Ngāti Porou squash player Joelle King has secured her first PSA tour event in three years in confidence-boosting fashion ahead of her Commonwealth Games defence later this year.
She had an assertive three sets to one win over England’s Sarah-Jane Perry, one of her biggest rivals at the Commonwealth Games, to claim victory at the Manchester Open this morning. It is her secnd title at Manchester, the first player to record multiple titles since the tournament started in 2019.
“I'm actually quite emotional,” said King afterwards. “It's been a long time since I won an event, a lot has happened in my life since then. I've been through a lot of downs and to be at this point winning a tournament against the calibre of players we have on tour means so much. It's nice to have so much support, some of my team aren't here and my body is in bits so it's just so nice and emotional,” the 33-year-old said.
King found her targets with accuracy and stretched Perry into all four corners of the court to take the opening game 11-8 in just nine minutes.
The New Zealand No.1 continued this momentum into the second game, taking time away from her English opponent and firing the ball short with pace. King earned herself a game ball at 10-9 and after a video referee decision, King doubled her lead.
Perry had to find something different in the third game to give herself a lifeline in the match but started poorly as King ran out to a 5-2 lead. Perry gathered some momentum to claw back to 8-9 but after a solid rally from world No 5 King had two championships balls. She converted at the first time of asking, though needed another video referee decision to confirm her win 11-8, 11-8, 11-9, finishing in 41 minutes.
King will take a short break from the tour to prepare for the World Championships in Cairo next month. She will also be heading home in July for the first time in three years to take part in the NZ Championships in July, before returning to the UK for the Commonwealth Games to defend the gold medal she won on the Gold Coast in 2018.
In an emotional post-championship interview, King paid tribute to her friends and whānau who have continued to support her over the past 3 years.
🗣️ "I'm actually quite emotional because it's been a long time since I've won an event, a lot has happened in my life since then. It means so much."— PSA World Tour (@PSAWorldTour) April 18, 2022
Reaction from @Joelle_King after she got her hands on the title 🙌#MCROpen pic.twitter.com/E0XOLZ5DN7
“It's been three years since I've seen anyone in my family, and I love them, this is what all the sacrifices are for. I wanted to give my squash everything that I have and this one is for them and to everyone who stood by me. When you're doing well there's so many friends and people but it's those that are there when things aren't doing so well that mean so much.”
“Everyone has the World Championships at the top of their minds. I'm choosing to miss the other tournaments to be at my best for that but everyone will go about it in different ways so let's see what happens.”