Preparing to take on the world

GLEN DAWKINS -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:22 AM ET

Jennifer Saunders has a plan for world domination and it all starts next Friday.

The 29-year-old reigning Canadian women's singles and doubles racquetball champion will head up Canada's team for the Pan American Championships, April 7-15 in Guatemala City, Guatemala. Representing Canada for the first time since the 2004 world championships in South Korea, the Winnipegger is using it to prepare for this summer's world championships in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

"Our world championships will be held this summer so (the Pan American Championships is) an international event playing against a lot of the opponents I will have there (in Santo Domingo), playing in conditions and countries that aren't necessarily in my comfort zone," said Saunders, a bronze medallist in women's doubles and part of Canada's silver medallist team at the 2004 worlds. "It's more of a preparation for my push to win a world title."

The Canadian team will be attempting to return to the form that saw them sweep the men's and women's titles at the 2004 Pan American Championships.

"It feels kind of new again," said Saunders, who missed last year's Pan American Championships due to surgery.

This is also the first time Saunders will play singles at an international event since 2003 when she reached the quarter-finals at the Pan American Games at Santo Domingo.

The Pan American Championships follow the same format as the world championships with a round-robin team event followed by singles and doubles elimination events.

"(Playing in the) round robin can be tedious because you're playing weaker opponents and weaker countries so it feels like it takes you a while to get going," said Saunders. "But for me, it doesn't matter. My preparation stays the same. You just get mentally prepared for the different types of draws that you're in."

Winnipeg's Ron Brown will coach the national team coaches in Guatemala.

SWEPT

The national team was selected based on performances at the 2005 nationals and the 2006 selection events. Saunders swept both singles and doubles titles at last year's nationals and was first in both the singles and doubles selection events.

Her long-time doubles partner Josee Grand'Maitre of Longueuil, Que., will team up with Veronique Guillemette of Deauville, Que., for the women's doubles in Guatemala.

"When I chose to play singles and Veronique made the team, it made sense for them to play doubles together," said Saunders, the Racquetball Manitoba program co-ordinator. "Veronique plays the left side (of the court), they both live in Montreal so they could train together."

But Saunders isn't worried about having to find a new doubles partner when they get back to Canada.

"Considering we won three national (doubles) titles in a row together, I don't think Josee will be dropping me any time soon," joked Saunders.

The pair will be gunning for a record fourth consecutive women's doubles crown at the National Championships, May 22-27 in Edmonton, where Saunders will be defending her singles title.


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