It was New Year’s Day and I was flying out to London for the World Series Finals, to play amongst the best of the best – the top eight women squash players of 2012, fresh from winning the biggest title of my life just 11 days earlier. I hadn’t wrapped my mind around my 7th World Open title, nevertheless I found myself on another gorgeous glass court later that evening – this time, at the Queen’s Club. Better yet, I had my first practice hit of 2013 with James Willstrop! He was kind enough, telling me that I didn’t need to run around too much on the first day of the year. Phew!
The pool matches began on the 2nd of January and we played a best of three games format that is only used in this event. During the pool matches, excitement was aplenty with a few matches going against the seeding and mine was one of them. It was strange that after a loss to Laura Massaro in my pool, I still had to focus and prepare for my next pool match against Natalie Grinham to stay in the tournament. Not everyday is a Sunday, and seeing that I had been given a second chance, I made it count and got through to the semis.
The other interesting bit of the week in London was the widespread coverage of the tournament – aired LIVE on Sky Sports, and the squash family welcomed an array of media that flocked Queen’s to catch a glimpse of the squash action. It was an ideal scenario for the media to have the top eight men and women squash players under one roof, showcasing squash at the highest calibre. It was exciting to share my stories with the press who were very keen to hear about my World Open win, while dwelling into squash’s BackTheBid2020 Olympic campaign. Everyday, we had more and more coverage that kicked off squash’s campaign to a great start in the new year.
Another great honour was meeting British Olympic Medalists – Victoria Pendelton and Greg Searle, after the semis. Both of them brought their medals from the recent London Olympics and Greg even had his Gold medal from the Barcelona Games. It was the first time I ever held an Olympic medal in my hand. It was a surreal moment having the Olympic medalists next to us (Nick Matthew and me), with proof of their sheer hardwork and dedication in their respective sports. It was such an inspiration to be in their presence, let alone have them come all the way to Queen’s in support of our Squash 2020 Olympic campaign.
Though the semis was live on Sky Sports 3, it was a full house that night at the club. The atmosphere at Queen’s was incredible and the cognizant crowd were ecstatic. I played Camille Serme in a high tempo match that got the crowd roaring after each rally! This only made me want to play better each time. We had a close second game but I sneaked in a 2-0 win.
Earlier in the morning of the finals day, I had the privilege of having a practice hit with Amr Shabana. I couldn’t imagine having my first hit with James, then Shabana before the finals? I was well and truly happy! That buzz stayed with me until my match! I was up against Laura again but this time, it was a best of five format in the final. I felt that this was my chance to give it my all and I went into the match with a purpose. I could only remember a small bit in the third game when it felt like the crowd was closing into the Z-court while Laura and I were neck-to-neck. Winning that last point made it real – I had won the World Series Finals! I played one of my best matches by far in that final.
It was a real treat to win in front of such a knowledgeable crowd and feeling the appreciation for what we were doing on court. A great start to the year and well done to Amr Shabana on his win too. Looking forward to more in store soon!