King down but not out

Top New Zealand squash player Joelle King will meet with a surgeon today as she begins the long road back from a ruptured Achilles tendon.

The 25-year-old from Cambridge suffered the injury in the final of the national championships in Auckland on Friday night. Having won the first set against Megan Craig, the four-time reigning champion and world No 4 had to default the match after tumbling to the floor in pain.

"I knew as soon as I did that it was gone," King said. "Because I know a lot of people that've done it, and they've said it feels like someone kicks you from behind. Megan was in front of me so I knew she hadn't run into me or anything."

King was due to fly just a few hours later for a tournament in Hong Kong, however she was instead taken to hospital and put in a cast, and spent the weekend napping and medicating as she contemplates several months out of the game.

It is King's first major injury - she has had sore muscles and the odd issue with her back, but never broken a bone - and although "devastated", she's in relatively decent spirits.

"You look at it on the other side and I'm still alive and it's not like it's career-ending, I haven't been paralysed or anything like that. So I'll be back for sure," she said.

King's biggest frustration is having to sit still, and she said she will become grumpy with no exercising. However, she is thankful for the support she has around her.

"I've got my hubby, and my mum flew back from Perth just to be around so when I go for surgery and things like that she can run me around. And my gran actually lives in a granny flat at the end of our house, so I've got lots of good support, which is really nice."

That has also extended to the wider squash community and the public, with plenty of messages going King's way via her website.

Former top New Zealand players Susan Devoy and Leilani Rorani, and England's Alison Waters - who King beat for bronze at this year's Commonwealth Games - had all been in touch after going through that injury themselves.

King hopes to have surgery this week and is then eyeing six weeks in a cast, then four weeks in a moon boot, before the rehabilitation starts.

"Just talking with my team and stuff, it's definitely an injury that I don't want to rush back from," she said.

"It's going to take a while to build my strength and fitness back up, so yeah, who knows, maybe six months, but that's just a complete stab in the dark. I just need to make sure that when I do come back that it's the right time and that I'm right back where I've left off, or even better hopefully."

With many of the world's top tournaments coming in the back end of the year, there are plenty of potentially lost earnings for King. She hasn't even wanted to contemplate that, and is now hoping to rely on ACC for compensation, though working out just how much she would have won from each tournament will be a tricky business for them.

Meanwhile, in the weekend's national teams event, the defending champion Auckland men's and women's sides both went down in their finals 3-1, only managing to win the dead rubbers.

Wellington were the top seeds in the men's event and duly took out the M.C. Day Cup, for the sixth time in eight years.

In the women's competition, third seeds Central prevailed to take out the K.A. Mackwell Cup for the first time. After second seeds Canterbury were seen off in the semifinals, top ranked Auckland was then knocked off by Central, whose opening tie of the decider was won by Kaitlyn Watts, who is just 13 years old.

Waikato Times