Big challenge

World Top 20 ranked squash player Donna Urquhart back in town over Christmas doing some training on the Maclean Sports Centre courts.
World Top 20 ranked squash player Donna Urquhart back in town over Christmas doing some training on the Maclean Sports Centre courts. Adam Hourigan

THE YAMBA summer is far removed from the icy chill of a London winter, but local squash sensation Donna Urquhart has been tempted to swap the beach for a beanie this January.

Earlier this month Urquhart, 25, got a late call-up earlier this month, for the World Series Finals, the squash equivalent of the Tennis Masters tournament for the top eight players in the world.

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She has been busy soaking up as much of the Yamba sun as possible during the Christmas period before she flies to London, in between hitting up with fellow World Series Finals competitor and training partner Rachael Grinham at the Maclean Sports Centre.

"Rachael is in town with me at the moment, we often train together and it's really hard to find a training partner over the Christmas break, so this year she's come home with me to Yamba so we can practise together," Urquhart said.

"The great local facilities allow me to come home to the Clarence Valley and spend time with my family in Yamba, and I treasure the time I can spend at home because I travel so much through the year.

"I'm going to be missing the beach and weather, that's for sure, but it's an amazing opportunity for me and I never expected to be part of this tournament."

The World Series Finals is for the top-eight ranked female players in the world, and Urquhart, who was initially ninth on the list, got a call-up after fellow Australian Kasey Brown pulled out due to injury.

"The rankings are based on results throughout the whole year and I guess coming in at the bottom end of the rankings will enable me to come into all the matches as an underdog without any expectations on how far I will progress," Urquhart said.

"I'm the youngest of the players in the tournament too; Rachael is a former world champion and is now almost 35, so it's great to get this experience while I'm young."

The disadvantage of arriving at the bottom end of the draw is that Urquhart has some tough pool matches.

She will play third-ranked Madeline Perry from Ireland as well as top seed and six-time world champion Nicol David of Malaysia in the first two pool matches.

Urquhart and Grinham are both based in Brisbane and train with coaches at the Australian Institute of Sport and will be flying the flag for Australia at the Queen's Club in London from January 4 to 8.

Urquhart rates her fitness as the strongest aspect of her game and said she is always working on improving the tactical and mental side of her squash.

The World Series finals is the beginning of another hectic period of travel for Urquhart who faces three tournaments in the United States immediately after the World Series event.

"I have two tournaments in New York, which can be even colder than London in winter, and one in Cleveland, Ohio, before the end of January," she said.

"Unfortunately, it might be a while before I see summer again,"

Topics:  london 2012 squash world championships

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