Tue 1st, Round of 32:
Nicol’s record bid gets an unusual start
Richard Eaton

Nicol David had some unusual reasons to be pleased with the start of her bid to win a record sixth World Open title.

The highest profile woman player of all time has such constant pressure of expectations that it was a relief to be tucked away on an outside court for her 11-3, 11-5, 11-6 win over Delia Arnold.

The tension of an important new beginning was further reduced by an encounter with a Malaysian compatriot not so different from a training game at an Asian Games.

However when David slipped to a 3-6 deficit in the third game it was a brief reminder of a different kind of pitfall - not to become relaxed into under-performing.

“You just need to know that it’s a first round of the World Open,” David said, aware of the risks of complacency. You have to want to do your best. You just have to do the same stuff to prepare for this match, whatever court you’re on, and put your game plan into action.

“Delia’s had a few good wins recently, and if she you let her she will get confident. So it was just nice to start the World Open and get in there and play well. I was pleased with the performance.”

David now takes on Nour El Sherbini, the Egyptian qualifier who celebrated her 16th birthday with a thrilling 3/2 win over Donna Urquhart, the fourteenth seed from Australia.

Meanwhile Natalie Grinham, who took an early lead against David in the 2009 final in Amsterdam, showed how well she has recovered after the birth of baby Kieran in May last year.

A former Commonwealth triple gold medallist for Australia and now a Dutch international, Grinham pleased the home crowd with the athletic way she completed her 11-5, 11-3, 11-9 against Aisling Blake of Ireland. She then went straight back to attending to Kieran.

“It is fantastic to be back,” Grinham said. “I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have this. It’s a bit of an addiction.” She now plays another Irish player, Madeline Perry.

The other defending champion, Nick Matthew, also won well. In the process the Englishman gained revenge for his loss last week in the Qatar Classic to Tarek Momen, the young Egyptian.
Matthew triumphed 11-4, 11-9, 11-4, moving the ball around the great control and covering the court fluidly.

“I really picked up my length and found my game in the third game, and negated his speed,” Matthew said.

“It was a potential banana skin to slip on, so I was pleased to come through. But this is only one match so I must quickly re-focus.” He now plays another Egyptian, Mohamed El Shorbagy the former world junior champion.

Soon afterwards El Shorbagy’s younger brother, Marwan, the 18-year-old  current world junior champion, survived the most contentious match of the day, saving a match point in a 11-8, 11-7, 4-11,4-11, 14-12 win over Daryl Selby, the 11th seeded British national champion.

The match was marred by too many verbals and unnecessary physical contact, though there was one memorably tragic-comic moment when Selby was sure he had won the match, throwing down his racket and yelling “yesssss!!” at 11-10 – only for El Shorbagy to be awarded a let.

Two other Egyptians, Amr Shabana and Karim Darwish, both progressed satisfactorily, as did a tjhird former world number one, Gregory Gaultier of France, but Matthew’s other main rival, Ramy Ashour, had to dig deep to survive.

In doing so Ashour suggested he may be recovering from hamstring problems, coming back spiritedly from two games down against Nicolas Mueller, the much improved Swiss player.

“I got better physically as it went on,” Ashour said after his 8-11, 9-11, 11-3, 11-8, 11-5 win.

 “I’ve not been able to do anything in the last week, but this is a boost. This match will help me big time.”

Earlier Thierry Lincou, the only Frenchman ever to have become world champion, produced a timeless display of skill to induce a memory-jerking last 16 in the World Open.

The oldest man on tour also survived a draining 66-minute battle to earn a last meeting with his fellow 35-year-old, David Palmer, the twice former world champion from Australia who is playing his final world championship.

Lincou did that by remaining tough enough to quell a late push from Stewart Boswell, the former world number four from Australia, and get home 11-5, 8-11, 11-7, 11-7.

Lincou’s performance was all the more remarkable for having spent 98 minutes on court with Shawn Delierre in the first round.

“It was a question of mental preparation,” said the man from Marseille when asked how he endured so well. “These days it is difficult always to be hungry and I have to use my mind to push and to keep very focussed.”

Palmer was more critical of his own performance after losing a second game lead of 9-5 during an 11-6, 11-13, 11-5, 11-5 win against fellow Aussie, Ryan Cuskelly, ranked 42.

“Tomorrow if I get leads against Thierry I have to use them - I must be careful not to let a good position slip,” Palmer said.

Both Lincou and Palmer are likely to need plenty of physio to get themselves up for their nostalgia-loaded tussle.

“There are not many days I walk on and not be stiff and sore these days,” said Palmer, with only the briefest hint of a smile.

Also from Richard Eaton:

Matthew Aware ] Nicol Wants More ] Gaultier a contender again? ] Thierry Goes On ] [ Unusual start for Nicol ] Thanks for the Memories ] The Great Illusionist Escapes ] Ashour Retires ] Gregory's Third ] Matthew makes it Two ]

Matthew Aware ] Nicol Wants More ] Gaultier a contender again? ] Thierry Goes On ] [ Unusual start for Nicol ] Thanks for the Memories ] The Great Illusionist Escapes ] Ashour Retires ] Gregory's Third ] Matthew makes it Two ]

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