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TODAY at the World Open Squash 2011                                                       facebooktwitter
Day NINE, Sat 5th, SEMI-FINALS                                                                            
Fram and Steve in Rotterdam

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Richard Eaton:

Gaultier earns chance number three


En Bref #4

 
GALLERIES

Defending champions on course in Rotterdam

With all four semi-finals of the World Open Squash 2001 at the New Luxor Theatre in Rotterdam finishing in straight-game victories, defending champions and world number ones Nick Matthew and Nicol David remain on course to retain their title in this, the richest-ever squash event, with a combined prize fund of over $400,000.

Their opponents in Sunday's finals will be France's Gregory Gaultier, twice a World Open runner-up, and Jenny Duncalf, the world number two who tonight reached her first World Open final.

[2] Jenny Duncalf (Eng) bt [15] Samantha Teran (Mex)          11/9, 11/4, 11/7 (36m)

[1] Nicol David
(Mas) bt [12] Natalie Grinham (Ned)                11/9, 11/4, 11/6 (44m)

[1] Nick Matthew (Eng) bt [3] Karim Darwish (Egy)                    11/9, 11/9, 11/1 (53m)

[6] Gregory Gaultier (Fra) bt [4] James Willstrop (Eng)             11/6, 11/8, 11/4 (64m)

Live scores and commentary will be back for the finals, 14.00 Sunday

Duncalf makes it at last, Nicol aims for six

It's surprising that Jenny Duncalf had never reached a World Open final, given that she's been world number two for the best part of three years, surprising too that she'd never before met Samantha Teran, the surprise semi-finalist from Mexico.

So the opening exchanges of the first World Open Squash 2011 semi-final at the Luxor Theatre in Rotterdam were understandably cagey. and there was little to separate the players for most of the first game before Duncalf played two immaculate rallies to take the lead 11/9.

She was always ahead after that, despite the best and far from inconsiderable efforts of Teran.

But the Englishwoman was determined to seize this opportunity too, and from 8/7 in the third an error was followed by two winners, followed by a muted celebration and a look of relief on Duncalf's face. She know she has another job to do tomorrow.

"It was maybe a bit tentative at the start but I felt more comfortable after I'd taken the first, that was massive," admitted Duncalf.

"I'm just thrilled to reach the world open final, if there was one match you'd choose to be in, that would be it.
"

In that final she'll meet Nicol David, the five-time champion who will be aiming to break Sarah Fitz-Gerald's record tomorrow.

In comparison to the first semi-final's first meeting of the two protagonists, Nicol's opponent was all too familiar, she and Natalie Grinham had already contested two World Open finals and many many more major finals too.

There were comparisons with the first match though - a tight first game, a comfortable second and a third where a comeback was threatened but not quite delivered.

Even the scorelines were just one point apart, but the story was the same, and the winner was the same as in most of their meetings, Nicol David makes another World Open final.

"It was a bit like deja vu all over again," joked Nicol, "but playing Natalie again on her home turf, with a big crowd like this it was always going to be difficult, and winning that first game was crucial.

"You can't afford to think about it being a World Open semi-final, and breaking records or anything like that, you just have to treat it as another tournament, keep your focus and play each match as it comes.

"It great to play in such a fantastic venue and I think the crowd was even noisier tonight than in Amsterdam!"

Matthew and Gaultier back in the final

A second English finalist then, as Nick Matthew returned to the scent of his Saudi triumph last year. For two games it really could have gone either way, Karim Darwish matching the Englishman point for point, even if he was the one generally trailing by one, or at most two.

The Egyptian's own words tell the story: "The first two games were crucial, we were point for point the whole game, but he managed to win the crucial points, playing extremely well at the end of each game."

The third was one way traffic. Darwish may not have been giving 100%, but Matthew made sure with a series of crisp winners at the start that left Darwish struggling to reach the ball, and once he was 5/0 up there was no way back.

"I had a bit of luck at the end of each of the first two games, each time I took it on a glued to the wall shot," said Matthew.

