Joelle King and Paul Coll triumph at Australian Open squash tournament
Kiwis Joelle King and Paul Coll have remarkably both come up trumps at the Australian Open squash tournament on Sunday.
In a stunning evening for New Zealand squash, there was double celebration in Melbourne as an emotional King - on the comeback from injury - romped to victory, then unseeded Coll finished his fairytale in style at the tournament which was back on the calendar after a two-year hiatus.
And the duo share more in common than just a title - they are both coached by Paul Hornsby.
This event was just King's second at top level squash since the 26-year-old from Cambridge spent six months on the sidelines after suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon in August last year.
All her hard recovery work was rewarded with an 11-5, 11-6, 11-7 victory over top seed and world No 11 Annie Au of Hong Kong.
It was King's second Australian Open title having won her first in 2009. In her post-match on-court interview King wiped away tears and the crowd gave her a solid ovation as she recounted her tough journey back to the court.
"I was feeling really tired this morning, I guess just getting used to being back in a tournament. Adrenaline, it's like a merry-go-round. I just feel really emotional actually, I've worked so hard to get back," she said.
After playing a few local tournaments, King returned to the PSA tour in May's British Open. She was seeded second in Melbourne and is currently ranked 57 in the world but with a pegged ranking of 11 after injury, as she aims to get back up to her highest ranking of No 4, and beyond.
She started the final in solid fashion, while Au soon had racket dramas. Trailing 1-0 in the second game, Au broke a string but just three points later she did another and was forced to go hunting for a second replacement racket. With a delay of a couple of minutes, King was left to keep warm on the court and try to maintain her rhythm. And she did just that, kicking on to a victory which took just 36 minutes.
"I felt pretty sorry for her, but also trying to keep my focus [was crucial]. And I think it did upset me a little bit, it took me a while to come back," King said. "And sometimes, being Annie, she probably relaxed a little bit, thinking 'it's all against me, I've got, not even my own racket'. So I just had to stay focused on the job."
King said it had been awesome to have the rare mass of support that she did in Melbourne, with lots of family and friends there to cheer her on.
Now she will look forward to a full-on schedule, which includes the national championships individual and team events in Christchurch laster this month. She will then play at the China Open, Macau Open, Carol Weymuller Open (United States), US Open, Qatar Classic, Hong Kong Open and the Women's World Championship in Kuala Lumpur.
For 23-year-old Cantabrian Coll, his efforts in Melbourne far outweighed even his own expectations, so much so that he had to change his flights home after making it into the final.
Behind Campbell Grayson (49) in the world rankings, Coll (56) has been a steady improver on the circuit, picking up a number of PSA titles along the way.
In the decider he beat a mate of his in Australia's top player Cameron Pilley, who is world No 20 and was the top seed, 11-7, 5-11, 11-6, 11-5 in one hour and 22 minutes.
"To be honest, I didn't even picture myself here, on Sunday," Coll said in his on-court interview.
"I've got massive respect for Pilley. He's helped out my game incredibly in the last two years. I'm not sure if he regrets it a little bit now," he jested.
Winning will give Coll a healthy boost in the world rankings, but he hadn't contemplated where he might be promoted to.
"I'm not too good at maths so I sort of wait till the first of the month just for a nice surprise," he said. "And also my bank account will go up quite nicely, so I'm pretty happy about that."
Asked whether he would perhaps be celebrating with "two or three" beers, Coll was up front about what lay ahead.
"I've got to be at the airport at 9.15, so I'll be pretty hammered on that I think."