Cambridge's Joelle King has had one of her longer breaks of recent times but this weekend she's back, gunning for a fifth title at the North Island championships, in her home town.
The 24-year-old resumed training this week after a relaxing three-week holiday, which included a week in Rarotonga with her husband, away from any form of technology.
King's last major event was May's British Open, where she again made the quarterfinals and again succumbed to world No 1 Nicol David.
In the latest world rankings King has risen a place to number five, equalling her career best mark, and now she is preparing for September's Brooklyn Open in New York followed by the US Open in Philadelphia.
That build-up starts this weekend at the Cambridge Racquets Club - the same venue of her North Islands triumph last year.
King claimed the honours from 2008-10 then missed the 2011 version and is a sure bet to win again, her final opponent set to be Bay of Plenty's Amanda Landers-Murphy - the country's second highest ranked player and world No 37.
"It should be Amanda and I in the final, but just like anything, you've got to take it one match at a time," King said. "There's no point getting cocky because it can all come crashing down."
King usually also plays in the men's draw for an extra workout but because it's her first week back she doesn't want to over-do it.
"I'm quite sore now, just starting back training for the last couple of days, so I don't want to injure myself or anything."
King is working hard with trainer Jason Wheadon, coach Paul Hornsby and former top New Zealand player Joanne Williams, who specialises in exercise physiology and is focusing on making King's movements more efficient and her swing more symmetrical.
"You don't actually realise, those little two per centers, if you can save energy here a little bit and there, how much it can actually save you in the long run during a match," King said.
"If you look at Nicol for an example, she's been working on that kind of thing for a long time, and she's kind of got it down to a T, she doesn't exert any extra energy that she doesn't need to."
A major work on has also been bringing more variation into her game, with some finer touches to complement King's traditional physical presence.
"I've got a great team and it's just trying to make it a habit and second nature, those new things I'm bringing in. A few times while I was away it just felt like it didn't quite click, so it'll be nice to just make sure that they're 100 per cent instilled in there and then put it into play really."
King said the help of High Performance Sport New Zealand means she is now only having to travel to Auckland once a week to be with Hornsby instead of twice, and he now travels down once.
While King has a first-round bye and doesn't start her North Islands campaign until tomorrow afternoon, the tournament gets underway this evening.
In the men's draw Auckland's Martin Knight (world No 48) is the top seed, with Waikato's Chris Lloyd (240) second.
Leamington Squash Club St Peter's School will also host games during the tournament, which runs until Sunday afternoon.
- Waikato Times
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