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Wednesday, 31 July, 2002, 21:43 GMT 22:43 UK

Fitz-Gerald the great

By Clive Lindsay
BBC Sport Online in Manchester

Sarah Fitz-Gerald set a new record for tour championship wins with victory at the Australian Open.

Four times she was crowned world champion on her way to the 58 victories that surpassed fellow Aussie Michelle Martin's previous best.

But Commonwealth Games gold was Fitz-Gerald's greatest ambition.

The Melbourne-born 33-year-old was determined to go one better than the silver achieved four years ago in Kuala Lumpur.

And her nerves almost got the better of her before she eventually defeated world number two Carol Owens at the National Squash Centre in Manchester.

Two operations

Fitz-Gerald's 9-3 9-0 2-9 10-9 victory was her 55th tour win in a row and confirmed her domination of the women's game.

Fitz-Gerald's record could have been even more impressive had she not missed most of the 1999 and 2000 seasons after needing two operations on her left knee.

Like men's world number one Peter Nicol in Britain, her success has helped push what is often viewed as a Cinderella sport further into the public eye in her homeland.

So much so that she outshone her rivals in more high-profile sports, including tennis player Lleyton Hewitt and swimmer Ian Thorpe, by being voted Australian Sports Personality of the Year.

Now she has paid her fans back by adding yet another gold to the bulging bag of Australian medals.

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