125th anniversary of Suffrage in New Zealand

Susan Devoy wins British Open squash tournament

10 April 1984

Susan Devoy leaves her mark (NZHerald via Te Ara)

In 1984, Susan Devoy became the first New Zealander to win the women’s title at the prestigious British Open squash tournament, the ‘Wimbledon of Squash’. Aged 20 years, she was also the youngest.

Devoy had first competed in the Open two years earlier, bowing out in the second round. In 1983 the teenager reached the quarter-finals, where she was beaten in four sets by Martine Le Moignan.

Devoy was joint third seed for the 1984 tournament, but exceeded expectations by beating third-time finalist Lisa Opie in four sets. Devoy won six more titles in consecutive years before losing a quarter-final to Sue Wright in 1991. She bounced back in 1992, winning an eighth British Open title in straight sets over her old foe Le Moignan.

Susan Devoy won four of the seven Women’s World Opens she contested. After reaching the third round as a 17-year-old in 1981, she was defeated in a semi-final in 1983 by eventual champion Vicki Cardwell. She lost only one match in the next five World Opens – to Le Moignan.

Susan Devoy retired from competitive squash while still ranked number one in the world. She became chief executive of Sport Bay of Plenty and served on the boards of many community organisations and businesses. Since becoming Race Relations Commissioner in 2013 she has spoken out in support of ethnic minorities and in favour of an increase in New Zealand’s refugee quota. In 2016 she launched ‘That’s Us’ - New Zealand’s first nationwide anti-racism digital campaign.

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