Hurghada International 2003

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Hurghada International 2003
04-08 Jun, Hurghada, Egypt, $27k

Mon 9th Jun, the Final:

[1] Carol Owens (Nzl) bt [4] Rachael Grinham (Aus)
      9/5 9/1 9/5 (37m)


All the twos for Carol Owens. Two weeks in Egypt. Two titles. And two more events – taking her up to the minimum eight pro events needed to maximise ranking points.

She had relinquished top spot in the WISPA ranking list in June as she had only six events up in the last twelve months, with her ranking points still divided by the magic base eight. The Heliopolis Open tally and now her Hurghada points will take her sweeping back to the top when the next list is issued in July – a position she is set fair to maintain for a while yet. Owens had paid the penalty for not competing quite enough but quite understandably for a professional, makes it clear that she only leaves distant New Zealand to make money rather than simply chase ranking points.

At least on the long haul back to Auckland (a long trip from almost anywhere!), as she travels via Cairo, Dubai and Perth she will reflect that the time away in Qatar and latterly Egypt has been worthwhile in all respects.

For Rachael Grinham meanwhile, Egypt has been successful in a far longer term. She has been based in the congested cacophony that is Cairo for over two years and points out “I was ranked eight when I arrived, now I am three. Cairo works for me”.

She had reached the Grand Prix Finals final in Qatar via a semi final win against Natalie Pohrer, and had followed up with last day slots at Heliopolis and now Hurghada. And her performances in the finals have improved as the courts have warmed. On a cold Qatar centre court Owens had her measure, warmer in Heliopolis and she had stretched Owens, and now in Hurghada on a luxuriantly warm evening with just the lightest of breeze wafting around the island she was in her element.

Egypt’s football side had beaten Mauritius seven nil in the African Nations Cup, whose wall to wall TV coverage had caused the Hurghada final to be held over, and now the crowd overfilling the banks of seating were willing their adopted daughter to overturn the top seed.

Just as she had done a week earlier at Heliopolis, Grinham set out her stall in the first. Consisting of obdurate defending laced with sensible rather than rah attack she was the annoying little fly who could not be swatted away. Although she had lost in Cairo she had caused Owens to be visibly blowing as the match progressed. But the former world champion does have the facility to soak up punishment until the challenge has diminished.

It happened this way at the business end of the first. After 17 minutes two Grinham drops which caressed the top of the tin spelt the end on a 9/5 scoreline.

The second was equally combative but the major difference now was that Grinham was sometimes squandering opportunities at the front by being too anxious to hit a tight drop and put a few down. Coupled with this, Owens had determined that upping the lob ratio would pay dividends. It did. Owens posed the questions and despite the rallies being lengthy Graham couldn’t answer them. Game to Owens 9/1.

The Cairo based diminutive Australian had clearly decided that the time for defence was over and came out all guns blazing in the third. Before the 2000 world champion had adjusted she found herself 5/0 down before regrouping. Her resilience began to kick in and despite having to survive a series of stomach wrenching boasts hit from all parts of the court was slowly getting back on terms. Another front court exchange ending in Grinham floundering took Owens into the lead; one that she wouldn’t relinquish.

From 5/0 down to 9/5 up – the title was hers.

Although Owens said afterwards “I am going to have to go home and keep working on my fitness to stay ahead of Rachael”, it was clear that her sheer athleticism is already a great strength alongside her placement skills.

Grinham, meanwhile said, “I am not so much disappointed with the result, just that I didn’t play as well as last week. But taken with Qatar these have been some of the best results of my life”.

That may be so, but Owens had the trophies and her top ranking back. As she put it “four weeks away, three tournament wins, I couldn’t be happier”.


before and after the final


The fabulous setting in Hurghada


Hurghada International 2003
02-08 Jun, Hurghada, Egypt, $27k
1st Round
Wed 4th/Thu 5th
Fri 6th
Sat 7th
Mon 9th
[1] Carol Owens (Nzl)
9/2, 9/0, 9/4
Stephanie Brind (Eng)
Carol Owens
9/1, 9/4, 9/2
Rebecca Macree
Carol Owens

10/8, 9/1, 9/0

Cassie Jackman

Carol Owens


9/5 9/1 9/5 (37m)


