England’s Georgina Kennedy says she is hoping to improve on last year’s showing when she takes to the court at the upcoming CIB PSA World Tour Finals
Kennedy suffered some health issues earlier this season, dropping outside of the top 10 by December. But she responded in style to win the Carol Weymuller Open and the Cleveland Classic in January and Februay, while she recorded a quarter-final appearance at the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions in New York. A consistent run of last eight finishes helped propel Kennedy to a career-high ranking of No.7 last month.
The 26-year-old from London will now look ahead to the upcoming CIB PSA World Tour Finals – which starts on Tuesday – and says she is hoping to adapt to the conditions that she struggled with at last year’s tournament, where she finished bottom of her group.
“I’m really proud that I’m in the position where I’m able to qualify given that the first half of the season didn’t go as planned. I wasn’t able to play in a few events due to some injuries and health problems, which put a zero on my ranking, and I just couldn’t compete for the first half of the season. So I’m really proud of the way I turned it around during the American leg in January and February.
“Last year wasn’t how I would have hoped my first World Tour Finals would have panned out. But I think it’s all a new experience for me, the conditions are really quite difficult. Last year, it was on an outdoor court in Egypt and this year again, it’s on an outdoor court in Egypt. So it is difficult to adjust to but the best players are able to adapt their game to any situation and that is not what I did last year.
“I’m just going to try and focus on dealing with the situation as best as I can. It is difficult when we train all year in certain conditions and then you’re thrown into a new environment. We don’t train outdoors, I live in England, and it’s not 40 degrees outside.
“So it’s hard, but I’m actually excited for the challenge this year. It’s what the best players do, they play well on every court no matter what. So if I want to be one of the best players, I’m going to have to find a way to do that.”
Once the World Tour Finals is done and dusted, Kennedy will turn her attentions towards next season and is targeting a place inside the world’s top five.
“The strength in depth of the tour is getting stronger and stronger each month, so once you reach a certain level I don’t think it gets any easier. It’s just going to get harder and harder to climb up even just one place, but like I said it’s a good challenge. This is only my second full season on the tour, so hopefully I’ve got a lot to learn and a lot to build on.
“The first part of the season I was out of action, so it was just about getting healthy again. Then over Christmas, I was able to build up the training gradually and it’s all really been about getting my confidence back. Given the tournament schedule, and what happened at the beginning of the season, I really haven’t been able to put in hard blocks of fitness training, which is what I’m used to.
“But that’s not necessarily what I need to focus on. So it’s just been about sharpening up and getting my confidence back. At this level it’s 90% mental.
“I think everyone is fit and everyone can hit a great backhand drop, but it’s just about putting that into play in those pressure situations. So that’s been the main focus this season.”
One person that Kennedy has learned from this season is former World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy, who switched allegiance from Egypt to England last summer.
ElShorbagy is one of the greatest players ever to pick up a squash racket and Kennedy saw first hand what makes ‘The Beast’ so special when he joined Team England to compete at the European Team Championships together in April.
“Honestly, he is such a class act,” says Kennedy.
“I can’t even express how much of an impact he’s had on the England team. He came to the Europeans for the first time and the whole dynamic of the team changed in the best way possible. I can’t speak highly enough of Mohamed.
“In El Gouna I was playing against a really talented Egyptian player in Egypt. I didn’t message him or anything and he came down and surprised me in between games. He just said ‘I didn’t want you to be alone against an Egyptian here’.
“It’s just amazing and he’s obviously one of the best to have ever played the game. I learn so much from him on and off the court. I love being around him, so I’m excited to go to the World Tour Finals and have him in my corner now, which is really cool.”
With just one tournament left to go, Kennedy is hoping to make a statement in Cairo and is targeting wins against the Egyptian top three of Nouran Gohar, Nour El Sherbini and Hania El Hammamy, which have proven elusive so far.
“I just want to make a statement that I’m going to hopefully continue to try and do the best I can and I will work as hard as I can to make myself as hard to beat as possible. I haven’t been able to test the top three that much, so if I do get the chance to play them in the World Tour Finals, I just want to show them that I’m knocking on the door. I want to send out a message that I’m not satisfied with seven or eight in the world, I want to keep climbing “
Kennedy has been drawn in Group B of the women’s event at the CIB PSA World Tour Finals, which will be held between June 20-25 – watch all the action from Cairo’s EDNC SODIC venue live on SQUASHTV.