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Super mom Natalie still a force to reckon with in squash


Natalie Grinham is together with her son Kieran. She has not allowed motherhood to stop her from being a formidable foe in the world of squash. – IZZRAFIQ ALIAS/The Star

Natalie Grinham is together with her son Kieran. She has not allowed motherhood to stop her from being a formidable foe in the world of squash. – IZZRAFIQ ALIAS/The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: Natalie Grinham has seen it all – and done it all – in her 21 years as a squash player.

She has finished as a runner-up in world meet four times and reached a career-high No. 2 in the world.

You would think that at 38, and the mother of two boys – Kieran and Ryan – the Australian-born Dutch would want to slow things down.

Well, think again.

Squash is in her blood and that’s why she doesn’t mind having to start from the qualifying rounds for the Naza Women’s World Championship at the National Squash Centre in Bukit Jalil on Saturday.

Grinham remains very much a formidable challenger despite not having competed in a Professional Squash Association (PSA) Tour match since last November.

She won two tournaments last year – the Prague Open and the Val de Marne Open in France. This year, she bagged her fourth Dutch national title in February – her only tournament so far.

“I actually planned to compete in the British Open this year ... but it’s hard when you have two kids. The Dutch Nationals was the only tournament I’ve played in this year, said world No. 40 Grinham.

“But I wasn’t going to miss the worlds ... I love that it’s being held in Malaysia.

“I still remembered the last time I played here (Bukit Jalil), it was the KL Open in 2013 and I beat Raneem (El Welily) on court five.

“It’s also been a while since I last competed in the worlds. I last played in the 2012 edition at Cayman Islands ... and I’ve been absent since.

“I’ve got so many fond memories of playing at the worlds ... the best is still in 2009, when I found out on the morning of my semi-final match that I was pregnant.”

Grinham, who is married to former player Tommy Berden, went on to beat older sister Rachael that year before going on to lose to Nicol David in the final. It was her fourth runner-up finish at the world meet.

Grinham, who was also a runner-up at the 2004 world meet in KL, is setting her sights on getting into the main draw this time.

“I would have preferred to start from the main draw ... but that’s just not possible,” said Grinham.

“The qualifying will be tough ... there are so many up-and-coming juniors ... especially the Malaysians.

“I’m just hoping to keep on playing. Squash is like a drug to me ... I simply love the game.”

Grinham, who is seeded ninth for the qualifiers, is expected to overcome Malaysia’s Nazihah Hanis in the first round and take on American Olivia Blatchford next.

The other Malaysians in the qualifiers are Rachel Arnold, Teh Min Jie, Vanessa Raj, S. Sivasangari, Aika Azman, Zoe Foo and Andrea Lee.

World No. 63 Rachel has the best chance of progressing to the second round of the qualifiers as she faces world No. 46 Milou Van Der Heijden of Holland in her opening match.

   

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