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Doubles duty an anomaly for squash players

IAN ANDERSON IN GLASGOW
Last updated 03:52 23/07/2014
LAWRENCE SMITH/Stuff.co.nz

Members of New Zealand squash team speak ahead of events at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

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Squash doubles is sport's version of a leap year.

It's one of those peculiarities that features only once every four years, popping up at the Commonwealth Games and then disappearing into sporting hibernation.

But the New Zealand team are still optimistic they can make the most of that quirk to again be among the doubles medals in Glasgow.

The Kiwis won gold in the women's doubles through Joelle King and Jaclyn Hawkes four years ago in Delhi, while King and Martin Knight combined to collect silver in the mixed event.

The latter duo will team up again in Glasgow, while King will be partnered in the women's event by newcomer Amanda Landers-Murphy.

Knight and Campbell Grayson will compete at their third Commonwealth Games together as NZ's leading men's doubles team in Glasgow, with Paul Coll and Lance Beddoes the other men's combination. Megan Craig and Kylie Lindsay form New Zealand's second-string women's doubles team, while Coll and Landers-Murphy fill out the complement in the mixed event.

"Doubles is a sport that is unique to the Commonwealth Games," team coach Paul Hornsby acknowledged.

"Since Delhi four years ago, there's been no event of this magnitude."

Hornsby said it's been a balancing act preparing for doubles while most of his team are trying to make their living on the professional singles circuit.

"It's been a bit of a challenge to manage how and when we get the opportunities to get competition against the rest of the world.

"We've had several camps in 2013, we went to Darwin to take on Australia and Scotland last year too, and more recently we've had more camps in Auckland and a tri-series against Malaysia and India. I'm particularly pleased with how the teams are gelling together."

Hornsby said one of the reasons for pairing King with Landers-Murphy is the 23-year-old from Rotorua is left-handed.

"Which is a big advantage in doubles as it gives you two forehands on the court. I'm really quite excited about that partnership."

King said the duo have made a lot of progress through a lot of practice, while Hornsby has high hopes for the top men's team also.

For doubles, the tin at the front of the court has been lowered from 17 inches to 13 - changing the way the game is played.

"With the lower tin, it just means everyone can be a lot more aggressive," Knight said.

"You've got a lot more angles that can play the ball in to, and your ability to hit the ball shorter means you can make the court longer. You can drag players forward and put them under a lot more pressure than you could with the higher tin.

"One of the complaints from Delhi was that the rallies did go on a bit longer and so they've been working really hard to find ways to change that, and moving the tin has made the game a lot more exciting, more attacking.

"It's definitely different - we went to Darwin and it took a lot of adjusting to what you could do on the court, what angles you could play."

"It is a bit odd, but that's part of the challenge," King admitted.

"It feels as odd as you want to make it feel."

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