“I just want to get back to enjoying my squash, whatever level that is” – Joelle King

Joey Barrington speaks to Joelle

New Zealand’s Joelle King has been sidelined from the PSA World Tour since October 2023, unable to complete due to ongoing injuries.

King’s last match was at the U.S. Open 2023, where she lost to Egypt’s teenage sensation Amina Orfi in the last 16. The New Zealand No.1 was ranked No.4 in the world at the time but has now slipped outside of the top 50.

Back home to recover…

“It’s been eight months back in New Zealand for me,” said King.

“It started as two months to go back and try and sort my back out, I had a prolapsed disc, but there was a complication with a trapped nerve so it ended up being three months with that, then a month into starting to train again, I blew my meniscus.

“So it was two months, which turned into eight, but it was kind of nice that for the first time since I was 18, I was home for a long period. When I’m there, usually, my time is filled with exhibitions and coaching and things like that, so it was nice to live like a New Zealander again.”

Sometimes I couldn’t get out of bed because the back was so bad

King had been the World No.4 for 2023 before her injury and was constantly facing the world’s top three in most major events. King started working with Hania El Hammamy’s current coach, Laura Massaro, many years ago and explains that the former World Champion’s tactical knowledge is a key factor in her being able to adapt her game and continue to perform at the top level.

“I’ve had a lot of amazing male coaches throughout my career, but adding Laura to my team was massive for me. Having her by my side when I was going through that transition and maybe losing a yard of pace and a bit of sharpness was huge, being able to add different technical and tactical things to my game to be able to compete was a huge bonus and I’m so glad that she was able to help me with that.”

Coming back to action

The former Commonwealth Games gold medallist admits that she has been eyeing different opportunities to return to action this year but hasn’t been able to get herself to the required level in time. King is now simply focused on getting back to court pain-free so she can enjoy her squash.

“As of right now, I was trying hard to come back and play the British Open, but I couldn’t do that. So I’m just really keen to end things on my terms. Before I stopped for my injury, it was just not fun playing injured all the time.

“Sometimes I couldn’t get out of bed because the back was so bad, so I just want to get back to enjoying my squash, whatever level that is.”

Joelle King celebrates during her match with Rowan Elaraby in Birmingham

With squash now being recognised as an Olympic sport for the LA 2028 games, many players will be targeting that event due to its stature despite it being four years away. King will be 40 years old when the games take place, but admits that she hasn’t ruled out trying to be there competing for New Zealand.

“For the Olympics, I’ll probably be too old but I would love to be able to hang on just to be able to get there and play in an Olympics. I would have to manage my body really well and the NZ Olympic network is really supportive and would give me all the support I would need if I decided to do it.

“It’s a dangling carrot, so I’d love to be there and I haven’t said no yet, so let’s see what happens.”