Outside The Glass, the world’s oldest squash podcast, is a radio show with a new episode dropping at the beginning of each month. OTG episodes, produced by US Squash, are available on Apple Podcasts and SoundCloud. In episode thirty-one, Sarah Fitz-Gerald, former world No.1, spoke about capturing her first world title in 1996 in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.
Outside The Glass
Your first world championship in 1996 was when you had your wisdom teeth out?
Yes, about two weeks before or something, I was getting really bad pain. My physio, believe it or not, who was my guru, I just said to him, “You’re not going to believe this, but I’ve got an issue.”
He said, “That’s it. I’m going to get you organized.” He made a phone call, and he said, “Right, you’re in tomorrow.”
“How did you do that?”
He said, “Look, I know people. You’re in tomorrow. Don’t eat. Get them done. You’re getting them cut out.”
I literally got all four pulled out at once. I actually had quite a good recovery. I didn’t end up with a big puffy face and all the tragedy that happens. I still had four or five days of no training, nothing and the way the timing was that I probably had two days and then I left.
I remember the last thing I said to my sister was: “This is going to be a disaster. I’ll just go and do the best I can.” I just remember her looking at me and going, “Ok. Bye.” That was Carly, my eldest sister.
The next thing I know, because I was so relaxed, with zero expectations, I played probably the best squash of my career.
OTG: Really? That tournament?
SF-G: Yes. There were no nerves. There were no preconceived thoughts. I didn’t have a chance to overthink anything. I just went out and played. Rallies were tough but that was all it felt like—they were tough. It wasn’t feel oh my god, this was a critical moment or anything of that. I just went and played.
I love to volley. We were playing in Malaysia and the ball was bouncing and I am just hitting the hell out of it and volleying and loving it.
OTG: Who did you play in the finals?
SF-G: I ended up playing Cassie Jackman. Liz Irving had knocked out Michelle Martin in the quarters. Then Cassie went and beat Liz. I think Cassie may have beaten Sue Wright in her semi [Fitz-Gerald actually beat Sue Wright in the semis, 3-0]. I beat Cassie 3-0.
There was just something about it. I was just so relaxed. I could see the ball like it was a basketball. Even then, for the match, I think I made one or two mistakes. It was the third game. In that third game right, I played a boast and I went, “Don’t play the boast.” Next rally, I played another boast and I got it wrong. I hit the tin or Cassie was there and just got it so easily. I said, “Cut the boast.” It was the only time she got above me. It was like 4-3 to her. I cut the boast out and then I won the game something like 9-4.
Jonah Barrington came down. He came down. I had probably seen him prior to that and I didn’t know him, hadn’t met him at all. He came down and said, “That was perfect, that was the most clinical squash I’d seen” from me, whatever, at that moment. I was like, “oh god, Jonah Barrington.”
It ended being that. I played well. Once again, I was seeing the ball like a basketball. So it was a great match.
OTG: It’s all psychological. Getting your wisdom teeth out actually helped.
SF-G: It did. I know. And this is the thing, that same sister, when I got home, she said, “What happened to you being absolute rubbish?”
I went, “yeah, yeah.” All we could do was laugh about it.