Rachael Grinham

[8] Rebecca Macree (Eng)
4/9, 9/4, 9/6, 9/1
[Q] Salma Shabana (Egy)
[3] Tania Bailey (Eng)
9/1, 9/4, 8/10, 9/5
[Q] Carla Khan (Pak)
Tania Bailey
Cassie Jackman
[7] Cassie Jackman (Eng)
 9/4, 9/1, 9/3
Vicky Botwright (Eng)
Fiona Geaves (Eng)
7/9, 9/4, 9/6, 9/1 (50m)
[7] Natalie Grinham (Aus)
Natalie Grinham
9/5, 3/9, 9/0, 9/4
Rachael Grinham
Rachael Grinham

9/0, 9/4, 9/3

Vanessa Atkinson

[Q] Shelley Kitchen (Nzl)
9/2, 9/1, 9/1 (25m)
[4] Rachael Grinham (Aus)
Omneya Abdel Kawy (Egy)
9/3, 10/8, 9/4 (36m)
[6] Vanessa Atkinson (Ned)
Vanessa Atkinson
9/3, 9/7, 9/3
Linda Charman
[Q] Nicol David (Mas)
7/9, 9/6, 9/6, 9/3 (65m)
[2] Linda Charman (Eng)
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Qualifying (Cairo stadium)

Qualifying finals (Tue 3rd):
Carla Khan (Pak) bt Jenny Duncalf (Eng)  10/8, 2/9, 6/9, 9/6, 9/6  (95m)
Nicol David (Mas) bt Madeline Perry (Irl)  6/9, 7/9, 9/2, 9/1, 9/1  (54m)
Salma Shabana (Egy) bt Sharon Wee (Mas)  3/9, 9/3, 5/9, 10/8, 9/7  (83m)
Shelley Kitchen (Nzl) bt Farrah Sterne (Rsa)   9/4, 9/4, 7/9, 9/0  (41m)

Qualifying first round (Mon 2nd):
Carla Khan (Pak) bt Pamela Nimmo (Sco)  9/5, 9/5, 4/9, 6/9, 9/6  (75m)
Jenny Duncalf (Eng) bt Nehal Yehia (Egy)  9/0, 9/0, 9/5  (23m)
Madeline Perry (Irl) bt Eman El Amir (Egy)  9/1, 9/5, 9/3  (30m)
Nicol David (Mas) bt Engy Kheirallah (Egy)  5/9, 9/3, 6/9, 9/4, 9/2  (71m)
Sharon Wee (Mas) bt Soha Mohamed (Egy)  9/1, 9/0, 9/2  (22m)
Salma Shabana (Egy) bt Rebecca Chiu (Hkg)  9/4, 9/6, 9/7  (43m)
Farrah Sterne (Rsa) bt Maha Zein (Egy)  9/6, 9/7, 9/4  (32m)
Shelley Kitchen (Nzl) bt Frania Gillen-Buchert (Sco)  9/3, 9/4, 9/0  (17m)


  Tue 3rd Jun | Round One | Quarter-Finals | Semi-finals | Final 

Sat 7th Jun, Semi-Finals:

[1] Carol Owens (Nzl) bt [6] Cassie Jackman (Eng)
      10/8, 9/1, 9/0  (33m)
[4] Rachael Grinham (Aus) bt
[5] Vanessa Atkinson (Ned)
      9/0, 9/4, 9/3  (47m)


Two bouts on the bill tonight. Both best of five rounds. Semi finals of the Hurghada International Championship.

Super lightweight Rachael “Rocky” Grinham would face up to the Dutch Master Vanessa Atkinson. Carol “The Champ” Owens would be in with Cassie “The Contender” Jackman in a real heavyweight battle - in every sense except weight.

Grinham and Atkinson had not collided this year but when they last met, at the Grasshoppers event last November Atkinson won by a stoppage when Grinham was forced to retire after two rounds with a back injury . But Grinham had won their previous two matches that year in Singapore and US Open. Each is at their highest ever ranking. Tasty.

Owens had a real slugfest weeks ago in Qatar when the champ literally won on points after the final round; but did win in a more impressive three in the Heliopolis Open less than a week ago. Jackman is clearly difficult to put away, nonetheless.

After the “Rumble in the Jungle” it was now the “Battles on the Beach”.

