Thursday, June 13, 2024

Katie Malliff: ‘I played lots of sports as a kid but I remember thinking squash had everything’

Katie Malliff started the year with her biggest tournament win in Ipswich and will end the season on the glass court theatre stage at the Birmingham Rep in her British Open tilt. Home comforts in between her life back on the PSA World Tour after an unwanted back injury.

The Englishwoman has also made a recent change of coach, switching from Rob Owen to Sue Rose, as she bids to climb back up the rankings after a spell off court fixing her bad back. 

“It was a well-thought decision,” the 21-year-old says of her coaching decision to join Rose, the former squash professional. “We left on good terms with Rob. He’s been my coach for over six years but it was the right decision and I wanted something different and so far I’m really enjoying it.”

Malliff is relishing a current return to the world tour after a back injury first aggravated in July 2022. She worked hard to get back into shape, but one year later it went again, with the bulging disc still not fixed.

At the end of last year, she took more time to let it recover and returned to win the Women’s Ipswich Sports Club Challenger Cup in January which turned out to be her biggest tournament win.

She moved on to the Platinum events where she has reached an array of second rounds. She hopes now to find a tour rhythm, even though the season is ending, and a climb back up the rankings (her highest being world No.34).

Malliff’s first memory in the game was on court with her squash coach mother, Tricia, aged nine. “As a tennis, rugby and football player at that age, I remember thinking squash had everything; to be quick, agile and have so many skills and ways to hit the ball.”

For Malliff, it was about “constantly learning” thereafter, while mum Tricia has been the typical travelling parent, first taking her daughter to tournaments a year after she started the game in earnest. 

“We went not knowing what to expect,” recalls Katie. “I think I came last in that first event at the English Nationals under-11s. I hadn’t played a tournament before and only started 18 months before. I lost my first round match.

“We watched the under-11s final between Torrie Malik and Lydia Robinson playing. I remember thinking they were really good and hopefully I could play like them one day. A few years later I was competing with them in the older age groups and it was pretty inspiring.”

A Tring School student until she was 16 and then moving to Aylesbury College. She was 12 when first called up by England. In 2019, she reached the European U19 final as a 15-year-old and ended her junior career by winning the event. 

Back on the full-time squash beat, she is also assistant coach to her mother at Wendover and Buckingham Squash Clubs, while Malliff will be looking to attain one of the two places set to be offered to GB Squash for LA 2028.

“It’s an amazing chance to showcase our sport to the world,” says Malliff. “It gives us English players a long-term goal to compete for GB. With only two players selected it would make it extra special to be selected. Every four years means that the Olympics doesn’t come around too often and it makes you want to train harder and be more motivated. It’s a real positive.”

Malliff takes heart from the success garnered by England’s talent over the last decade. “Having watched Laura, Nick Matthew and Sarah-Jane Perry growing up, it’s been great to see what they have achieved,” she adds. “It shows that with enough hard work and discipline, then hopefully we can do it too.”

Malliff plays Emily Whitlock in the first round at the British Open, the second year the Bucks talent has competed in the main draw, last year she lost 3-0 against Joelle King in the second round.

The Anglo-Welsh clash will take place on the glass court at the Birmingham Rep. “What a venue,” states Malliff. “I watched it last year and thought how great it would be to play on that court. And a year later I will be.”

Read more

Latest News