Mind games key for squash hopeful Joelle King

GLASGOW BOUND: Joelle King in action.
GLASGOW BOUND: Joelle King in action.

More regular visits to her psychologist has been the order of the day for Joelle King as she prepares for an important patch of play.

The 25-year-old from Cambridge knows her actual game doesn't need tinkering but has identified the mental side as the major work-on ahead of next month's British Open and the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in July-August.

That has seen her catch up with psychologist David Galbraith - who is well-renowned on the sporting scene - much more frequently than since she first visited him about a year ago.

"It's quite nice, he's a major part of my team now, so that's really exciting stuff," King said.

"I feel like I'm strong and hit the ball as well as the other girls, and they just maybe had a bit more of a mental edge over me."

King is getting wiser as she gets older, and can recognise warning signs from her body which has helped keep her injury-free, as she now takes an afternoon off to see someone to get a niggle sorted rather than push through.

"I think that's all part of maturing as a sportsperson as well. When you're young you think 'I've just got to train, I've got to train, I've got to go' even if you're on the verge of sickness or anything, and that equals a week, two weeks off instead of an afternoon or a day.

"Before, I used to feel guilty if I missed a session, but I know I can make that up, and it's doing wonders for my body."

After being on the road for the first three months of the year playing in the northern hemisphere winter, King is back for a bit. With coach Paul Hornsby travelling down a couple of times a week, King now just goes to Auckland once a week. And if you see her personalised Honda about the place, don't be fooled by the 'world number six' which sits by her name.

That is now well outdated, with King earlier this month rising to a career-high No 4 after about 1 1/2 years at No 5.

"I gave my car to my sponsors for a month when I was away and they still didn't change it," King said.

"All the members at my club, when they've had a few drinks, threaten to go out and just paint it on themselves. I'm like 'No, do not do that'."

Instead, King would love to have the number stuck on with velcro so it can keep changing, as her ultimate goal is to top the world rankings.

Her next chance to keep piling the pressure on those in front of her comes at the British Open (May 11-18) which she jets off for next Wednesday.

It's her third time there, having been toppled twice in the quarterfinals by world No 1 Nicol David.

"I feel if I can play my best squash then I've definitely got a chance, but when you're playing the world No 1 they're standing in the way of you trying to play your best squash," King said.

"Hopefully one of these days I will actually get the win. I've gone close a few times and just sort of been pipped at the finish line."

King, who was knocked out in the quarterfinals of the women's world championships by Egyptian rising star Nour El Sherbini, feels with increased maturity she now gets over a loss far quicker than before.

This Friday to Sunday she is in action at the national doubles championships in Palmerston North. King will team with Bay of Plenty's Amanda Landers-Murphy in both the women's and men's draws, while she will sit out the mixed event as team-mate Martin Knight is injured.

The tournament will be a final chance for players to push for Games selection, with the team named next month.

King is a shoo-in and will be looking to back up her efforts from Delhi in 2010 where she made the quarterfinals in the singles, won gold in the doubles and silver in the mixed.

Fairfax Media