Pretoria, Tshwane; After a disruptive year, Cape Town’s Alex Fuller is excited at having a chance to compete in the Growthpoint SA Nationals squash tournament in Pretoria next week as she targets a third title overall.
But first she acknowledges that she will have to negotiate the regional qualifiers, which will see eight women and eight men progress to the main event on the all-glass court at the Brooklyn Mall from October 15 to 17.
An innovation by Squash SA, the regional qualifiers have attracted a massive total of more than 400 entrants, with eight tournaments being held around the country from Thursday to Sunday (October 8 to 11) to decide who will advance.
Fuller is the top seed in the Cape Town hub, but admits to some nerves as she contemplates the matches ahead.
“It is my first tournament back, like so many others competing in the Growthpoint SA Nationals, so the nerves and excitement levels will be high, I am sure,” the 27-year-old said.
“My goal going in to the regional nationals is to win so I get to play in Pretoria and fight for the SA title. There is always great pride in winning your national tournament and so it means a lot for me to go out there and do my best to win.”
Despite the uncertainty created by Covid-19, Fuller has been working hard to get to full fitness.
“I feel like I am match-ready,” she said. “I have been putting in a lot of hours training and getting myself geared up, and I am excited to compete again.”
Ranked 35 in the world, the talented SA professional is targeting a return to the international circuit, which she joined as a rising star in 2013. Her best year so far has been 2018 when she won five pro titles.
“I am currently in the process of organising and sorting a visa to get back to the UK to stay long-term and to base myself from there,” she said.
“The tour has resumed but due to international travel in and out of South Africa, I am unable to travel at this point.”
Fuller has thrown her weight behind the new format for the Nationals, which has allowed players to compete in their own regions.
“I think it is a very creative move and the entries have been much higher this year because people don’t have to travel as much.
“I am grateful for Growthpoint, who has pushed for this to happen, and I think it’s a great way to start off the SA season on a good, positive note.”
Meanwhile, men’s defending champion JP Brits has declared himself ready for the regional events after suffering a left knee injury at the weekend.
“I’m very happy to announce that my medical team have cleared me to participate in the Growthpoint regionals,” said Brits, who will be playing in the Pretoria event.
Sadly, though, women’s champion Milnay Louw has been forced to withdraw because of a back injury.
The top seeds for the regional hubs are:
Women: Alex Fuller (Cape Town), Lizelle Muller (PE), Cara Fourie (Potchefstroom), Farrah Sterne (Pretoria), Teagan Roux (Pietermaritzburg), Samantha Herbert (Durban), Jacqui Ryder (Joburg), Hayley Ward (Bloemfontein).
Men: Gary Wheadon (Cape Town), Rudi van Niekerk (PE), Dewald van Niekerk (Potchefstroom), JP Brits (Pretoria), Christo Potgieter (Pietermaritzburg), Makho Ntuli (Durban), Rodney Durbach (Joburg), Ruan Olivier (Bloemfontein).
The venues in the regional hubs are: Cape Town (Western Province Cricket Club), Port Elizabeth (Londt Park on Thursday and Saturday, Crusaders on Friday and Sunday), Pretoria (Pretoria Country Club), Potchefstroom (Potchefstroom Country Club), Pietermaritzburg (Collegians), Durban (Crusaders Sports Club), Bloemfontein (Bobbiespark on Friday, Oudstudente on Saturday and Sunday), Joburg (Parkview Squash Centre).