Ian Mckenzie at The Open

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 McKenzie Reports

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Manchester 2009
8th-14th September

Ian Mckenze Sqaush Player Magazine Editor reports directly from Manchester

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Grinham 4, Matthew 2

Rachael Grinham, won her fourth British Open title with a convincing win over surprise finalist Madeline Perry winning 11-6, 11-5, 12-10.
“I had a plan,” said Grinham. That plan was to test her opponent short and she did it to perfection. Add to that her variaton of pace and shot that made it difficult for Perry to find the pace and rhythm on her drives which had provided her success in taking out the world no.1 Nicol David and English hope Alison Waters, and she had neutralised her opponent’s strengths. Throw is brilliant recovery flicks from the back corners, lobs, long drops and floating boasts and she was suddenly in top form and on her way to another British Open title.
For the second year in a row the men’s final reached a gripping climax. James Willstrop again had match ball but in the end was deprived again. Willstrop started as he had finished with Amr Shabana in the semi-finals with tight length and picking his winners carefully to win the first 11-8 went ahead 5-3 in the second before losing it 8-11 but then rebounded to go 2/1 up with a 11-7 win the third. The match had then become contentious. Willstrop struggled to get up the court for the first time at 7-8 but he survived to go through with fine winners while Matthew complained his opponent was slow to clear.
Matthew was away in the fourth to take the game 11-3 and when he went ahead from 1-2 to 6-2 in a hand in the fifth it looked all over. However in intense rallies and brilliant play Willstrop again grabbed match ball 10-9 before Matthew slotted in a winning volley drop. Willstrop tinned an opening and slipped on the floor as Matthew dropped on the backhand and was unable to get up to the ball to take the match and his second British Open title 12-10.

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Palmer and Shabana Dish up a Classic

Those who booked tickets for a Saturday afternoon at the National Squash Centre were treated to a classic between David Palmer, the British Open title-holder and Amr Shabana the three times world champion who has never won the British Open title. That could change here.
Both players were up for this quarter-final. It was an intense, close, point for point encounter a little loosish  initially but action packed. At 8-all in the first two marginal mistakes by Palmer and two sharp winners from his opponent, the second vigorously contested with the referees by the Australian, saw Shabana take the game 11-8. Again the second was mighty close Palmer levelling at 10-all slipping on the floor and complaining, Shabana having the opening to take the game but just tinning.
“Second thoughts,” he said as if he was not thinking clearly enough. He kept letting Palmer back in when he should have been shut out and Palmer kept bravely hanging in. A forehand drop winner for Shabana levelled it at 12-all and Palmer on an opening tinned going for the finest margins to beat his opponent then flashed his racket at a clinging ball on his forehand missed it raced back to flick it of the back but it was out. Shabana was 2/0 up and it was a long way back for Palmer.
Shabana relaxed a bit then, he was looking good. He was just a little casual, won the first point and fell behind, tinned and then had the desperate delimna as to whether to fight on or let it go. Palmer won the third game in minutes 11-4 and Shabana now under threat had to rebuild again, Palmer with hope fought on.
The fourth was a great battle. Watch it on PSAlive if you can. They were both warned up now. There were 22 hands and any description would seem cliched but this was fantastic. The game built to a climax. At 6-all they hit five reflex volleys in front of the short line. Palmer leap high to volley and score with succeessive winner and when Shabana tinned a nick boast he was just two points away from levelling the game at 9-7. It then took a age of intense drama with something on every shot.  Every point was crucial. Shabana saved three game points, Palmer saved four and resorted to his lethal but risky forehand crosscourt volley nick to rescue him. In the end he won the openings but just tinned a drop and a crosscourt as the crowd stood in a standing ovation for a brilliant, brilliant match.
Shabana won 11-8, 14-12, 4-11, 19-17 in 86 minutes.

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Pictures Courtesy of Squashpics.com
Darwish Out, Willstrop Through
Top seed Karim Darwish bizarrely crashed out of the ISG British Open after rolling onto his ankle against England’s James Willstrop in the second round.
Darwish was in control moving superbly and applying relentless pressure following up with a fine selection of drops picked of a full swing. There seemed little Willstrop could do as the first game disappeared 11-5 as the best mover in the sport, rythmic, with beautifully balanced body positions off whatever leg he choose to hit off took charge. Strange then that in working around his opponent and lunging he momentarily overbalanced rolled onto the side of his shoe and went over on his ankle.
Darwish was given a three minute self-inflicted injury break tried to play on but conceeded almost immediately.
Willstrop is one of four Englishman to go through to the quarter-finals. He will be amazed how his fortunes have turned around. He will face the twelveth seed Mohd Azlan Iskandar who fought back from 2/1 down to oversome the Frenchman Thierry Lincou – and Lincou will still be kicking himself for letting it go when he had the advange at the crucial stage in the fourth.

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