“Much has changed in the sport of squash…the courts are different with the advent of glass, the racquets have gone lighter, the players' attire has changed from whites to gorgeous colours now and the ball is now white,” said Australian Sarah Fitz-Gerald, a former World junior champion and five-time World open champion on the transition from her times.
“In my times, the competition would be restricted to players from Australia, New Zealand, England and Ireland. More countries have come in now like Egypt, Malaysia, India, Hong Kong, France…the sport is spreading and that is great,” she said.
The Australian legend was only recently inducted into Squash Australia's Hall of Fame. Having won 65 titles in her career from 94 finals and having represented her country on 76 separate occasions, the most recent being when she came out of retirement to help Australia win the World team championship in New Zealand 2010, Sarah has had a glittering career starting with her 1987 World junior crown.
Even though she has visited the city earlier as a player, Sarah is better known in India now as the one who has moulded Dipika Pallikal into a top force in the world.
In Chennai on a short visit with her husband Dalley Cameron and Dipika as the host, Sarah opened her mind on a few aspects of the sport to The Hindu.
Clearly elated that the sport was a making a strong bid for a place in the Olympics, Sarah said, “one hundred per cent it should be in the Games.”
“Why?” she wondered, “when all other racquet sports are there in the Games, should squash be left out? It will be great to have squash in the Olympics,” she added, hoping that the World Squash Federation's plans would be achieved.
She said the secret of being a champion lay in “having a strong mind”. “When you have the skills then the next thing to do is to ensure that the skills are driven to achievements.
For that I realised fitness was the key and a strong self-belief,” she said.
This is the aspect she stresses on, be it propping up world champion Nicole David's confidence or encouraging Dipika.
Sarah has high hopes from the Indian, currently ranked 15 in the world. “She has it in her to rise further and to the top. May be five years would be an ideal target but I expect her to be there even earlier,” she said.