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Joelle on Comeback Trail

Top New Zealand squash player Joelle King is making good strides in her recovery from injury and is confident of a good showing at the prestigious British Open this month.

King ruptured an Achilles tendon during the final of the national championships in August last year, but has been back on the court for a month now. The 26-year-old from Cambridge has played three tournaments so far on her return – winning the women’s titles at the Matamata Open, Te Puke Open and Remuera Classic, while also competing in the men’s divisions.

King said she was a bit nervous about her return to action, not so much about the injury but about getting back in the surroundings and with everyone watching. But she said it took her just one set of her first match back and she was laughing.

While admitting she wasn’t quite up to scratch physically in her first outing back, King felt she had improved. Coming through five tough matches in three days made her feel sore, but gave her confidence.

“I’ve been pretty lucky that it’s all kind of behaved well,” she said of the foot. “And I’ve looked after it, and done everything I kind of could to make sure that it was recovering after every session.”

That has also seen King take her general rehab to another level, with a bigger focus on massage, pilates, stretching and icing to make sure there is no added pressure on other parts of her body.

“I’m not too far off being 100 per cent, in terms of strength on that left side again, so that really was the main goal, to be going away to the British [Open] feeling like I’d got the strength back on that side 100 per cent and not having to worry about it.”

The British Open runs from May 11-17, with King flying out on May 4, basing herself in Leeds for a training week, before heading to Hull. The tournament will mark a year since King’s last official WSA event, though she said it hasn’t felt that long, and the break had been good.

After getting right away from the game and freshening up, King has also been studious with her time, doing a lot of video analysis and picking up plenty of information on other top players.

King is approaching the British Open with an eye to getting back into the routine of taking on the world’s best, along with hotel living and travelling. In her local tournaments she’s had a very relaxed feel, and is hoping to keep it on the world stage.

“It’s amazing what happens sometimes when that’s what you think, not put any pressure on myself to do things,” King said.

Having risen to No 4 in the world prior to her injury, King will have four tournaments at a ranking of No 11. She will compete at the Australian Open in August before the big tournaments start. By then she is looking to be a better player than she was before her injury, aiming for a more ruthless approach, as she looks to take out a top tournament.

“Before I got injured I was making a lot of semifinals and sort of going close and not quite getting to the final or winning tournaments. So that’s going to be a really big goal for me, to break that barrier and get through those semifinals and start to bring home some of those titles.”