"It was close during those games, but it just went my way. And I thought, if I can get a good lead in the third, itís going to be a long way back."

The second men's semi-final had echoes of the first, just as the ladies' before them.

James Willstrop and Gregory met in the final of the Qatar Classic scant days ago, and while that almost went to five before the Frenchman won, this one finished in three.

Willstrop held his own until 4-all in the first, 4-3 in the second, and 4-2 in the third before Gaultier pulled away in all three to reach, coincidentally, his third World Open final.

"The first game was pretty aggressive, but normally, James is not like that, and Iím not like that either, so we both relaxed in the second, and I think the quality of squash got better then," said Gaultier.

"James and I have been playing each other since we were kids, well I was that high, and he was THAT high! We had a very strong generation, James, Karim, Nick, and itís nice to see that we are still competing today.

"Iím happy with the result, whether 3/0, 3/1, 3/2! Iím happy Iíve won!"

Footnote: for those interested in such things, here are the game times for each of the matches:
Duncalf 15, 8, 11. David 18, 8, 12. Matthew 23, 19, 8. Gaultier 24, 22, 14.

Finals are at 14.00 (women) and 16.00 (men on Sunday
 

[2] Jenny Duncalf (Eng) bt [15] Samantha Teran (Mex)          11/9, 11/4, 11/7 (36m)
[1] Nicol David (Mas) bt [12] Natalie Grinham (Ned)                11/9, 11/4, 11/6 (44m)

Duncalf through to first final
Malcolm reports

Semi Finals day of the World Championships at the Luxor Theater. Sell out crowds flocking in, buzzing in anticipation at what lies ahead.

To open proceedings a presentation was made to Vanessa Atkinson for her services to squash and to Natalie Granger for all her work for Wispa.

Jenny Duncalf has looked back to her best in Rotterdam and her opponent Samantha Teran had surpassed all expectations to reach the semi finals, playing with purpose and determination.

Brought onto court as the world's best players should be, the Luxor Theater providing a setting to rival, maybe surpass Grand Central, The Pyramids and Hong Kong Harbour. If the best squash players in the world sometimes feel undervalued or underpromoted, then that is not today in Rotterdam.

Both girls were immediately attacking, Duncalf into her favourite area, the front left, Teran with a deep backhand cross court winner. Teran, busy, belying her ranking of 13, in no way overawed led 4/3, but a stroke gave Duncalf the lead 5/4, the no2 seed, finding attacking opportunities on the backhand. A lovely forehand straight volley by Teran bought the score level at 6 all. Fine rally, ending in an error by Duncalf, had the scores level again at 8 all. 9 all now - crucial times, 10/9 to Duncalf and controlllng the rally, she had the first game under belt, but by no means easy.

There was not a seat to be had now, the Luxor Theater exuding vitality and excitement.

Still Duncalf's backhand was a major factor and she began to get away, leading 4/1; another backhand drop by Duncalf to 5/2, then 6/2, an error to 7/2, as Duncalf's began to tell. 8/2 after a fine rally, 9/2 happening quickly now, as Duncalf piled on the pressure. A backhand volley of the serve into the cross court nick gave Duncalf seven game balls at 10/3, and at the second attempt, another backhand drop and Duncalf was 2-0 up.

Teran hadn't done much wrong but Duncalf, playing as she has in Rotterdam, is hard to beat.

Teran needed a start in the third and got one leading 2/0 and 3/2. A video review in Teran's favour kept the score at 4/3 to Duncalf, when 5/3 was as the cards. It was 5/3 soon, though then 6/3, even though Teran was working as hard as at the beginning. Still competing, a fine forehand angle brought the Mexican back to 6 all. A delicate drop by Duncalf this time on the forehand gave her a 7/6 lead, but a splendid rally kept Teran in the match at 7/8. An error though and Duncalf led 9/7, then 10/7 match ball and a forehand winner did the trick.