But would the reality be great matches?

Lights sparkled from moored boats and the mainland as the players walked across the causeway to the island on a beautifully warm evening; and into a full arena.

Grinham and Atkinson used to share a flat when the Australian was based in Netherlands. They remain friends but were in different corners tonight. Atkinson has become a more steady and confident player this year, but she would be tested by the feints, flicks and waspishness of an opponent who herself has really begun to flourish too.

To continue with the boxing analogy, the two players used the early exchanges to find their range and generally feel out each other. Rallies were long as each waited for an opportunity to exploit. Some ended when Grinham was able to read her opponents moves and pounced, racket raised, to claim a stroke. She also harvested points with deft flicks across the front wall. Another of these took her to game ball at eight love and a disguised attacking boast finished the job as Atkinson tried to move both left and right at the same time.

Amidst the babble in Arabic the shouts of encouragement from Atkinson’s mother Carol could be heard, but all too often her daughter's glances were to the heavens as she forfeited another rally. For spells it was clear that Atkinson wanted the Australian bottled up at the back where she could wreak less damage but opportunities to exploit the positions were squandered when drops clipped the top of the tin.

With nobody to talking to her between games the Dutchwoman could only silently reflect upon her situation. Grinham, meanwhile, was discussing the position animatedly with Egyptian player Maha Zein.

Two games up and Grinham simply kept prodding at the defences of Atkinson which by now were fragile. A rearguard action from six love down was shortlived and soon Grinham was in her third final in a row. She was soon to find out whether it would be against the same opponent, Carol Owens.

First though, between the myriad of TV interviews she commented that “it was less difficult than last night against Natalie as Vanessa made more mistakes. Maybe it was the heat and that there was no wind that helped me as Vanessa didn’t play as well as she has been. She is a good volleyer and so I was trying not to give her the chance to play them”.

The second semi was the battle between the former world champions. It stopped almost as soon as it started when during the first rally Cassie Jackman stopped to clutch her back having been caught by Carol Owens. It was the site of her recent disc operation and so a cause for concern, but a few bends and stretches later mobility was restored. Indeed, Jackman had got her eye in early and closed out the first few rallies with élan.

Both players were working hard and there was little to choose between them as the front wall was peppered with rasping drives and welted drops mixed with lobs. Jackman saved a game ball at 6/8 with a straight overhead kill off Owens’ serve and followed with two winners to reach eight all. But the recovery work was undone by a tinned boast after Owens has reached game ball again.

The first had lasted 22 minutes and as the second unfolded Jackman became a little looser. This, combined with Owens taking the lively ball even earlier meant that the tanned English player was not allowed to settle and became increasingly unhappy with her lot in life. The plot was unchanged in the third as she slowed and after 47 minutes a disconsolate Jackman was able to leave the scene of her eventual torture.

“It was a tough first game, that’s for sure” said the winner afterwards. Then looking forward to the final Owens added, “Rachael grew up playing me and I would like to think I have the edge”.

Both finalists now have the luxury of a rest day as Egypt stops on Sunday evening for a football match in which the national side take on Mauritius in an international. The final was thus rescheduled for Monday some weeks ago.

Fri 6th Jun, Quarter-Finals:
[1] Carol Owens (Nzl) bt [8] Rebecca Macree (Eng)  9/1, 9/4, 9/2  (42m)
[6] Cassie Jackman (Eng) bt [3] Tania Bailey (Eng)  walkover
[4] Rachael Grinham (Aus) bt [7] Natalie Grinham (Aus)  9/5, 3/9, 9/0, 9/4  (59m)
[5] Vanessa Atkinson (Ned) bt [2] Linda Charman (Eng)  9/3, 9/7, 9/3  (31m)


At the end of March Grinham junior beat her older sister for the first time ever. Natalie’s win at the Texas Open added a new twist to sibling rivalry – revenge.

Rachael, the older by a year at 26, has since risen to three in the WISPA rankings and in the last fortnight reached the final of the Grand Prix Finals in Qatar and Heliopolis Open in Cairo, her adopted home base.

Similar in all respects except the colour of their on court clothing, they were all business once the bout began; the only fraternal concession being an enhanced willingness to play the ball close to each other.

