Gina Kennedy interview: Meteoric rise has everyone ‘gunning for’ squash star at the Commonwealth Games

Two racquet players with extraordinary talent were made life members in Beckenham’s Parklangley Club back in February.

One of them will be familiar to you: Emma Raducanu, tennis’ gold girl and darling of British sports, is the US Open champion. The other, perhaps less well-known, is Gina Kennedy, a squash player whose meteoric rise from outside the top 150 to within the top 10 in just one year has placed her among the favourites for gold at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

Kennedy could have been another Raducanu or perhaps another Kennedy. He is six years older than Kennedy.

Kennedy tells Standard Sport that she was playing tennis in Parklangley when her friend’s father owned the club. She still trains there. He wanted his daughter to play squash, so he approached her parents and asked if she would play with him.

It was less time-consuming than tennis, so I kept it. My parents were against me going home-schooled as I wanted to have more time for tennis.

Kennedy could have been a Laura Muir, or Keely Hopkinson. Kennedy was a talented runner and won London’s Mini Marathon once. However, she decided to give up what she considered her most important sport as a teenager.

She says, “I couldn’t handle the pressure.” “I thought winning was the only way to go and I hated it so much that I would be crying for two weeks before the race.

“It was not something I did with squash. I thought I could manage it better, but I didn’t get that. You can lose a few points but you can still get back in it. However, the thought of losing and running was terrible.

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Kennedy is a rare, gifted, and all-around athlete. It’s no surprise then that her talent on the squash court quickly became apparent. She won numerous national age-group titles and was eventually selected to Harvard University as the leading force in the American collegiate squash scene.

She says that she was influenced by what she saw on television. “Parties at these huge mansions with red cups!” It was so much fun there.

Kennedy was forced to leave the circuit abruptly when the pandemic struck in spring 2020. She was given one week to escape and return to her home. Kennedy credits the lack of competition during lockdown for giving her the time she needed to prepare for her amazing breakthrough on the professional circuit in 2020.

Raducanu has also found the second album, which is notoriously challenging, more difficult than she expected.

She admits that she is at her highest ranking (No8) but that recently, her confidence has been low. “Just because I am always playing top girls, and they’re still an elite level above.

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