It was only 12 months ago that South Australia’s Alex Haydon wasn’t sure if she would make the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games team.
Now, Haydon is one of three players in Australia’s Birmingham 2022 squash squad set to make her debut at the Commonwealth Games.
“I don’t think I would’ve made the Commonwealth Games team a year ago, just being one of the youngest coming through,” said Haydon.
“It’s been a long journey to get here.
“The amount of development I’ve made in a year, and hard work has got me to this point,” she said of her selection.
The 21-year-old had a blistering start to the year, winning the women’s open event at the Australian Open Doubles in January, alongside eight-time Commonwealth Games medallist Rachael Grinham, before going on to win the women’s open singles at the Gold Coast Open PSA.
Haydon then headed overseas to train and play on the Professional Squash Association (PSA) Challenger Tour to further her career on the world stage.
During that time she also featured on Australia’s squad for the 2022 WSF World Doubles Championships in Glasgow, Scotland, where she played alongside Jess Turnbull.
Not long after, Haydon received an email to inform her she had made the Commonwealth Games squad.
“I just remember opening my email and reading it, I was just so happy,” she recalled. “I’ve done a lot of visualisation of what it would feel like to be selected, it was just even better than I could’ve imagined.”
Growing up in the Clare Valley, one of Australia’s oldest wine regions situated 100km north of Adelaide, Haydon got her start in the sport thanks to her parents with the whole family involved.
Haydon would frequently tag along with her family to the Clare Squash Club as she was growing up, getting her start at the age of eight.
It was around the same time that her home centre hosted the Australian Open, one of Squash Australia’s most prestigious events. Being able to experience the event in person was an exciting experience for the youngster who had just got her start in the sport.
“We had some international players stay with our family, they got on court with me. It was just awesome to be around that,” she said. “I think it just brought my attention to squash.”
Winning her first Junior National Championship title in 2013, Haydon would go on to make her first Australian team less than a year later at the Oceania Junior Championships and Trans-Tasman Test Series.
For the then 12-year-old, it was an eye-opening experience.
“At that age, you can’t fully grasp the concept of what it means to represent Australia but I was just super excited,” Haydon said. “Being the youngest on the team and having the Under 19 boys and girls to look up to along with the coaches being former world number ones, it really just opened my eyes to the next steps.”
From there, Haydon would continue to impress in the juniors winning the Australian Junior Championships every year from 2014 to 2019 until she aged out of competition.
After graduating high school, Haydon then made the move up to the Gold Coast to train at the National Squash Centre to train under the National head coach Stewart Boswell.
While the pandemic hit just six weeks after she moved to Queensland, the past two years have given her plenty of opportunities to settle into life in Queensland and take her game to the next level.
Now, it has all led to this moment.
Next week Haydon will make her Commonwealth Games debut in the women’s doubles alongside Jess Turnbull on 4 August.
“When I step onto the court in Birmingham for the first time, I think I will just be pinching myself. There won’t be anything to describe it,” she said.