The pattern of the match was that there was no pattern! Both attack and defend in equal measure. Each relishes the lob. They delight in flitting round the front. The difference between them in the early exchanges was just that Rachael slotted a few more winners and sent the ball to its death in the back corners slightly more regularly. This took her to the first game.

Nothing changed in the second game except that this time Natalie managed better results from her sorties into attack. She served out at game ball, a product of the breeze, but regained the initiative in the ensuing rallies.

A full gallery, blending local sports enthusiasts being introduced to the game and a smattering of tourists, were kept rapt by the sheer speed of the girls swirling across the terra cotta floor. They were now seeing Rachael beginning to induce more errors and creeping frustration in her little sister.

Rachael wrapped up the third in ten minutes, and although the fourth became more of a close tussle, Grinham senior regained family bragging rights and moved to within one step of a third final slot on the reel.

The winner was keen to praise her sister. “Hey, I’m just pleased to be in the semis”, Rachael gushed after the match . “Forget the sister thing, I’m happy to have beaten Natalie as she is playing well at the moment” she added.

As the second match between Vanessa Atkinson and Linda Charman unfolded it became clear that Atkinson’s new found confidence was carrying through into this event. There was a steadiness and assuredness to her game that has allowed her ability to translate itself into results. Charman, however was just a little off the pace. She was reacting rather than dictating. Atkinson continued to keep her shape and the Englishwoman had no answers.

All in all a frustrating evening for Charman, as evidenced by the screams of her death throes that will have caused some consternation on the mainland if it is true that sound carries long distances over water.

Afterwards Charman likened her speed to the movement on the webcasting [more 'Freeze-Frame' than 'Liquid Motion', Ed]. A little harsh, but she was quite clear in her intent to ring some changes. “I need to go home, have a break then get into summer training” she suggested. “Unfortunately, I ran into Vanessa who is playing very well and I didn’t have the answers”.

As for the Dutch number one, Atkinson put down her success in the match as stemming from her increasing self belief. “I hadn’t beaten Linda before Dallas, and the Irish Open final with Cassie was a turning point too. Now, like tonight, I can try to be steady, stay on top and ride the bad patches when I need to”.

Meanwhile, Cassie Jackman reached the semis without needing to contest her match against Tania Bailey. The previous evening Bailey had found that her post viral fatigue had not fully cleared her system as she hoped. During the match against Carla Khan she visibly wilted. Drained of energy she realised that to even try to compete would not only be ineffectual but could cause her required extended break to become longer still were she to exacerbate her condition.

She philosophically accepted this saying, “I know that I will only put myself back if I don’t take time to get my system clear of this”.

Bailey’s withdrawal meant that the late shift of top seed Carol Owens could move up and finish before supper stopped serving in the Marriott Hotel restaurant.

Macree though, was not in a rush for supper, and was prepared to take the fight to her opponent. She didn't settle into a rhythm in the first, but was able to compete more effectively in the second despite being unable to keep on points terms with her opponent. Her tally of seven in the match seemed scant reward for forty three minutes of effort.

Owens was happier with her performance than against Stephanie Brind the previous evening. “I was much more up for it tonight,” she said.

The results left the mouth-watering prospect of Owens playing Jackman in the semis; a repeat of a titanic tussle in the Grand Prix Finals in Qatar and a slightly easier second victory for Owens at Heliopolis . The other equally attractive match-up pits Grinham and Atkinson, who both are moving on an upward trajectory.

Thu 5th Jun, First Round, day two:

[1] Carol Owens (Nzl) bt Stephanie Brind (Eng)  9/2, 9/0, 9/4  (39m)
[8] Rebecca Macree (ENG) bt [Q] Salma Shabana (EGY)  4/9, 9/4, 9/6, 9/1  (56m)
[3] Tania Bailey (ENG) bt [Q] Carla Khan (PAK)   9/1, 9/4, 8/10, 9/5  (53m)
[6] Cassie Jackman (ENG) bt  Vicky Botwright (ENG)  9/4, 9/1, 9/3  (46m)


As the sun dipped behind the Marriott Hotel on the mainland the second night of the last 16 matches in the Hurghada International Championship got under way under another cloudless evening sky. Spectators abounded but a sweatshirt salesman would have found business hard to come by.

