Thursday, February 29, 2024

Exclusive interview with Sarah-Jane Perry

Sarah-Jane Perry looks cool in this Prince photo-shoot
Sarah-Jane Perry looks cool in this Prince photo-shoot

World No.12 SJP aims to build on her National title success, boosted by steak and sweet potato fries

By Alan Thatcher, Squash Mad Editor

England’s World No.12 Sarah-Jane Perry would love to see squash in the Olympics. She would also love to see more tournaments offering equal prize money. And she would definitely love to see a glass court set up at Warwick Castle. As she prepares for her first tournament of the new season in China, she tells Alan Thatcher how hard she’s been working in the summer, and how she let her hair down in Bermuda.

11 Points with Sarah-Jane Perry

1: With the season almost upon us, please tell us about your summer training. Did you try anything new?
A: This summer has been quite long compared to last year, so we managed to get a really good block of training in. It’s always fun to put some different bits into summer training and this year I had a more diverse circuit, which included exercises on a crash mat as well as tyre flips.

a_sarah_jane_perry2: Please tell us about your home club, your training venues, coaches and training partners.
A: My home club is Kenilworth. It’s a fantastic members’ club with six courts (including one glass back with an all-important adjustable tin). This is also where my coach, Steve Townsend, is based and he’s had the pleasure of coaching me for about 15 years now!

I do a lot of my gym work at The Warwickshire, where I can look out over the scenic golf course as I sit in a pool of sweat on the bike. Plenty of trips up to Manchester as well, to keep regular contact with the physio and support team.

I train with a few members at my club and some of the other girls when possible. I’ve also been training with Alison Waters more regularly.

3: With all that hard work, there must have been some lighter moments. What was your most enjoyable experience of the summer on court or away from squash?
A: It’s difficult to look past Bermuda for this question. I went over with Alison Waters. Both the exhibition we did, and the whole trip, were beyond expectations and I would definitely love to go back.

Alison and I spent the week with our friend John (an Englishman working out there).
We did tourist activities like visit the crystal caves, lighthouse, and as many of the beautiful beaches as possible as well as play some tennis and a few rounds of golf. 
The fresh fish and seafood was amazing every night and we also tried the local cocktail of Rum and Ginger Beer…A Dark & Stormy!   
It was also nice to spend time in the summer with family and friends, particularly my godson Seb, who turned one in July and just gets cuter and cuter! 

4: At a career-high position of 12 in the women’s world rankings, what are your targets for the coming season?
A: The immediate target is obviously to break the top 10. There’s a lot of people who said I wouldn’t ever get this far but as amazing as 12 is, I can’t be content to stay there.

Winning the Nationals with Nick Matthew
Winning the Nationals with Nick Matthew

5: You hit the headlines earlier this year with a magnificent run to win the National Championship in Manchester with wins over Millie Tomlinson, Fiona Moverley, Alison Waters and Laura Massaro. What do you remember most from that week? (Hope you got a nice bonus from your sponsors!)
A: It’s all a bit of a blur now! I actually had a niggle in the weeks before and almost didn’t play so I was just happy to be out there, able to play without any problems. It was a breakthrough tournament for me, beating two former champions in tough matches on consecutive days, and one I can draw confidence from for a long time to come. I had family, friends and my sponsor there for the final and it was amazing to do it for them in a way. They are always there for me but don’t often get that opportunity.

6: You are number seven seed for the Squash On The Bund event in Shanghai in September. How much are you looking forward to it, and what are your expectations?
A: I’m really excited for the upcoming season and hopefully I’ll start how I mean to go on in China. I’ve not played the event before but I’ve heard good things so I’m just looking forward to getting going now and applying everything I’ve been working on during the off season. No expectations, one match at a time.

Winning in Toronto always feels good!
Winning in Toronto always feels good!

7: How much do you enjoy the travelling on the world tour, and what are your favourite destinations and tournaments?
A: In most part I enjoy the travelling. As an introvert I don’t always mind long plane journeys alone. I still get that mix of excitement and wariness travelling to new places even now, but everything always seems to turn out alright!

I always seem to do pretty well in Toronto so that definitely has to be on my favourites’ list, with the Granite Club receiving a special mention as they are always amazing hosts not to mention it’s the only tournament I’ve won twice!

The British Open is always special, being on home soil, and the ToC is a spectacle like no other seen in our sport.

8: Nicol David is seeded to meet Raneem El Welily in the final in Shanghai. What do you admire most about those two players?
A: Both of these players have a lot of qualities and traits I admire. Nicol is the poster girl for hard work, dedication and perseverance which, along with everything else, make her a brilliant role model. I admire the flair Raneem brings to the game and the ingenuity her play displays. Both are known for their sportsmanship, which must not be ignored, either.

Sarah-Jane on the attack against Nicol David
Sarah-Jane on the attack against Nicol David

9: Thoughts please on the question of equal pay for male and female athletes in squash?
A: I’ve been quite vocal about my views on this previously. Female squash players train just as hard as the men, sacrifice just as much and are as professional. Women’s squash is growing quickly and more people are getting the opportunity to watch it and see what a thrilling game it is. Women will never be as quick or as strong as the men but, in my opinion, this doesn’t detract from the matches.

I love watching all squash…women’s and men’s. We are athletes at the top of the game, who show the highest levels of athleticism. This said, I would love to see equal prize money across the board but whilst I will applaud it, I won’t demand it. Big steps have already been made and I believe the priority is to keep growing and the rest will follow.

10: Please tell us about your sponsors, and how much of a help they are to you.
A: My main sponsors are England Squash and Racketball, Prince, James Hart Chorley and RAB.
England Squash provide us with a wide range of support and access to a support team. This is invaluable with a physio and coach travelling to many tournaments, as well as sports medicine, nutrition psychology etc support at home.
Prince (rackets), Akuma Sports (clothing) and RAB (strings and grips) provide me with top quality equipment which gives me massive peace of mind. I am very grateful to them all for continuing to support me and have faith in me.
Along with James Hart Chorley, these allow me to push to be the best I can be and only worry about my training and matches.

11: Your thoughts please on the current Olympic bid and what it would mean to the game if we were to win a place in Tokyo 2020.
A: It would be amazing if squash were to be included for 2020. It ticks every box and encompasses everything the Olympic ethos is built around so I believe it’s only a matter of time. On a personal level I would love to see it included for Tokyo as it’s likely I will still be playing and every sports person’s dream is to compete for an Olympic medal. We are no different.

Winning feels good
Winning feels good

TIEBREAKERS: A few extra quick questions.

Favourite Meal?
A: Steak and sweet potato fries

Your skills in the kitchen?
A: I cook most nights. I have a variety of dishes.

How tidy is your squash bag?
A: I’m probably known as one of the untidy ones on the tour…so not very!

Favourite movie you’ve seen this summer?
A: Southpaw

How much TV do you watch?
A: Not that much when I’m at home, a lot when I’m away

MATCH BALL: Please name a venue in England where you would love to see the glass court put up for a tournament.
A: I’ll go local and say in Warwick Castle! I think castles are such amazing pieces of architecture and would love to see a glass court in the grand hall of one or out in the courtyard.

Thank you Sarah-Jane. Good luck in the coming season.


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