29 November 2018

Sportsister chats to Jenny Duncalf

March 9, 2009

Jenny Duncalf is England’s highest ranked squash player, currently lying 5th in the World rankings. Sportsister spoke to her about her recent win in the National Squash Championships and the disappointment of the sport not being selected for London’s Olympic programme.

How much does it mean to you to win this National title?

It means so much to me; I won the title in 2007, but lost it last year to Alison Waters. The Nationals are massive; it’s the biggest tournament I have won in my career so far. It means so much to win it again.

How high is the standard of competition amongst the English girls?

We have the strongest National Championships out of all the countries we play against. The top four English players are all in the top ten in the world. They’re all really good players so it’s pretty tough and we’re all very competitive. We’ve all beaten each other on different occasions, so you have to try your best on the day and see what happens.

Do you train together a lot?

Yes, we have our national squad training in Manchester. We do train a lot together, in particular in the summer. I train here (National Squash Centre at Manchester’s Sportcity) twice a week and we see each other at tournaments so we’re all used to how each other plays and each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

How do you deal with pressure of competition?

I try not to think about the pressure too much. Being number one seed, that is a nice kind of pressure to have, but generally you just can’t let it get to you. I take each match as it comes and try and play to the best of my ability but it’s easier said than done.

On average how much do you train in a week?

I train six days a week, twice a day. We do all sorts of different training; including a lot of on court work with coaches. This can be technical work on how to hit the ball or how you move to the ball. We also have a session called a ‘ghost session’ which is where you pretend you’re playing a shot without a ball which can be quite difficult. Off court I go to the gym twice a week to build on my strength and to improve my core conditioning.

What makes squash so enjoyable to you?

Squash is a game that combines power and tactics. It’s such a mix of different variables, that’s why I enjoy it. You get many players that are good physically but don’t have the tactical abilities and vice versa. Mentally it is also very hard, so there are so many things that you have to work on, but I like the challenge.

What do you think makes a good squash player?

Mentally you have to be brilliant as you have so many things to work on; the physicality of the game, the focus and concentration. To be world number one I think you have to be good in every single department.

You are currently ranked number five in the world rankings, what would you need to improve on to reach the world number one spot?

In terms of progress at the moment, I have beaten all the girls above me aside from the current world number one, Nicol David. She’s eight months younger than me and we grew up competing as juniors, she’s always been a tough player. At the moment I’m trying to make headway on the girls ahead and to continue to consolidate my position. Hopefully in time I will build up to challenge for the number one spot. I believe it is achievable.

How do you feel about squash not having a place at the London 2012 Olympics?

I can’t really put into words how frustrating it is for all of us. To be able to participate in the games would be unbelievable. The level of frustration is ridiculous. When I look at the list of sports I feel we are should have a place there. It’s just a great shame for Great Britain as a country not just us players, as we could produce some great results and medals.

If squash were to be included in the 2016 Olympic Games would you be motivated to play there?

I think I might hold out and try playing the doubles game. It is the same as playing singles but the court is widened about a meter which makes it a little less crowded, but it’s still pretty chaotic. It’s still hard on the body though, but if squash earned a place, I would definitely try and stretch my career out.

How would you raise squash’s profile?

The problem is we are not in the media spotlight. It’s frustrating being part of a sport in England that is so successful when there are a lot of sports that we don’t succeed in yet they receive more media coverage. In tennis if someone makes the first round of an Open it is in the newspapers, yet we have achieved places in finals and it’s not reported. I think squash needs to be marketed better, which is what the governing bodies are now trying to do and hopefully it will improve our prospects in the future.

Are there any countries where squash has a high profile?

In Malaysia, Nicol David (current women’s world number one) is a superstar. Half the time she lives in Amsterdam just to get away from it all. So when we go over it’s brilliant. I wish it was like that in England!

Why would you encourage more girls to play squash?

It’s really fun – especially if you are playing with a group of friends. It’s brilliant for keeping fit and for helping to lose weight! Just go and get involved!

Kimberley Blythe, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine

Photo credit: Squashpics.com

Look out for Sportsister’s upcoming interview with squash player Vicky Botwright.

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