The first bout was all English. Cassie Jackman, exuding tanned radiance, versus Vicky Botwright, the latter having avoided the rigours and risks of qualifying when she was upgraded to the main draw following Natalie Pohrer’s flu induced withdrawal.

With world number 14 Botwright no rally is a lost cause as she scampers around the court, but the match itself was. Try as she certainly did, she was regularly undone by the combination of accurate placement and weight of shot that Jackman employs. Now that the former world champion has her second disc realignment behind her she is fighting her way back.

Early stages were shared, but once Jackman got her sunburned nose in front at 5/4 in the first there was just the need to keep her shape and offer Botwright few easy points. After 46 minutes the job was done.

The base tan had been got in the gap between Heliopolis and Hurghada but while she is concentrating on squash here, what follows immediately after will be a tanning top-up holiday in Spain.

Second course was Salma Shabana. TV commentators became animated and the crowd excited. This was the repeat of a match played in the Heliopolis Open a week before where opponent Rebecca Macree won comfortably. This time Shabana started aggressively, playing confidently and pinning Macree in the back corners to extract errors. First game to the Egyptian mum and increasing spectator decibel levels.

Soon though there would be quiet and eventually silence – if the wonderfully varied selection of mobile ring tones are excluded – as Macree took control via ownership of the tee.

With her characteristic highly raised racket Macree maintained the pace. Omar Elborolossy tried to refocus his wife as she let the third slip with concentration lost but Macree never let up and booked her quarter final slot.

This pleased her immensely. With a broad smile she stated, “I don’t mind who I play now. I really like the court and love being in Hurghada”. Words to delight local tourist officials.

Her opponent turned out to be top seed Carol Owens who beat Stephanie Brind in the third match of the evening. Juniors often get told to stay on court as long as they can against a better player – a tenet that Brind has clearly taken onto her senior career. She may have only won six points but she rallied, rallied then rallied some more. Racket arm swinging, left one hanging limply, Brind clearly bemused the local watchers as she admonished herself with the words “come on, you muppet”.

It was more than a gentle work out for Owens who was lobbing very effectively into the lights before being countered in the third by Brind upping her volley rate.

In the final match of the evening Tania Bailey was expected to be simply too severe for surprise qualifier Carla Khan. She certainly was for two games before Khan settled into the match and began to link her athletic pace to more effective shotmaking.

Khan eventually reached game ball at 8/7 in the third and although it was saved, she reached a second at 9/8 after a protracted rally. Now Bailey hit a tired shot into the bottom of the tin and Khan was back in business.

Bailey looked tired, was going short and trying to avoid lengthy exchanges in the fourth, but crawled home to reach the last eight. Hers has been a difficult few months with illness and it is to be hoped that she suffers no reaction to her efforts.

Khan’s giant-killing was over, but she was happy with her week. She had not played on glass on the WISPA Tour before and it took a while to get to grips with her new place of work. “Once I worked it out I really enjoyed it” she opined before departing across the causeway back to the mainland.


Wed 4th - Round One, Day One:
[7] Natalie Grinham (Aus) bt Fiona Geaves (Eng)  7/9, 9/4, 9/6, 9/1 (50m)
[4] Rachael Grinham (Aus) bt [Q] Shelley Kitchen (Nzl)  9/2, 9/1, 9/1 (25m)
[5] Vanessa Atkinson (Ned) bt Omneya Abdel Kawy (Egy)  9/3, 10/8, 9/4 (36m)
[2] Linda Charman (Eng) bt [Q] Nicol David (Mas)  7/9, 9/6, 9/6, 9/3 (65m)

The main draw of the Hurghada International got under way on a sultry Red Sea evening in the stunning island setting close to the Marriott Hotel in the holiday resort.

Qualifiers had flown down from Cairo to join the rest of the main draw players in an opening ceremony featuring colourful and raucous local music and dance.

First to play were Australian seventh seed Natalie Grinham and England's elder stateswoman Fiona Geaves. As might be expected it was an encounter characterised by wristy tussles close to the front wall and a sprinkling of telling lobs. Full report

Grinham initially had difficulty finding her feet, at times literally as the court floor bedded in, but having lost the first found the balance shifting her way as more ripostes eluded Geaves. Between games pearls had fallen from boyfriend Tommy Berden and sister Rachael and were helping. The death throes were lengthy but Geaves was terminal. Grinham, however was still very much alive in the competition.

