By Suzanne McFadden
New Zealand squash is turning to its female stars to shine at two world championships.
World No 3 Leilani Joyce has been asked to lead New Zealand to upset the seedings at the World Cup of Squash in Amsterdam next month.
In the meantime, promising teenager Jaclyn Hawkes has won through to the last 32 of the world junior women's championships in Belgium.
The Auckland 16-year-old, daughter of former New Zealand player Julie Lamb, beat Anna Vaughn, of Wales, 9-1, 9-6, 9-2 yesterday and will now meet second seed Vicky Lankester, of England.
In the senior ranks, New Zealand are ranked ninth of 16 teams at the World Cup teams event starting on August 10.
But Joyce's outstanding form of the last six months could push the New Zealand team - Joyce and men's players Daniel Sharplin and Glen Wilson - into semifinals contention.
"Theoretically, I am seeded to win all but one of my games, so we're virtually guaranteed one win out of three," Joyce said. "So it's up to one of the guys to win their game."
Sharplin and Wilson, who played at the last World Cup in Malaysia, are no longer on the international circuit so they do not have world rankings to push up New Zealand's seeding.
New Zealand finished sixth at the first world teams event three years ago, but they went with five players and took turns.
With a team of three this time, Joyce, a world doubles champion, knows the pressure is on.
"We play six matches in four days. At this level that is pretty intense," she said.
Australia are ranked No 1 ahead of Scotland and Egypt.
Joyce sees the tournament as a perfect lead-in to the Australian Open the following week, where she is the second seed.
"There are no rankings points involved at the World Cup, so the pressure of points isn't lurking around you," she said. "It's a fun tournament, but we're all very serious about it. We want to do so well."
While Sharplin and Wilson are now playing in Europe, Joyce is building up at home towards a frantic month on the court and in the skies.
She comfortably won the South Island championships last weekend, to further her lead in the Revelation XX series played around the country.
The day she flies to Amsterdam, Joyce will first play in the Browns Bay Open. She leaves Holland to arrive the day before the Australian Open.
By Suzanne McFadden