It’s a rare opportunity seeing New Zealand’s Commonwealth Games athletes competing against each other in their own nation. However starting tomorrow at the national squash championships in Auckland six of the seven players from the Kiwi team which won four medals on the Gold Coast two months ago will be in action.
One of the stars will be world No.4 and winner of the singles gold medal, women’s doubles gold medal and mixed bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games, Joelle King.
King, 29 from the Waikato arrived in New Zealand from the season ending PSA tournament in Dubai earlier this week and has been adjusting to conditions as she readies for her only tournament in the country, at the Henderson Squash Club.
The number of national titles she’s won is a question King is constantly asked, but it’s more of a tricky question than you’d think.
“I have no idea how many I’ve won….I’ll look on the trophy if I win it again,” said King “I just play.” She’s actually won six titles going in to this tournament.
King has a bye first round and will play her second round contest at 6pm on Friday. In her half of the draw she is scheduled to meet Abbie Palmer in the semifinals, but has a number of top junior players such as Winona Jo Joyce from the Hawkes Bay as potential opponents.
Second seed Amanda Landers-Murphy from Rotorua also has a bye in the first round and is seeded to meet Waikato’s Emma Millar in the semifinals. Millar recently reached the final of the PSA tournament in Palmerston North and has been in top form in other domestic tournaments as well.
Top junior Kaitlyn Watts (Palmerston North) has had to withdraw following injury, but other juniors such as Anika Jackson from the Waikato are keen to make an impact
Meanwhile Commonwealth Games men’s singles silver medallist and mixed bronze medal winner, Paul Coll is back for a rare visit to New Zealand. Coll is currently ranked No.10 in the world and will be aiming for his fourth national title.
He faces Patrick Mulvihill (South Canterbury) first up on Friday afternoon with experienced Kashif Shuja (Palmerston North) on his side of the draw along with top juniors from Auckland, Anthony Lepper and Gabe Yam.
The bottom half of the men’s draw has Gold Coast Commonwealth Games representatives Evan Williams as second seed along with along team mates Zac Millar and Lance Beddoes as well as top junior Matt Lucente.
New Zealand High Performance Manager, Shelley Kitchen, a former highly rated international player is thrilled to have such talented players in the national tournament.
“It’s great to have almost all of our top players in one place to showcase their talent and that it’s a great opportunity for the public to see them play. It’s a rare thing to have players of this calibre all in one place in New Zealand,” said Kitchen.
The women’s final is from 3.20pm Sunday with the men’s final 4.20pm.
What: Eye Rackets Senior NZ Nationals,
Date: Friday 15 – Sunday 17 June
Where: Henderson Squash Club
Times: midday start Friday, Saturday semis from 4pm, Sunday finals from 3pm