Fully fit Francis ready to fire

Ipswich Open second seed Melody Francis is champing at the bit to get back into competitive squash after spending the last 12 weeks on the sideline following ankle surgery.

The 23-year-old from Melbourne was ranked 34th in the world before having to take time off so doctors could operate to rectify a persistent problem in her right ankle. She is now ranked 50th but is looking to get back into the 30s as soon as possible and said the Ipswich Open was the perfect tournament to launch her comeback.

Francis has a first round bye before a probable second round clash against Denmark’s Sally Skaarenborg. If she gets past the ninth seeded Dane, she would likely face South Africa’s NT Open runner-up Cheyna Tucker in the quarter-finals.

“It’s going to be really hard, these Australian events are getting stronger and stronger,” she said. “I’m in no position to take any matches for granted. I’m just going to go out there and give it everything from my first match.”

Francis has been selected in the Australian team to take part in World Women’s Teams Championship in France in November and needs to come through the Ipswich Open unscathed. But she said she was confident her ankle would stand up to the challenge.

“It’s going really well, I’m quite happy with it. My recovery has been mostly on, or ahead of, schedule,” she said. “I was actually surprised getting back on court at how good it felt and how well I was hitting the ball. I just hope I haven’t dropped off too much. I guess I’ll find out where I am this week. I’ve been building up my workload, but I’ve had to be careful not to overdo it.

“I had a hit with (AIS teammate) Sarah Cardwell last week and despite my best intentions to take it easy, I really got stuck into it and I think I’m back to 100 per cent now.”

England’s Victoria Bell arrived in Ipswich on Monday to prepare for the Open and said she was looking forward to the event.

“I think it’s a really strong field and I can’t wait to get started,” the eighth seeded Bell said.

Bell takes on Ipswich’s Kirsty Hunter in the first round on Friday night and would then face Perth’s Larissa Huffer or Melissa Bonello of Melbourne in the second round.

First round action gets underway at Healthworks Brassall on Friday night.

Tournament Page: squashsite.co.uk/2009/ipswichopen2012.htm

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