She is described as one of the greatest players in the history of squash. Australia’s Sarah-Fitz-Gerald has won 15 world titles, including seven World Team Championships, a record that may never be equalled. We caught up with one of the living legends of the game.
Photo credit: www.squashmad.com
Hi Sarah. First of all, let’s go back in time a few weeks. You’ve just another world title, the over 45 in South Africa. Can you tell us about your time overthere? Will you keep on playing the World Masters?
Sarah Fitz-Gerald: South Africa was amazing. I organised a tour group and everything went according to plan, we had so much fun. When possible I will play more masters events. I am taking a tour group to Norfolk Island (off Australia) and I am an ambassador for the World Masters Games in Auckland, New Zealand in April 2017.
Apart from winning world titles, what have you been up to these days? Besides representing the company CourtTech, you’ve been involved with Tahiti Squash haven’t you?
S.F-G.: Yes, I recently had an opportunity to visit Tahiti. I loved it. The people are great, and the level of squash was good as well. It was fun meeting and coaching their national team players. My husband and I are the agents for CourtTech, which means we’ve got contacts with so many countries, as well as an opportunity to build or renovate venues all through the region. I also do some coaching with locals and a few professionals. I totally enjoy it because it keeps me involved and connected to this awesome sport.
Photo credit: www.squashmad.com
Will you be playing a part in the 2018 Commonwealth Games (which will be held in Gold Coast, Australia)?
S.F-G.: I hope so. But in what capacity, I’m not sure yet.
Let’s focus on the Women’s World Team Championship. You’ve won this event more times than anyone, and also were Australia’s coach in 2012. Do you remember all the WWTCs you played in?
S.F-G.: I do remember all the teams I was involved with and played in. The times I represented Australia were some of the proudest moments of my career. Normally in squash you play as an individual, but wearing your national colours brings all sorts of emotions: playing for your team, hearing your anthem, how your result affects the team, strategies etc. I’ve played for Australia 80 times and loved every minute of it. I would do it again if I could.
Australia’s coach is Michelle Martin. You’ve had a big rivalry with her in the 90s…
S.F-G.: I won the World Open in 1996 and 1998, and Michelle Martin was our number 1 in the WWTC on those years. When we played for Australia, it was all about winning the title, there was no ego about the position in the team. At some point, Australian players were ranked 1, 2, 3 and 4 in the world! We were a pretty tough team to beat…
Photo credit: gettyimages / Martyn Hayow
In 2010, you were 42 years old when you came out of retirement to play the WWTC in New Zealand. What was the rationale behind this decision? And what did it feel like to win this event one last time?
S.F-G.: I got myself fit and put my name forward in 2010 because I had been playing quite a lot – and well enough to earn a position in the team. We hadn’t made the top 4 in the two previous events and I felt I had something to offer the Australian team to change that. It turns out we were fortunate enough to win that year… We performed really well as a team and worked our way into the final (Fitz-Gerald won all her matches especially against England’s Sarah Kippax in the final). It was so exciting – and nerve wracking – to represent my country again and absolutely amazing to win another world team title after so many years away.
What teams are your favourites for the 2016 WWTC, and do you fancy Australia’s chances?
S.F-G.: I suppose you can’t look past Egypt and England. But India could notch up some surprises, like they have done in previous events. France, Malaysia and Hong Kong are always tough to beat. There is also the United States, who are growing stronger every championship. I will always be supporting the Aussies, fingers crossed they can cause some upsets. Especially since Rachael Grinham is still such an amazing player.
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What do you think of women’s squash at the moment, and the dominance of Egypt and their young players?
S.F-G.: I like to watch all the players, each of them have something interesting to look at (technique, fitness, mental strength, creativity etc.) and they can create different dynamics within a match. The Egyptians have certainly been dominating. The rest of the world can learn a lot from them and train hard to slow down their dominance.
I think you play some men’s leagues in Australia, but you haven’t lost a match against woman since 2001. Rodney Martin (former world champion) recently made an appearance in a PSA tournament at the age of 50, could you imagine doing that on the women’s tour?
S.F-G.: I retired undefeated and have no intention to play any open or sanctioned events. I keep busy with men’s leagues. Actually, Christine Nunn (current professional player who will be part of the Australian team in France) also plays men’s league in Melbourne, so we could meet! I play masters events, as well as some racquetball and occasional exhibitions to keep fit and motivated (she won her ninth national racquetball title after this interview was made, and she is unbeaten in the sport …). I still love to play, but making a come back or entering a professional event is not on my radar.
Photo credit: worldsquash.org
***Breaking news: Sarah Fitz-Gerald has just been elected Vice-president of the World Squash Federation, alongside new president Jacques Fontaine (France). It’s not the first time she holds an important position in a squash governing body: she was President of the Women’s International Squash Players Association from 1991 to 2002.
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