Ben Grindrod's homecoming as top seed of Tauranga's marquee squash tournament was a personal triumph for the young professional.
Grindrod won the Open division of the Pak 'N Save Tauranga Open Squash tournament yesterday, held at the top class facilities of the Dame Susan Devoy Squash and Fitness Centre. He says being the No1 seed in front of his home crowd actually made him nervous.
"I go overseas a lot and am always performing in front of people who don't know me or where I am from," said Grindrod. "So to come here and play in front of all the faces of friends and family, that have seen me come here day-to-day practising over the years, is great."
The 20-year-old left Tauranga 12 months ago to pursue his goal of breaking into the world's top 160 professional squash players.
In his first year as a full-time professional, based in England, he achieved all his goals.
"It's been great. I set myself a target of trying to be inside the top 180 in the world, to make me more eligible for funding from New Zealand Squash," Grindrod said. "I am at 160 now and I could go higher this year, so I am happy with that.
"People who don't know squash think you can't make a living but that's not true. People are just misinformed in New Zealand. Once you get up there in the world rankings there are big opportunities to make a living through professional events in the European leagues."
On Saturday Grindrod came up against New Zealand's top ranked women's player and World No 4, Joelle King, in round 3 of the Open division.
The match-up attracted a big crowd of enthusiastic spectators who loved every rally in the top class display.
Grindrod had a nervous start but overcame the Commonwealth Games-bound King 3/0.
"I have played her a few times and I am always more nervous playing against her than a male player," Grindrod said. "You prepare the same but there is an expectation to get up to win against her. It has been great to have her at the tournament."