Vanessa Atkinson celebrates with her Mum ...The second match featured Omneya Abdel Kawy, the home hope of the crowd and national TV viewers watching live. Looking trim, the hot favourite for the World Junior title in three months' time looked destined to disappoint as her opponent, fifth seed Vanessa Atkinson dominated the early exchanges.

Into the second and Abdel Kawy was less tentative, combining deft racketwork with tactical awareness beyond her years. She now hangs in better … but then so does the Dutch player. From 5/8 down, Atkinson tightened her game, fed off a couple of Abdel Kawy errors, and eventually profited from a weak drop to snatch the second.

The crowd tried to rouse their young star but prolonged applause for rallies won were not enough to kick start a late challenge. An Atkinson shot ballooning over the front wall into the sea at match ball only delayed the end by a couple of rallies.

Atkinson was pleased to have come away with a straight games win saying, “Omneya is unpredictable and tonight started poorly. But I knew that she would come out fighting in the second and had I lost that it could have been a whole different match.

Rachael had set off for Hurghada across the desert by car with Maha Zein at the wheel, but it overheated and needed to be nursed back to the capital. With Grinham being unable to get a seat on the plane along with the qualifiers she opted for a five hour overnight bus ride rather than a camel ride to make the venue. However she clearly was not discomfited and started with a full barrage against Shelley Kitchen, one of the qualifiers who had snaffled the plane seats.

The Kiwi was simply run ragged. Her durability prolonged the match to 25 minutes but her haul was a meagre four points.

As Grinham wryly noted, her win would set up a return bout with her sister who had beaten her for the first timer ever at the Texas Open in March. “Coming off my good results I am pretty confident and really looking forward to revenge against my sister!” she said with firm intent behind the grin.

Finally, a late evening opportunity to assess the rate of progress of Nicol David’s comeback. Based in Amsterdam, Duracell David buzzes and bounces and made life very difficult indeed for second seed Linda Charman. In a tight match the real difference was dealing with the business end of games with Charman calling on her experience to work openings with patience, finish rallies when the opportunity presented itself and teasing errors from her opponent. David is on the rise but the older campaigner is not ready to let her push past quite yet.

“Nicol is so fast” Charman commented afterwards. “If you don’t get on to the ball early and attack her you are in big trouble. I started slowly but got into it eventually”.

Another evening surrounded by sparkling sea will see the first round completed tomorrow.

Tue 3rd Jun, Qualifying Finals:
Pakistan's Carla Khan followed up her 75-minute victory over Pamela Nimmo in the first round with another marathon match, this time beating England's Jenny Duncalf  10/8, 2/9, 6/9, 9/6, 9/6 in 95 minutes, one of the longest women's matches on record. Khan now faces Tania Bailey in the main draw first round.

In an exciting afternoon of qualifying action in Cairo Nicol David and Salma Shabana also scored 3/2 wins to earn places in the main draw which gets under way at the Red Sea resort of Hurghada on Wednesday evening.

David came from two games down to beat Madeline Perry 6/9, 7/9, 9/2, 9/1, 9/1 while Shabana won an 83-minute thriller against Sharon Wee, saving a match-ball in the fourth on her way to a 3/9, 9/3, 5/9, 10/8, 9/7 win.

David faces second seed Linda Charman in the main draw and Shabana earns a match against Rebecca Macree.

New Zealand's Shelley Kitchen also qualified, her 9/4, 9/4, 7/9, 9/0 win against Farrah Sterne earning her a first round match against Rachael Grinham.

Farrah SterneQualifying First Round (Mon 2nd):
There were several upsets in the first qualifying round, held at the Cairo stadium, notably Pakistan champion Carla Khan's 75-minute five-game defeat of qualifying top seed Pamela Nimmo.

Other 'giant-killers' were Egypt's Salma Shabana who put out Hong Kong's Rebecca Chiu, and Farrah Sterne who bounced back from her weekend loss in the South African Nationals final to put out Egyptian Maha Zein.

Malaysia's twice world junior champion Nicol David was taken the full distance by another Egyptian, Engy Kheirallah, before securing her place in qualifying finals.  Qualifying results

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