Graceland not on her to-do list

GLEN DAWKINS -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:06 AM ET

For Jennifer Saunders, hopefully there will be no visits to Graceland this year.

The reigning Canadian women's singles and doubles champion is headed off to Memphis, Tenn., home of Elvis Presley's mansion and the U.S. Open Racquetball Championships. In her past appearances, Saunders has managed to make it past the qualifying round before losing in the early rounds leaving her 'free' to take in the sights.

"I've seen (Graceland) twice and that's enough," said Saunders, who heads south tomorrow for her qualifying round game Wednesday. "I'd like to go out for dinner on Sunday and say that I wasn't able to sightsee or party at all (because) I had to play all week."

The 28-year-old Racquetball Manitoba program coordinator and national team member has a new attitude this year. The two-time national singles champ has committed herself to doing whatever it takes to win as opposed to trying to win pretty.

Last month in Burlington, Ont., she upset long-time rival and top seed Lori-Jane Powell of Calgary to win the Canadian Open Classic women's final to kick off the season in style.

"Since the end of August, I've been quite dedicated to my workout plans and training in general for this season," said Saunders, sporting a shiner under her left eye due to an off-court accident. "Because of the Canadian Open, I trained really hard in September so I feel like I'm in mid-season form already. I feel like it's February and it's only November."

It usually takes Saunders a few months to get into the swing of things. If she has an international event like the World Championships in the summer, she normally takes August and September off for some much-needed rest.

But with nothing on the calendar this past summer, she was able to take June and July off and come back in August ready to go all out.

"Most of the U.S. Opens that I've played in, I've come close," said Saunders, who has reached the second round. "I've managed to scare one of the top ranked players but I've never gone all the way through to get the upset. I'd really like to be able to do that this year."

The timing couldn't be better for her to kick it up a notch. The World Championships are in August in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and Saunders is gunning for her third trip.

She reached the women's doubles semifinals at the 2004 World Championships in Korea and was the women's singles silver medallist at the 2002 World Championships in Puerto Rico.

With the national team doubles selection event in January in Calgary and the national team singles qualifier in February in Burnaby, B.C., Saunders hopes to get on a roll starting with the U.S. Open.

"The progression is U.S. Open, national team events, winning a national title and winning a world title," said Saunders. "(I want to be) continuously building throughout the season.

"The U.S. Open is like a bonus event. It doesn't technically matter in terms of nationals or worlds are concerned. But it's a prestigious event, the biggest racquetball event of the year."


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