R1 :  Sarah-Jane Perry (Eng) 3-2 Emily Whitlock (Wal) 11-4, 9-11, 11-6, 11-13, 11-9 (55m)
Last time Emily played a competition, it was actually here in Blackball, against Sarah-Jane and it was not her best match. Injured, she couldn’t defend her chances and today, was looking forward to see how improvements made in her training would translate into her squash.
First game, SJ was the boss, no contest, 7m 10/3, 11/4, Em was never in it. But from the first rally of the second, we had a real match on our hands. 3/1 Em, 3/3, 4/4, 7/4 SJ, Emily visiting the four corners, 8/8, 9/9, and a superb finish, 11/9, although SJ was not happy with a ball at 9/9 she thought was out.
Lack of match fitness maybe, a bit of energy drop, who knows but again, Sarah-Jane imposes her game throughout the third, 8/2, 6/8, 11/6 in 7m.
But the fourth is truly beautiful, 4/0 for Emily, so determined, SJ claws back, just winners, 4/4, then goes up 9/6, and finally two match balls, 10/9, 11/10, still it’s the contender that closes it on her first attempt, 12m, 13/11.
And she looked good that contender in the last game, 4/1, but like she mentioned in our little chat at the end, she just hit a few shots not swiftly enough, landing at the wrong place, opening the court wide for one of the best ball striker of the Tour, thank you said SJ! At 7/9, it’s all possible, but a volley that ends in the tin, and it’s match ball, again, for SJ who finally closes it on her 5th attempt, 11/9, 14m… So close, Emily was heartbroken. The H2H will go to 8/0 to SJ for now, but the Welsh based Emily should be very proud of her achievements today.
I mishit so many shots.. It’s like I was doing the right thing but it kept landing at the wrong place, and it got me into troubles.
When I saw the draw, I was happy in a way, because the last time I played before the COVID lockdown was here, against SJ, I was riddled with tendinitis, it was such a bad time for me. So in a way, I wanted to see the progress I had made…
I wanted to win so badly obviously, the positive is that it’s much better than in March, but I’m so disappointed I couldn’t hit my shots cleanly enough…
I just wanted to win one match. Since 2017, I got so many injuries, so many things happened, I moved to Wales in August, I have a much better physio now, I have been working hard, while doing a bit of coaching for making a bit of a living. It was nice also to have a session with David Evans, it was nice to see somebody having your back, even if you don’t get the win.
So, happy with the improvement, but so disappointed not to get the win…
“I had a bit of a shock at the last tournament, everything that could have gone wrong went wrong and I didn’t do myself any justice. Today, I wanted to go out there and do that. In patches I did and at times I felt like I was in control and hitting good lines and then all of a sudden, I missed four shots.
“I’ve been working on the mental side and one day it’s going to come together. In between some of those games I was thinking about Nour El Tayeb’s interview [announcing her pregnancy] and how I still have so much more I want to achieve and to do that I’ve just got to go out there and do it. I’ve put a really hard block in and I’m probably moving the best I’ve ever moved, and I’ve just got to keep putting the balls in the right areas and bring it all together. Frustrated with that performance but there’s some excitement there about what can happen when it comes together.
“There’s been a lot to think about this year and your sort of identity as a person and as a squash player. While they are slightly different in essence, they need to complement each other to get the best out of both. I’ve been working hard on and off the court and I’m really excited about things to come. I started the year well and not been so great in the backend, so we’ll see how I can finish. I got to the semi-finals here last time and I want to do better.”