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The Women's Sports Alliance


Gina Kennedy – harnessing ‘Nadal-Federer’ skills for squash success

Picture courtesy of Nathan Clarke / England Squash

A month ago Gina Kennedy was little-known outside of the squad world, but a historic victory at Birmingham 2022 introduced her incredible talent to a much wider audience.

There she became the first English woman to win the Commonwealth Games singles title.

It rounded off a meteoric 12 months, which has seen the Harvard graduate rise from 185th in the global standings to her current place within the top-10.

For those still unaware of her breath-taking ability though, read these words from her former Harvard coach, who moulded the player into one of the world’s best.

“I always said, ‘she’s like Nadal, but wanted to play like Federer’,” states Mike Way. “We’ve worked on all of her skills and turned those powers into superpowers.”

Kennedy herself laughs when she hears that particularly “amazing” quote.

The 25-year-old does understand why the comparisons were made though, and admits seeking to match their ‘incredible attributes’ fuels her own pursuit of perfection.

“I’m a grinder on the court, a bit like Nadal, you know like a very physical athlete, but in the last year I’ve realised that I have to work more on the technical side of my game – like (Federer’s) shot selection,” she tells the Women’s Sports Alliance (WSA).

“That’s what I was most proud of in many ways (at the Commonwealths), because I feel like I didn’t win based on my physicality.

“I kind of let my squash do the talking which is what you have to do if you want to take home the gold, so the quote sums me up pretty perfectly.”

‘It was my dream to go to the Olympics as a runner!’

Victory at the Commonwealth Games was marked the completion of a life-long mission for the player from Kent, London, who grew up hoping to one day compete on the biggest stage for major medals.

“When I was a little girl I was a keen runner and I started out in athletics and that’s why I’ve been saying it’s a dream of mine to be on the podium,” says the 25-year-old.

“I always thought I’d be going to the Olympics as a runner and I trained at ‘Blackheath and Bromley Harriers’ - which is where Dina Asher-Smith (former 200m world champion) trains - but I fell into squash and fell in love with it.”

Kennedy is part of the same club - The Parklangley Club - as Emma Raducanu

Kennedy excelled as a junior, winning British national and European titles before she was recruited by Harvard University.]

While sport was a key reason behind her move to the USA, the player herself was still unsure at that stage whether a full-time professional career was her destiny.

Those years at Harvard would be crucial to her future direction.

“My whole life growing up was based around sport, firstly with athletics and then squash; I was always traveling and didn’t really have an identity outside of that,” she says.

“I wanted to go to university and find myself and discover what else I enjoyed outside of sport, but competing and going to Harvard helped me fall in love with squad even more.

“I wanted to be 100% sure it’s what I wanted to do with my life and it gave me the mindset that you need to be a professional athlete.

“I’m completely dedicated now, no distractions and I’m willing to sacrifice everything on the court and off the court in order to perform my best.”

Harvard succcess on and off the court… (@gina_kennedy26)

Had Kennedy chosen to remain in athletics then an Olympic career could potentially have beckoned.

As it stands that is unlikely to be an option in the near future though as over the last two decades squash has repeatedly been turned down for a place in the Games.

The next realistic opportunity would not come until the 2028 Los Angeles Games, but the player herself is optimistic about her sport’s future and development.

“Obviously we were desperate for it to be in the Olympics and we believe it deserves to be there, but we’ve come to terms with the fact that it isn’t and we’ve got so many opportunities to grow the sport and give it exposure,” she states.

“The Commonwealth Games is a great opportunity for that as it put squash in the mainstream media and it allowed people who hadn’t watched it before to see how fast-paced, exciting and amazing it is.

“Obviously the Olympics would help give it the extra exposure but I think squash has done a great job in the last few years of putting up incredible spectacles.

“Think of the venues, like in Birmingham which was absolutely incredible with a crowd of about 2000 people, so that’s exactly what the sport needs and deserves.”

Picture courtesy of Nathan Clarke / England Squash

Victory at this year’s Commonwealth Games was her “primary goal” for 2022 and a “dream come true” but she is still a little shocked by the accomplishment.

“I know the strength of the competition was really huge and there were three to four players who could have taken home the gold medal so I’m really chuffed that it was me,” she tells the WSA.

“The English have always been renowned for their strength in squash, so to go down in history as the first (English) female to win gold in the singles at the Commonwealth Games is unbelievable and just thinking about it gives me goosebumps.”

And with one major career objective achieved what else is on Kennedy’s list for the years to come?

“If winning gold at the Commonwealth Games is all I ever achieve then I would be extremely happy, as it’s been an absolute dream of mine, but obviously I’ve got a lot of targets,” she says with a smile.

“I’m top-10 in the world now, but my ultimate goal is to be number one, get that top spot and win a few of the majors on the PSA tour.

“Then maybe in four years try to back up my gold medal again!”


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