richards.