She might be home a few days earlier than she'd hoped, but top New Zealand squash player Joelle King can now reflect on a successful year, which is set to be capped in grand style off the court.
The 24-year-old from Cambridge lost in the second round of the World Open in the Cayman Islands last week, which was an unfortunate end to what had been a stellar year where she over-achieved on her targets and reached a career high number five in the world rankings.
After four separate plane rides, King arrived home on Saturday evening and is now surrounded by family for Christmas, before she gets married to her partner Ryan on Friday.
She will have one and a half to two weeks away from squash, but will still do some fitness work before she sits down with her team in the new year to reassess her aims.
"It's going to be a whole different approach next year," King said, referring to her world ranking, which soared from No 12 a couple of months back.
"Obviously now I'm in a bit more of a position where I can peak for tournaments and plan my training and everything specifically around the tournaments I really want to peak for. That's what the number one, two, three in the world do."
King, who played 12 tournaments this year, winning one and being runner-up in four, said one of the adjustments she has to make will be going from being the hunter to the hunted and handling the different pressure that comes with that.
"It's quite tough to play well all the time and the end of the year was a really, really busy schedule and I sort of just fell off a bit towards the end."
King said there are plenty of things she can still do better in her game and she is by no means going to be satisfied until she reaches her ultimate goal of world No 1.
Her aim this year was to break into the top eight, and after three excellent efforts in October - losing in five sets to world No 1 Nicol David in the semi-finals of the US Open, winning the Macau Open and losing in five to world No 7 Low Wee Wern at the China Open - King rose seven places.
"You know when you make goals sometimes it's easy to get a bit complacent," she said. "So that's definitely not what I want to do. I haven't reached my ultimate goal [world No 1].
"That's the reason I get out of bed and go train for five or six hours every day, because I do want to be the best."
King said as good a year as it was for her, there were so many occasions where she probably should have won matches, but didn't.
"It's kind of catch 22, it's great, I had a great year, but you kind of look at it and go 'Oh it could have been so much better'. But that's positive because if you just looked at the year and thought that's just great, I'm so happy, then where do you go from there? There's still so many facets of my game [to work on] and I'm still learning so much all the time, so I guess that's an exciting thing as well."
Making every day count was key, King said, and she had learned to train smart.
"My body is my Forumla One car and if I don't look after it properly then it's not going to keep producing the results."
- © Fairfax NZ News