NZ squash player keen to grab British Open's first ever equal prize money
New Zealand squash player Joelle King will start her campaign at the British Open on Wednesday and is excited at the prospect of being the first woman to grab the same pay cheque as her male counterparts.
Taking place in Hull this week the Open has King, ranked 11, matched up against Egyptian qualifier Mayar Hany, ranked 33, in the first round and King said it will not be an easy draw.
"It's always one of the most prestigious tournaments on the professional calendar. I guess growing up I always watched Susan Devoy winning it. I've made the quarters four times and I'd like to go better. These days even playing a qualifier in the first round the depth of men's and women's squash has improved. Everyone is pushing each other more and even from first round, it's really tough and you have to play your best squash to get through. "
One of the biggest highlights for the 28-year-old is that for the first time there is equal prizemoney for the women's event. A total prize pool of US$150,000 is on offer for each of the men's and women's draws in 2017.
"A large amount of squash is played in the US and they've had a huge push for equal prize money. We play the same, train hard, play the same sets.
"It's great for the British Open to be equal. It's really exciting time for women's squash. Next year it's just been announced we're going to have a tournament of US$250000 for both men and women, so it's great for the sport and it's going to help squash keep growing."
After the domination of Malaysia's Nicol David in women's squash for so long King said it was now an open tournament with more players able to win titles. However King admitted her form going into the tournament was not what she had hoped.
"There's no dominating player. It's really anyone's game especially in the top four or five, everyone is really going for it from round one.
"I had a couple of tournaments in February which weren't my best and I decided to go home to New Zealand and get myself rested and ready. When you get older you start knowing what is best for you. I think it was the best move really."
King, who lives in Cambridge, was a quarter-finalist on four consecutive years 2012-15 and seeded as high as fourth on a number of occasions. She missed the 2016 Open through illness.
Fellow Kiwi Paul Coll ranked 16th in the world is in the main draw of the men's tournament and plays England's Declan James.
Another New Zealander, Campbell Grayson was beaten in the final round of men's qualifying in four games by Englishman Tom Richards.