Joelle ready to be King of the Glasgow court
Joelle King believes she's mentally well prepared to reach heightened expectations of her when she starts her Commonwealth Games campaign on Thursday.
The world women's No 3 singles player was one of the stars of the 2010 Games in Delhi, winning gold in the women's doubles and silver in the mixed doubles.
But in Glasgow, she's favoured to win a medal in the singles as the third-ranked player in the women's event behind superstar Nicol David of Malaysia and England's Laura Massaro.
Yet the 25-year-old from Cambridge said her dominant emotion as she awaited her opening singles match was excitement, not nerves.
"I've had a massive training block and I haven't had a major tournament for a while," King said.
"So I'm excited to get on court and put all the things I've been working hard towards into practice."
King said she's comfortable dealing with the new expectations.
"It's quite a different feeling coming in this time - last time I think was ranked 14th in the world and I don't think anyone had much expectation outside of our squash team. But it's something that I've prepared for with my sports psychologist and my team around me.
"I've been working with my sports psych [David Galbraith], and [NZ team coach] Paul Hornsby, who's also my personal coach, when I'm back in New Zealand.
"I'm surrounding myself with my inner circle and I know that there's no pressure from them. They're just here to support me in whatever way they can. I just want to play well and unleash on the court what I've been doing in practice."
King had plenty of praise for Galbraith as he helps her develop her mental approach.
"He's awesome - I've worked with a few people over the years but I just clicked with him and we've been doing some stuff together."
She admitted that improving her mental strength could provide the final edge she needs to reach the top of the sport that has been dominated for a decade by David, a seven-time world champion.
"In any top level of sport, that mental edge that a lot of people forget about is what separates the very top from the rest. That's one of the biggest things I've been working on - trying not to get overwhelmed by big finals or situations."
She now thinks she can topple David, who she is drawn to meet in the semifinals.
"I think one of the biggest things has been believing," King said.
"I've got so close so many times that I think 've got the game that can beat her and I've just kinda got pipped at the finish line. So I think belief that I deserve to be there is going to be the major thing on the day."
Hornsby said King has made "huge gains in her game" over the past 18 months.
"She's moving in the right directions in the world rankings and has worked very hard to close the gap on those above her in the world rankings."
King concurred with her coach.
"I'm feeling really good - in the last 18 months I've made a lot of changes and I think I'm in good stead. My body's been good, which is obviously at this level one of the main things."
She's warmed up for Glasgow playing men's tournaments in New Zealand, which should help her with a taxing 11-day schedule that will see her also play in the women's doubles with new partner Amanda Landers-Murphy and in the mixed doubles with Martin Knight in a repeat of their silver medal partnership from Delhi.
"It's full on - last time I was a pretty sick girl after for about a week.
"I'd just been on court for so many hours a day. It's gruelling - but I can't say enough about how excited I am to get started."
She'll also have plenty of support in the stands.
"My husband is here, my mum, and my brother [one-test All Black Regan King] that lives in Wales, him and his wife.
"A lot of friends that live in London are coming up ... our whole squash team has family our friends coming, so we'll have a lot of support out there."