Late-bloomer Sarah aims for top four


Better than the boys: Sarah-Jane Perry trained with her brother and friends to be among the best of the girls.

KUALA LUMPUR: There can be little doubt that when it comes to world popularity, tennis would be the winner among racquet sports.

But world No. 8 squash player Sarah-Jane Perry has no regrets about turning away from tennis to pursue squash instead.

With the support of her father, Perry started playing both sports at different clubs at the age of five at the edge of her hometown in Birmingham.

“I enjoyed playing both sports but I enjoyed squash more because I eventually started to excel in squash more when I was playing for the county at the age of 11,” said the 29-year-old.

“I remember playing in the club and there was a group of us – four others boys, my twin brother and I – and we would always be challenging each other. There was even a period when my brother kept on beating me because he was getting stronger physically, but I’m beating him on the court now, so it’s all good,” she said with a cool laugh.

“I was never really competing with the other girls as I was just trying to beat the other boys in the group.

“Although I was a late bloomer in the sport, I eventually started challenging for the England team when I was 15 years old and I won my first individual tournament when I was 16.”

Her love for squash only grew as she shot to become the top player in her country. And there’s not looking back now.

“A lot of people ask me how good I could have been in tennis, but I think if I had chosen tennis I would have been disheartened because I was quite far behind the pros who were already playing four hours a day at the age of 10.

“Also, my brain was always geared towards problem solving and I always enjoy that together with the element of physicality, tactics and skill that come into squash. I made the right choice with squash.”

Having become the top player in her country, Perry now eyes a place among the top four players in the world and also the gold medal at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in her hometown of Birmingham.

Perry said the silver she earned at Gold Coast last year was already a standout. She lost in a thrilling final to New Zealand’s Joelle King 14-11, 8-11, 11-6, 13-11, 8-11.

“I think getting into the top four is the big goal for me.

“All the girls at the top are already pushing for it and are capable as well, it’s just bringing that level consistently. That is what I will really be pushing for over the next year.”

“The next big thing, will be the Commonwealth Games as its in my home city. I still spend a lot of time there, training. Getting the gold there will be the pinnacle for me.”

Perry was recently in Kuala Lumpur for the Dream Remains exhibition squash event hosted by squash legend Datuk Nicol David at the National Squash Centre in Bukit Jalil.

The two-day event which ended on Friday, saw national No. 1 Low Wee Wern, Perry, Nicol and three other professionals holding clinics for 133 children before playing in several exhibition matches in the evening.

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