Duncalf confirmed her correct well-being and Teran should be very proud, not just of today but of the achievements in Rotterdam. Hopefully she will trigger off a Mexican wave of squash.

Iím happy, even if I also feel that I could have done betterÖ Still, satisfied with my match, I did do my best on the day. And she didnít give me many mistakes.

I came to Holland because I realised that to be a professional squash player, I had to come to the UK or here, and the combination between my training in Mexico with my coach Miguel, and here with Liz Irving has been working for me.

David impressive

The Rotterdam crow were all set to get behind Natalie Grinham, as the former World No. 2 fronted up against the World's best Nicol David.

The World No. 1 began with purpose, 5/1 quickly. An error brought Grinham back to 3/5, a backhand volley straight to 4/6, both girls moving well as they do. David very relaxed. Grinham had done well to find herself at six all, her improved variety serving her well. Seven all now after a long rally, ending with a Grinham error.

Grinham led 8/7, 9/7 with a backhand volley drop. A/5 forehand drop by David had the scores level again at nine all and it was David who had the first game ball at 10/9; a hard rally and David volleyed the winning shot down the forehand side.

A long rally won by Grinham, thus rapturously greeted made it one-all, but it was David, still looking very relaxed who went to 8/1, aided by errors from Grinham, several of them. A stroke gave David her first game ball at 10/2, but she needed three to settle the game 11/4.

Grinham still looks quick, but that asset is nullified by David's outstanding athleticism. She was competitive still at 4/3, but a subtle volley at the forehand into the tin saw her behind 5/4, another error to 6/4.

A fluke made the score 5/6, but it was soon 8/5 and then 9/6 as David hit a backhand cross court winner to the back. 10/6 now and one was enough to set up a final between the world's top two players.

David was always impressive and Grinham will take great encouragement from her performance in Rotterdam.

Iím definitely happy with my tournament, I was not moving too well though, but I did what I could today, I was seeding to not get past the 2nd game, so getting to the semis is a great result for me.

I just felt I got shafted out of the first game, and mentally, I just couldnít get over it, plus, against anyone else, you know that you can maybe wear them off, there is no way back.

"I'd never played her before but I knew what her work ethic was like and that she's been training with Liz and Nicol, so it wasn't a surprise that she played well and worked hard.

"It was maybe a bit tentative at the start but I felt more comfortable after I'd taken the first, that was massive.



"I'm just thrilled to reach the world open final, if there was one match you'd choose to be in, that would be it. You try to put it out of your head what the match is all about but it's difficult, especially playing in an arena like this.

"I feel pretty comfortable on this court though, it takes a good shot and if you can get it deep you know you'll get some rewards, I kike it, I like the colours too but maybe that's just a girl thing!"

"It was a bit like deja vu all over again, but playing Natalie again on her home turf, with a big crowd like this it was always going to be difficult, and winning that first game was crucial.

"You can't afford to think about it being a World Open semi-final, and breaking records or anything like that, you just have to treat it as another tournament, keep your focus and play each match as it comes.

"It great to play in such a fantastic venue and I think the crowd was even noisier tonight than in Amsterdam!"



This is a terribly complex game, a terribly complex sport.

I thought I found the right balance on the backhand, where Iím normally rather good, but where he is pretty good too! I had to find a way to prevent him from playing his winners in that corner.

The point count is substantially in his favourÖ. Yes, I am very disappointed, and I really do not enjoy the loss like I mentioned to you times and times again.

But Iím learning to cope with it better now, I mean, there are other things in life that are important as well, Iím lucky to have a great support system around me. Iíve been beaten by Greg, Nick, Ramy, but thatís the challenge, and thatís a pretty nice way of life that Iím having after all.

