Opponent: Natalie Grainger
Country: USA
World Ranking: No.5
Result: Lost 3-1; 12/10 11/8 5/11 11/8

The task of playing one of the world’s best players may be a daunting one, but I’ve signed up to a be a professional squash player and that comes with the package. In fact, I should look forward to more encounters at this level, because it doesn’t get any easier, therefore it doesn’t help to wish it was so.

I wanted to last as long as possible on the court so I could feel the different pressures that come with each stage of a match. The first game was long and hard, where I stayed patient yet attacking, but didn’t open up the court at silly moments. You don’t want a player like Natalie to be in front of you regularly – that just spells trouble. It is harder to read what shot she will play. The second game was like the first, where I worked hard for the points, moved appropriately well to pick up her shots both short and deep. The third game was a real surprise for me, where the basic game of keeping her deep, moving her around, lead to openings where I could win rallies at the front of the court. Before I knew it, it was game to me.

In the fourth game, I started well and strong, and became a little aware than my effort were wearing my opponent down a little. After being 6-1 up, I made and unforced error to the front. I then started going short too early, which allowed her to get in front of me and it took the pressure off her slightly. A serve out caused me to become so focused on myself that I stopped enforcing my game plan effectively and I also stopped watching my opponent’s reaction to the game situation. I lost one point after the other and soon it was 7-6 to her. One long rally even out the score at 7-7, but by now she had recovered and a player of her caliber knows how to change the game to her favour.

She took the match. I was a disappointed with the way the last game turned out, but happy to see that I’m on the right track in efforts to take on the world’s best players, with the South African flag flying high.


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