Emotional Shelley Kitchen finishes on a high

CLASS ACT: New Zealand's Shelley Kitchen lunges to play a shot during her semifinal match against England's Tania Bailey at the world teams championships in Palmerston North last night. She won the match, but it was not enough to advance New Zealand into the final.
MURRAY WILSON/Manawatu Standard
CLASS ACT: New Zealand's Shelley Kitchen lunges to play a shot during her semifinal match against England's Tania Bailey at the world teams championships in Palmerston North last night. She won the match, but it was not enough to advance New Zealand into the final.

Shelley Kitchen has bowed out of squash a winner.

The 31-year-old Northland-born mother was unbeaten at the world teams championships, which ended on Saturday in Palmerston North.

Kitchen defeated Sharon Lin in straight games but team-mates Jaclyn Hawkes and Joelle King were both beaten as New Zealand lost the third and fourth playoff to Malaysia.

Australia upset England in the final but the retiring Kitchen was the centre of attention on Saturday.

"We had a big dinner with some speeches and Jaclyn and Susan Devoy said some lovely words," Kitchen said.

"I had to speak as well and I was really emotional. I kept telling myself `this is a really happy time for me' but I was really upset in the end."

But Kitchen, who became a mother in February, said there were no regrets about the decision to hang up her racquet.

"Not at all. I've had a long time to get used to being retired because my last competitive match was in August last year, when I announced I was pregnant. So I've gradually let it go," she said.

Kitchen said it was satisfying to finish the championships unbeaten but would have happily traded that in for team success.

"It has definitely taken the shine off the week a little bit but when I reflect back on things, I've got a lot of great memories."

Kitchen felt the New Zealand women's game was in good shape, with Hawkes ranked 12th in the world and King 17th.

"Jaclyn's been on the circuit for about six years but the Commonwealth Games gold has given her a lot of confidence. She's had that taste of success and really more. And people forget Joelle is only 22. She's got a great future."

As for Kitchen's own career, the former world No6 rates a bronze medal in the singles of the 2006 Commonwealth Games, and reaching two world open quarterfinals as the highlights of a decade on the world circuit.

"The game has been really good to me."

Life now for the Auckland-based Kitchen will involve spending more time with her daughter and partner Anthony Ricketts, the New Zealand team coach.

"My baby's been carted around squash clubs this year so I'll concentrate on her for the next few months. I'd like to stay involved with squash in some way, maybe helping some junior girls."

She admitted having former Australian professional Ricketts as both her coach and partner had been interesting.

"When we're on court together it's not very good for our relationship, put it that way," Kitchen laughed.

"But when we're at tournaments together we're both professional and I value his advice," she said.

Kitchen wasn't the only impressive veteran in Palmerston North.

Five-time world champion Sarah Fitz-Gerald emerged from a seven-year retirement to help Australia to their first world title since 2004.

The 42-year-old destroyed England No 3 Sarah Kippax 11-4 11-4 11-4 as Australia upset the top seeds 2-1 in the final.

The Dominion Post