And after all, Iím not injured, am I?? When I think of Alison Waters who cannot compete, and here I am, in the semis of the World Open, I canít complain can I! And I gave it pretty much everything I hadÖ

[1] Nick Matthew (Eng) bt [3] Karim Darwish (Egy)                    11/9, 11/9, 11/1 (53m)
[6] Gregory Gaultier (Fra) bt [4] James Willstrop (Eng)             11/6, 11/8, 11/4 (64m)

CLINICAL GREG

We had a pretty surprising first game, with a James being pretty sharp towards Greg. From the spectators point of view, it may have appeared like the Englishman was being a bit aggressive, but in fact, in my humble opinion, this was a bit the continuity of the intense rivalry those two showed for years, and lately in Qatar, with James pretty unhappy with Greg's attitude on court contrasting with the praise afterwards.

Not taking sides here, or passing judgment, just stating facts.

We never know whatís going on on court, only the players know. And theyíve got a way to show it Ė or not. And normally James is pretty cool on court, takes whatever happens on there with detachment and English phlegm. But today, he probably thought he would ďshow his fangsĒ as we say in French, as in, making a statement.

Trouble is, Greg doesnít mind aggressive on court. Like a McEnroe, he can probably dig some extra energy and will from it. And as James lost that game 11/6, I feel it probably didnít help the EnglishmanÖ

Another thing. I remember those two playing extremely long rallies on the back wall, straight driving for minutes in Qatar. James is normally pretty strong on that side, and was a bit disappointed that Greg was actually better than he was in that department that day.

And tonight, he changed his game completely. Going for one, two drives, and zoom, drop shot or cross court. As he pointed out to me afterwards, it is the tactic he used in the third in Qatar, the game he won. So it made sense to change it but like he said, it was all a question of finding the right balance. And maybe he didnít tonight.

The score in the first two games doesnít reflect the enormous work those two produced. Still, Greg appeared the stronger player, although James didnít do much wrong Ė 7 errors in the whole match, 4 for Greg.

The Frenchman will be delighted with a 3/0 win, that will allow him to be fresh tomorrow, although the long hours spent on the court since the first round of Qatar may play a role in that final I feel.

Iím happy with the result, whether 3/0, 3/1, 3/2! Iím happy Iíve won!

James and I have been playing each other since we were kids, well I was that high, and he was THAT high! We had a very strong generation, James, Karim, Nick, and itís nice to see that we are still competing today.

The first game was pretty aggressive, but normally, James is not like that, and Iím not like that either, so we both relaxed in the second, and I think the quality of squash got better then.

And at the start of the third, I really pushed and dug in to make it as hard as possible, and even when I was a few points ahead, I didnít stop pushing, because he is so good and it would have been possible for him to come back and string a few points together. So I tried and forgot the score, and work point after point.

I feel that my game was in place today, nice length, I volleyed a lot, I was moving well, and I had to, because every time he was getting to the front, I was under a lot of pressure. Basically, I used the same tactic than for Qatar, the same dynamic, I just thought the quality of the match was better today.

When you reach the goal you determined for yourself, sometimes people get stronger, it helps them getting ever further and gives them the will to win, but in my case, it had the opposite effect. But now I have matured, Iím calmer on court I feel.

Is tomorrow a big occasion? No, itís just another match. Thatís the way Iíve been taking this tournament, one match at a time, although sometimes you canít help yourself raising your arms in the air and see you with the trophy, but itís only a flash and it passes quickly.

Nick has got an advantage as he won it last year, whereas I went twice in the final, but never won it. So, I wish myself a lot of luck for tomorrow!

Matthew holds firm

Nick Matthew returned to the scene of his Saudi triumph last year to give us a second English finalist. For two games it really could have gone either way, Karim Darwish matching the Englishman point for point, even if he was the one generally trailing by one, or at most two.

Matthew led 5-2 in the first, Darwish closed back to 6-all, then 8-all. In the second it wa 7-4 to Matthew then 9-8 to Darwish, so you can imagine the Englishman's relief and the Egyptian's frustration that he should lose both 11/9.

The Egyptian's own words tell the story: "The first two games were crucial, we were point for point the whole game, but he managed to win the crucial points, playing extremely well at the end of each game."

