SARAH-JANE PERRY tells RJ Mitchell that this week’s Allam British Open is the championship she wants to win above all else as she prepares to open her campaign on Tuesday.
The World No.6 also admits that despite viewing her appearance at this year’s tournament as a bonus, following her recovery from elbow surgery for an Osteochondritis condition, she still feels she has unfinished business at the ‘Wimbledon of Squash’ after her loss in the 2017 final to fellow Englishwoman Laura Massaro.
But following successive quarter-finals at the DPD Open, El Gouna International and inaugural Manchester Open, Perry is upbeat about her prospects in Hull and optimistic that she is well on the way to playing the type of positive attacking squash that had taken her to the cusp of a major title triumph after making a Commonwealth Games final and, of course, that British Open final.
“For any British player the British Open is still the tournament, still has that something extra above all the other Platinum events, it just has that aura around it with all of its history and the great champions who have won it before,” said SJ.
She continued: “Obviously for me having reached the final back in 2017, I still feel that I have unfinished business with the British Open, it is the championship I want to win above all else, the one tournament I am determined to win before my career is completed.
“In that respect probably having made the final before and lost to Laura [Massaro] has only added to my determination to one day win the British Open.”
The World No.6 underwent elbow surgery back in January and was forced to miss the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions and then suffered an ankle injury at the El Gouna International, all of which has left Perry sanguine about her prospects in Hull this week.
Perry said: “To be honest, I am viewing everything I have achieved over the second-half of this season as a bonus. Obviously I had the elbow surgery to deal with, the Osteochondritis in my right elbow and being side-lined for three months clearly takes the momentum out of your season.
Sarah-Jane Perry (right) takes on Laura Massaro (left) in the 2017 British Open final
“I also suffered an ankle injury in my opening match with Rowan [Elaraby] at El Gouna when I collided with her, and although I managed to soldier on to the quarters, where I lost to Camille [Serme], I was in quite a lot of pain and concerned.
“But thankfully the ankle has settled down and my elbow is continuing to progress. At the moment I am still having to manage my time on court to preserve it but I am hopeful that over the summer it will be back to where I would like it to be.”
Perry, who has just turned 29, is edging back to her best and after beating Nicol David at the Manchester Open and losing a titanic fifth game tie-break to Tesni Evans in the quarter-finals, the prospect of the greatest possible belated birthday present is worthy of consideration.
“The great thing for me is that I have had some really tough matches in the last few weeks, and game by game I feel my squash is coming back to where I want it to be in terms of playing a positive and attacking game,” said SJ.
She continued: “At El Gouna I had two really tough matches with Annie Au and Camille Serme and then at the Manchester Open another couple of toughies with Nicol [David] and Tesni [Evans], and with each one of these matches under my belt, I feel like I am getting back to where I want to be.
“I tend to adopt a one match at a time approach to my tournaments, so it's not about saying that because I am still coming back from injury there is less pressure, it's about focusing on producing your best squash and in doing that letting the results take care of themselves.
“Obviously I open up against either Jasmine Hutton or Holly Naughton and either of these girls will be tough opponents. With Jasmine, I have trained with her and she is improving all the time and has recently won a couple of PSA Challenger events. Holly has also pushed some of the established top 10 girls like Tesni at Manchester and Laura at the DPD all the way in five setters.
“So the bottom line is that whoever I have on Tuesday I will need to be on my mettle. But I travelled through to Hull on Sunday and I am just looking forward so much to the British Open, for me it is the high point of the season and after where I was with the elbow surgery, I am just delighted to be taking part in it this season.”