Squash fans around the world are sad to see Natalie Grainger has decided to bring to an end a distinguished career lasting 14 “glittering” years at the top of her sport.
Grainger announced her decision to retire from the WISPA World Tour at the Women’s World Team Championship farewell dinner in New Zealand. After 11 straight losses to Rachael Grinham since 2002, Grainger beat the Australian No. 1 in a sensational quarterfinal upset.
“Nobody beats Natalie Grainger 12 times in a row,” quipped the US No. 1 in her retirement speech in Palmerston North.
Before reaching the age of three, Grainger was thrust into the world of squash by her mother, British champion Jean Grainger (nee Wilson), and played at her parents’ own squash center in Johannesburg, South Africa.
She first made her mark on the international stage after reaching the quarterfinals of the World Junior Championships, both in 1993 and 1995, while competing as a South African.
At only 17 years old, Grainger was the youngest player to be selected for the South African senior side in 1994.
She became the highest-ranked South African of all-time in 1999 when she reached seventh in the world rankings, an achievement that still stands.
After moving to the USA in 2002 she transferred her allegiance to her new country of residence and in 2007 became a US citizen.
In June 2003, Grainger became World No. 1 for the first time. She went on to reach 44 WISPA World Tour finals in her career (including the World Open in 2002 and the British Open in 2004) and won 23 titles.
Grainger says her proudest moment in gaining those titles was winning the $105,000 Qatar Classic in December 2003 when she beat World No. 1, Carol Owens. Another very proud moment was beating Nicol David and putting an end to the Malaysian’s 56-match winning streak on her home turf at the KL Open in February 2009 in a thrilling five-game encounter.
In 2007, Grainger clinched the gold medal in the Pan-American Games and won her fourth US National title in March this year.
During her time away from the court Grainger has also contributed greatly to the sport in her position on the WISPA Board. She was elected the Association’s President in 2003 and Principal in 2010.
“Natalie has made an outstanding contribution to squash both on and off court. She is leaving a big footprint on the game,” said WISPA Chairman Ingrid Lofdahl-Bentzer. “In her role as board member and then WISPA President for the last seven years, she has been a tower of strength—particularly during the last couple of years, when she has frequently forsaken her playing career for the good of WISPA and the game of squash.
“She has inspired a whole generation of players with her ‘never-say-die’ mentality and larger than life personality. Her achievements on court speak for themselves—she has enjoyed a truly glittering career, in spite of numerous injuries.
“Natalie’s warm, engaging and outgoing personality—coupled with a natural talent—is second to none,” added the Chairman. “She will be very much missed on the WISPA Tour—but fortunately we’ll still benefit from her involvement in squash in the future.”