The third was one way traffic. Darwish may not have been giving 100%, but Matthew made sure with a series of crisp winners at the start that left Darwish struggling to reach the ball, and once he was 5/0 up there was no way back.

I had a bit of luck at the end of each of the first two games, each time I took it on a glued to the wall. It was close during those games, but it just went my way.

And I thought, if I can get a good lead in the 3rd, itís going to be a long way back.

Preparation and fitness wise, losing early in the previous tournament helped!

I didnít plan it that way, mind, but it helped me get my mind and body back in shape!

Previews:
Final places up for grabs

We're down to the last eight players, out of 190 who set out eight days ago on the quest for the World Open Squash 2011 titles. There are many familiar faces here, as you would expect, plus one who is making her first appearance at this level.

England's Jenny Duncalf has been world number two for almost two years, and will be making her second World Open semi-final appearance in her 11th outing in the event, having gone out at the quarter-final stage for the past three years. Her opponent, Samantha Teran, the recently crowned Pan American Games champion, has never been as remotely far as this in her seven appearances.

They've never met before, so this is new territory for both, but especially for the Mexican.

By contrast Nicol David and Natalie Grinham are no strangers, and they are well experienced at this level, playing in their 10th and 12th World Opens. David has dominated women's squash in recent years, amassing five world titles and staying at the top of the rankings since August 2006.

Grinham, until she took time off to become a mother, was David's main challenger for the best part of 2006 to 2009, rock solid ant number two and contesting virtually every major final with the Malaysian, including epic World Open finals in Belfast and Amsterdam.

Their rivalry goes all the way back to 2000, 31 matches of which Grinham has won just seven, and none of the last 13 since her last win in Seoul 2007. But the last two, the World Open final of 2009 and the Cayman Islands quarter-final this year were close, very close, and both look on good form this week - as has the crowd which is sure to get behind the Dutchwoman - so a good match is to be expected.

Nick Matthew and Karim Darwish are no strangers, to the event or to each other. Matthew, the defending champion, is playing his 11th World Open, Darwish his 10th.

Both have appeared in one final, the Egyptian losing out to compatriot Ramy Ashour in 2008 in Manchester, Matthew beating fellow-Englishman James Willstrop last year in Saudi Arabia.

They've met 10 times, Matthew holding a 6-4 advantage but one of those was a walkover and Darwish won their last match, in Qatar last year. If you're a betting man you won't find much advice here.

An even longer rivalry exists between James Willstrop and Gregory Gaultier.

The Frenchman had the edge over Willstrop (5-0) in their junior days, even though it was the Englishman who became World Junior Champion - in 2002, after Gaultier had lost his final in 2000 to Darwish.

As seniors they've met 15 times with Gaultier only just ahead at 8-7, but the last three have all gone the Frenchman's way including the Qatar Classic final just days ago.

Both are World Open veterans, both appearing in their 10th event, and both have had the experience of losing in the final - twice for Gaultier, in 2006 and 2007, and once for Willstrop, last year. Again, don't expect a short match ...
Malcolm's
Semi-Final Preview:


One of the major pluses in Rotterdam has been the quality of the Women's Championship, highlighted by the outstanding match between Nicol David and Kasey Brown.

Holland will be represented in today's Semis by Natalie Grinham, who faces David, Grinham has been outstanding, looking as good as ever, but David will be a severe test for her.

Jenny Duncalf has recovered form at an appropriate time and her opponent Samantha Teran, thrilled, no doubt, to have made the semi finals will not fail for lack of trying, that is for sure.

A final between the top two seeds looks the likely outcome.

The men's is hard to predict. Gregory Gaultier and James Willstrop have been the men in form recently, and they meet each other.

Holder Nick Matthew does not look quite as secure as he has in the past. Karim Darwish, who looks injury free, will present a major challenge with his silky racket skills. Not my style, perhaps, but on the fence for the men's semi finals.


GALLERIES


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