It could be anybody’s says three-time Aussie champion
Interview by NATHAN CLARKE
Three-time World Champion Michelle Martin says that the incredible strength in depth in the Women’s game means that almost anyone could win the forthcoming PSA Women’s World Championship, which begins on Monday April 25 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Martin, who lifted the most coveted title on the Women’s Tour for three consecutive years between 1993-1995, is one of the finest female players ever to pick up a squash racket and her trio of World Championship titles puts her fourth on the list of all-time winners after Malaysian superstar Nicol David, fellow Australian Sarah Fitz-Gerald and New Zealand’s Dame Susan Devoy, who defeated Martin in the 1992 final.
Her first World Championship crown began an unprecedented spell of success for Australian squash, with eight of the next nine titles being won by either her or her countrywomen.
Despite David taking up the mantle of the tournament’s dominant force in recent years, this year’s event looks set to be one of the most open Women’s World Championships yet with eight of the world’s top nine reaching finals this year and Martin is anticipating an unpredictable week of action.
“There is change at the top; it is still open for many players to take the title,” said Martin (right), who now acts as a Director at Squash Australia.
“The lower tin is providing a more attacking style of play. Eyes are obviously on the young Egyptians, but it comes down to consistency throughout and also how the draw opens up. The current level of competition makes for interesting viewing and shows the younger players that, given a chance, it could be anybody’s day.
“It is creating greater interest in the game and opening up opportunities for many more players to see that they have the opportunity as well.
“Mental toughness is key to staying tuned in for the duration of the event. You may not always be playing at your best so your mental toughness will be tested. Obviously, you have to have the physical ability to sustain the pressures as well. Then it all needs to come together and for you to keep focused during the good and bad moments.”
Having been a three-time winner, Martin reiterated the importance of remaining focused throughout a high-pressure week of action and paid tribute to her Uncle, who took over the coaching reigns prior to her World Championship successes.
“My Uncle Lionel used to write notes for me to read before major events,” she explained.
“It was all about remembering the work you had put in and to remain focused on what we worked on in training. Lionel always had me visualise quietly in my room each day, to think about certain aspects of the game plan and the opponent. You have to find a process that works for you and just stay focused on that process.”
The Women’s World Championship is the pinnacle event on the Women’s Tour, with the upcoming instalment set to be the most lucrative edition ever with a $185,000 purse up for grabs in addition to a brand new Citroen DS4 car.
While the prize money was significantly lower in the 1990s, Martin recalled the prestige of becoming the World Champion and admitted how special the distinction felt after she defeated compatriot Liz Irving, who now coaches David, in the 1993 final.
The 48-year-old mused: “It’s always interesting, is it better to be World Champion or World No.1?
“Both, of course, but only those who achieve it, I think, really understand what each one means. To be the World No.1 is to be the best, consistently, against the world’s best players for a period of 12 months, whereas to be the World Champion is something that everyone recognises as being the best player in the World.
“To hold the title is very special and it was not just about it being special to me as a player, but it also recognised those who helped you achieve it.
“It was in 1993 and in Johannesburg [where she won it for the first time]. It was fantastic. I had my coach and husband there to share the experience and it was a team effort that felt wonderful.”
The PSA Women’s World Championship takes place between Monday April 25 – Saturday April 30 and sees World No.1 Laura Massaro seeded first, but she faces stiff competition from the likes of David, British Open champion Nour El Sherbini and World No.3 Raneem El Welily in an event that promises a stunning week of world-class action.
All matches will be played at the National Squash Centre, Bukit Jalil where admittance to the event is free of charge. For more information and details, visit here: http://psawwckualalumpur.com/
Pictures from Squash Mad archive