Ngāti Porou squash player Joelle King is set to start her campaign at the British Open at around 1am NZDT. She's excited to make a return to the prestigious tournament again.
King is currently ranked 11th in the world and will go up against Egyptian qualifier Mayar Hany who's ranked 33rd. King says it won't be an easy match.
“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."
Despite King's domination in recent years, she admits her form going into the tournament isn't at the level she hoped it would be.
“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.”
One of the biggest highlights for 28-year-old King is that there is now 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 this year.
“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 was a quarter-finalist in four consecutive years, from 2012 to 2015 and seeded as high as fourth seed on a number of occasions.