Squash: Kiwi sporting icon Dame Susan Devoy 'quite choked up' over Paul Coll's breakthrough British Open victory

As Kiwi squash star Paul Coll finally cracked the big time with victory at the British Open, his achievement had another Kiwi sporting legend biting back tears of joy back home.

Coll, 29, fought back from a game down to defeat Egyptian world champion Ali Farag for the first 'Major' victory of his career at Hull - the first NZ male to win the prestigious tournament.

Just 24 hours earlier, the Greymouth native had toppled world No.1 Mahmoud Elshorbagy to become the second NZ man to reach the British Open final, after Ross Norman in 1986.

Meanwhile, five-time world champion Dame Susan Devoy was having trouble containing her emotions over Coll’s exploits.

"Everyone in our entire family was jumping for joy and a few hours later, the enormity of what he's achieved is starting to sink in," Dame Susan tells Newshub. "I'm absolutely delighted for him - he's such an amazing young man and he thoroughly deserves it.

"It's awesome for him most importantly, but awesome for us squash tragics that have been watching him for so many years now. I'm quite choked up really."

As well as her world titles, Devoy also claimed eight British Open crowns from 1984-92, while Kiwi Leilani Joyce captured back-to-back victories in 1999/2000.

The same year Norman lost the British Open final, he avenged the defeat to claim his only world title at Toulouse, snapping Pakistani Jahangir Khan's vice-like stranglehold on the sport.

Dame Susan predicts Coll - who will likely jump a ranking spot to No.3 in the world - is capable of a similar step up to his predecessor.

"As much as we think it's the most phenomenal achievement for squash, it's not entirely unexpected," she says. "He has got so close and just hasn't quite made it... but the result today is not a fluke.

"It's been a meticulously planned campaign for Paul, not just to win the British Open, but to win a major event, and it was just a matter of time really. He did it in such convincing fashion."

Nicknamed 'Superman' for his incredible fitness, Coll probably became a star on the wider NZ sporting landscape at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, where he won a silver medal in men's singles and combined with Joelle King for bronze in mixed doubles.

The following year, he won the Open de France Nantes and finished runner-up to Egyptian Tarek Momen at the world championships.

While Coll has shown the physical ability to compete with his dominant Egyptian rivals - who fill seven of the world's top nine rankings - his technical skills have more often been found wanting. Before his latest result, he had beaten Farag just once in 14 previous meetings and four-time defending champion Elshorbagy once in 10 encounters.

"He's a phenomenal athlete, but it's not good enough just to be the fittest and fastest," explains Devoy. "People probably don't understand the attention to detail and the changes he's made to his technique in his game are something that should be admited by people across all sports fields - it's not easy to do that.

"Paul's always been a fantastic squash player, but he hasn't been an exceptional squash player in terms of technique. He's changed that and over the last couple of years, we've seen his absolute dedication and commitment to doing that."

Coll's next chance at the world crown will come next year - he lost to Farag in the semi-finals at Chicago in July - but he will face his archrivals on their home turf at the Egyptian Open from September 10-17.

"Paul is not just a phenomenal athlete, but he's a phenomenal person," says Dame Susan. "This won't be the last we hear of Paul Coll - he deserves to be centrestage in all Kiwis' minds today."