By ALAN THATCHER (Squash Mad Editor)
Commonwealth Games champion Gina Kennedy returned to action after illness and injury by winning a tough battle with South Africa’s Alexandra Fuller to reach the last eight of the Grasshopper Cup.
In a Squash Mad interview with Mike Dale this week, Kennedy revealed the setbacks she has suffered since winning that gold medal in Birmingham.
At Halle 622 in Zurich, playing a best-of-three format in this PSA Gold tournament, Kennedy received a tough examination of her fitness levels from the determined Fuller.
Kennedy controlled proceedings in the first game and played with her trademark high intensity to always keep the South African on the back foot and secure a 1-0 lead, winning 11-6.
Fuller played extremely well to capture the second game 11-9, but Kennedy remained calm and promptly returned to her fast-paced, accurate brand of squash in the deciding game.
Kennedy’s intelligent, attacking style looked to be damaging Fuller physically as more space started to appear on the court for the Englishwoman to hit into. She wrapped up the third game 11-4 to reach the quarter-finals here for the first time.
Kennedy said: “It was really hard, Alex is a really tough opponent. I’ve played her a few times and it’s always been a battle, that was a tough draw for me.
“I was also glad to be back out there as I had to miss the last event and today was also a very special day for someone really close to me so I just wanted to do them proud.
“I’m always nervous. It’s a different ball game this season. I kind of have to wipe the slate clean and forget about last season and let this season speak for itself. You’re only as good as your last game and I think it doesn’t matter about the results I had last season, I’m just trying to find my stride again.”
Kennedy meets World No.3 Hania El Hammamy in today’s quarter-finals, with the Egyptian keen to make a statement after losing to Sabrina Sobhy in last week’s U.S. Open.
El Hammamy bounced back from that third round exit in Philadelphia by beating France’s Enora Villard in straight games.
El Hammamy, who won the CIB Egyptian Open in September, fell to No.3 in this week’s PSA World Rankings but produced a clinical performance to oust World No.44 Villard 11-3, 11-5.
There was a short injury break at the beginning of the second game after El Hammamy clipped Villard with her racket on her follow through, but that only served to pause El Hammamy’s march to victory.
El Hammamy said: “It wasn’t easy (after the injury break) and I was definitely worried about her. She’s a very good friend of mine and we’ve travelled a lot since we were juniors. She used to take care of me when I was up and coming, so I was very worried and I’m glad that she is fine.”
Welsh No.1 Tesni Evans caused a big upset on the third day as she overcame World No.7 Sarah-Jane Perry in a thrilling three-game contest to move through to the quarter finals.
Evans had won just three of her previous 14 matches against Perry, losing the last four in a row, but put in a gritty and tenacious performance to win 11-6, 10-12, 11-9.
Their last match saw Evans surrender a two-game lead as Perry came back to win at the Manchester Open earlier this year. With this being a best-of-three contest, a second-game resurgence from Perry – where she overturned three match balls – evoked memories of that comeback.
The Englishwoman almost produced another gutsy fightback in the third game as she put Evans under serious pressure after being 7-2 down, but Evans held her nerve to complete a win which sees her set up a last eight meeting with No.6 seed Salma Hany.
“This is the first top eight player I’ve beaten in about two and a half years,” said Evans.
“I haven’t been putting my best self out for about two years and it’s been really hard. But I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress over the summer and the win is nice, but it’s more about how I’m playing and being myself more, and that’s all that matters for now.
“SJ and I have played so many times, it’s ridiculous. Not just on the PSA, but in every tournament. The last time I was 2-0 up and lost in five, the time before that I was 2-0 up and lost in five, today I was 1-0 up and was like: ‘You’re going to lose again’.
“She played probably her best level at the end of that second game. I was still playing well but she was getting better and better as it went on, so I’m just happy to come out positive in the third. We’re really good friends, so that makes it tougher. We both gave it a thousand per cent, and we both want to win. We leave it on there and I’m sure we’ll catch up soon.”
Evans will now face No.6 seed Salma Hany in the last eight of the tournament after the World No.10 defeated fellow Egyptian Nadine Shahin in the opening match of the day’s play.
PSA Gold Grasshopper Cup, Halle 622, Zurich, Switzerland..
Women’s Second Round (Bottom Half):
Tesni Evans (WAL) bt  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) 2-1: 11-6, 10-12, 11-9 (45m)
 Salma Hany (EGY) bt Nadine Shahin (EGY) 2-1: 4-11, 11-8, 11-1 (25m)
 Georgina Kennedy (ENG) bt Alexandra Fuller (RSA) 2-1: 11-6, 9-11, 11-4 (28m)
 Hania El Hammamy (EGY) bt Enora Villard (FRA) 2-0: 11-3, 11-5 (22m)
Women’s Quarter Finals (Friday, October 21):
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v  Olivia Fiechter (USA)
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) v  Rowan Elaraby (EGY)
Tesni Evans (WAL) v  Salma Hany (EGY)
 Georgina Kennedy (ENG) v  Hania El Hammamy (EGY)
Pictures courtesy of PSA World Tour