Squash: Allrounder Hawkes finds her calling

Having dabbled in tennis, a double degree and a dash of bikini modelling, well-travelled New Zealand squash player Jaclyn Hawkes has found some focus.

New Zealand's leading medal hope at the Commonwealth Games, Hawkes is more than happy to spend two weeks in Delhi, away from a constant struggle to break into the world's elite group.

"It's really important to me to be here. I'd say it's as important as my (professional) playing career," she told NZPA of her Games motivation.

"It's the biggest event that I've been to."

That's saying something for Hawkes, a regular fixture inside the world top 20 for the last three years without managing to crack the big time.

There is frustration at failing to climb higher than her current 14th ranking although she points out she is still a year away from what is regarded as the peak window for a woman's squash player, from age 28 to 32.

"There's one level to get into the top 20 and then another level to get into the top 10," she said, revealing she would alter her style to chase improvement.

"Over the next two years I'm going to dedicate a lot of time to trying to change things. Hopefully I've got what it takes to get into the top 10."

Squash is a fulltime focus although her Otago University law and marketing degrees, along with her striking looks, have provided significant off-court assistance to women's squash governing body WISPA of late.

She is on the WISPA board and has helped drive a restructure of the organisation while -- as a polar opposite -- starred in its glamorous 2010 calendar, featuring top players promoting the sport in a different light. Hawkes' "Miss May" photographs were also reproduced in a sports magazine.

Hawkes has been based in the north England stronghold of Harrowgate for five years since completing a double degree in law and marketing at Otago University.

She continues to hone her game by training with that country's best and her accent is now more English than Kiwi but she stresses there is no question where the heart lies.

"I always say I train in England but live in New Zealand."

She grew up in Hong Kong and shifted to New Zealand aged 15, with racquet sports always to the forefront.

The daughter of former New Zealand Davis Cup tennis representative Richard and former national squash player Julie, she admits tennis was No 1 until the shift to New Zealand.

Hawkes is seeded seventh in the singles here while she and world No 20 Joelle King are ranked fifth in the women's doubles field, the same seeding she and Campbell Grayson share in the mixed doubles draw.

Doubles appeals for the different skills required and Hawkes said it was no coincidence New Zealand had been more successful in doubles than singles at recent Games.

"Some of the countries ... they get it into their mind that they don't like playing it so they don't do well at it," she said.

"All the New Zealanders say 'right, this is our chance to get in there and get medals'.

"Some of the better singles players tend to want to play singles on the doubles court.... whereas the tactics of the game are completely different."

The doubles competition is played in the second week of the Games, with the singles starting tomorrow.

Hawkes has drawn unseeded Australian Amelia Pittock in the first round, with a third-round showdown against second seed Jenny Duncalf of England looming if no upsets prevail. Twelth seed King should also win her opening match against a qualifier.

In the men's singles, 15th seed Martin Knight and the 16th-sided Grayson have unseeded opponents first up in Hardeep Reel of Kenya and Ray Zimbule of Zambia respectively.

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