Saturday, June 3, 2023

Home British Open squash support will play their part, says Perry

Sarah-Jane Perry says she will be drawing on the memories of her Commonwealth Games bronze medal at Birmingham 2022 when the British Open returns to the nation’s second city on Sunday after an absence of 22 years.

The 32-year-old, who has reclaimed her status as the England No.1 to depose Birmingham 2022 gold medallist Georgina Kennedy, has happy memories from her Commonwealth campaign despite losing to her compatriot in a brutal four game semi-final.

Perry showed resilience and mental fortitude to overturn a 2-0 deficit against Joelle King, the opponent who had defeated her in the final four years previously to claim a five-game encounter 14-12 in the decider, to capture arguably the hardest ever fought bronze medal.

Now with Perry counting down to her opening match against the winner of the Siva Subramaniam versus Chan Sin Yuk encounter next Monday she has no doubt about the difference her home Birmingham crowd can make.

The World No.8 seed said: “Absolutely I think the home crowd can certainly lift you when you are down and help you stay positive when you hear these people get behind you.

“I am not one for looking out at the crowd when I am playing, but you can still catch the feeling of the crowd and even if it’s a split crowd it still gives you a lift.

“You can only dig as deep as you’ve got but I think it helps you find something extra at the bottom of the well where you’ve been many times in training and all of that.

“It was pretty obvious how hard I had to dig at the Commy Games, particularly in the bronze medal match, and I don’t think the crowd could have helped me anymore than they did that day.

“So it will be a fantastic atmosphere for the British and I’m just really looking forward to it.”

Perry was a beaten finalist at her home open back in 2017 when she lost an all-English final to Laura Massaro 11-6 in the fourth in Hull and is still pinching herself at the return of the game’s oldest major to her home city.

The England No.1 said: “It’s incredible we have the British Open back here for the first time in quite a while and staying for three years as well is amazing and that is down to hard work from the PSA but also down to the commitment of the Birmingham City council.

“We didn’t want to lose the momentum on the back of the Commonwealth Games which was incredible for showcasing Birmingham and the West Midlands to huge audiences and a lot of people left the games thinking Birmingham was a helluva lot better than they expected!

“We have a lovely city centre and the investment has really come to fruition. So it is amazing to have the British in Birmingham again.

England’s Sarah-Jane Perry

“That said it will be a bit of a dog-fight with the first couple of rounds all on traditional courts at Edgbaston, which is not an ideal scenario for the tournament, but one that couldn’t be avoided this year.

Positive home vibes

“The positive in this is that it does involve a local club like Edgbaston Priory, which is one of the main clubs in the West Midlands, and it’s nice for it to play a major part in this British and I know they have sold out their days at Edgbaston.”

Perry, who is completing her preparations at coach Rob Owen’s West Warwicks stable this week in the company of Nele Gilis, Katie Malliff, Lucy Beecroft and Millie Tomlinson, admits that it will be a case of ‘where memories are made’ this next week.

She said: “I have incredible memories of the British Open, it is the one Platinum I have made the final of, so I have these memories banked and can really draw on how that felt and how much I want that again.

“So it has those great times for me and I know I will enjoy literally every moment playing in front of my home crowd with lots of people I know from the squash community and just sports fans that live near me and have bought tickets.”

Paying due credit

Perry was also keen to make a shout out to key sponsors who were also great supporters of last year’s Commonwealth Games squash event. She said: “It’s really important for me to thank all the local people who support squash in the West Midlands and there are a couple who have supported me in particular throughout my career personally.

“They massively stepped up to make the court in New Street happen before the Commy Games and are also supporting the British next week.

“Oliver Fincher at Aston and Fincher has selflessly put a lot into squash over the years as have a lot of other people in the Warwickshire scene but for me personally he has helped a lot but also made a lot of this a reality.

“There is also the squash group called ‘Squash United’ which is a collaborative that was founded to ensure squash took advantage of the Commonwealth games and maximise the legacy from it.

“They have also been very supportive, so many thanks to them as well.”

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