With just a few days until the start of the 2021 Allam British Open, we spoke to British No.1 and 2017 runner-up Sarah-Jane Perry about what the sport’s oldest tournament means to her.
With it being the biggest tournament on home soil for the World No.6, Perry holds the event in even higher regard. She believes that the tournament is one of those major events that every player wants to win, to etch their name into the sport’s history.
“The British Open definitely holds that extra level of prestige amongst those Platinum events. Before the official World Championship, the British Open was seen as the World Championships, the pinnacle event of the sport. To all players, it has that extra special place, and everyone really wants to win that one. You want to win all the Platinum events, but that one has that little bit extra,” she explained.
“Also, as a British player, and as British No.1, it all compounds and it was very special making the final a few years ago but at the time, I wasn’t satisfied with just getting to the final. I was absolutely gutted with losing the final, but all credit to Laura [Massaro] on that day, she was the better player and deserved to win that. It is still one of the big boxes to tick in my career.”
Perry made the final in 2017, making the final after defeating eight-time World Champion Nicol David in the last four. She went on to lose to Laura Massaro in an all-English clash, but now, she believes she in in a better place, and she can fight for the major titles.
The Englishwoman has never won a Platinum title, but claimed the biggest prize of her career in December 2020, winning the CIB Black Ball Squash Open after coming from two games down to defeat defending champion Hania El Hammamy.
“I’ve known for a while, believed for a while, for a few years now, that I can win these big events. Although the Black Ball Open that I won was not a Platinum event, everybody was there, and actually in some ways it was more difficult than a Platinum because I had zero rest days,” the Englishwoman said.
“Five matches in five days is something that I think people didn’t necessarily have faith in me that I could do. I knew I could, I know the work that I have put in, and my coach and team around me know that. I have the confidence that I can repeat that again and that the Platinum events are there to showcase the best players in the world and challenge them, and I really feel I can make an extra breakthrough and win one very soon.”
This week’s Manchester Open has been the first PSA event on British soil to see fans back in the stands, and Perry is hoping for the Allam Sports Centre to be as near capacity as possible, with the home crowd behind her in Hull.
“It’s been great at the last couple of events to have the fans back. They’ve been there in Egypt, and they get quite vocal, especially as the evening goes on, which is really good,” the Englishwoman said.
“To then take that to the next level and have a home crowd, hopefully, we can safely get as bigger crowd as possible. There are so many people in the UK that are desperate to come and support the squash, and watch and cheer for us, so that’s really exciting, and only adds to the suspense, and I am looking forward to that.”
Perry admitted that she was not the biggest follower of the sport when she was a youngster, but a trip to watch the British Open was key en route to her becoming one of the sport’s biggest stars.
“Before the times of social media and much coverage on the internet, and things like that, I didn’t actually get to see much to level squash when I was younger, but I really do remember going to watch the British Open when it was in Liverpool. I think David Palmer won it that year and, you know, that really sticks in my mind vividly, and the just the sense of greatness and the aura of the occasion. So, that’s not lost on me at all when we go to play it now and it would be great to add my name to that list of squash legends,” she explained.
“I think it would be amazing to be able to say you can call yourself a British Open champion. That would be pretty damn awesome. Like I said, it’s something that has been on my radar for many, many years, the British Open. I think for many years, it didn’t seem like a possibility of getting close to winning it so being right up there and competing with all the top players, it’s open for anyone to win. I think it would crown off a whole career for me to be able to say I’d won the British Open.”