Tue 3rd Jun
| Round One
| Semi-finals | Final
Sat 7th Jun, Semi-Finals:
 Carol Owens (Nzl) bt
 Cassie Jackman (Eng)
10/8, 9/1, 9/0 (33m)
 Rachael Grinham (Aus) bt
 Vanessa Atkinson (Ned)
9/0, 9/4, 9/3 (47m)
OWENS & GRINHAM VICTORIOUS
IN THE "BATTLES ON THE BEACH"
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
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.
FORMER FLATMATES IN OPPOSITE CORNERS
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,
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”.
OWENS WINS BATTLE OF THE CHAMPS
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
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
“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:
 Carol Owens (Nzl) bt 
Rebecca Macree (Eng) 9/1, 9/4, 9/2 (42m)
 Cassie Jackman (Eng) bt  Tania Bailey (Eng) walkover
 Rachael Grinham (Aus) bt  Natalie Grinham (Aus) 9/5, 3/9, 9/0, 9/4 (59m)
 Vanessa Atkinson (Ned) bt  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
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
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
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
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.
ATKINSON'S ASSURED PROGRESS
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”.
BAILEY'S NOT BACK JUST YET
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.
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”.
MACREE KEEPS OWENS UP LATE
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
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:
 Carol Owens (Nzl) bt Stephanie Brind (Eng) 9/2, 9/0, 9/4 (39m)
 Rebecca Macree (ENG) bt [Q] Salma Shabana (EGY) 4/9, 9/4, 9/6, 9/1 (56m)
 Tania Bailey (ENG) bt [Q] Carla Khan (PAK) 9/1, 9/4, 8/10, 9/5 (53m)
 Cassie Jackman (ENG) bt Vicky Botwright (ENG) 9/4, 9/1, 9/3 (46m)
SEEDS PROGRESS IN
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
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
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
Wed 4th - Round One, Day One:
 Natalie Grinham (Aus) bt Fiona Geaves (Eng) 7/9, 9/4, 9/6, 9/1 (50m)
 Rachael Grinham (Aus) bt [Q] Shelley Kitchen (Nzl) 9/2, 9/1, 9/1 (25m)
 Vanessa Atkinson (Ned) bt Omneya Abdel Kawy (Egy) 9/3, 10/8, 9/4 (36m)
 Linda Charman (Eng) bt [Q] Nicol David (Mas) 7/9, 9/6, 9/6, 9/3 (65m)
GRINHAMS SET UP
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.
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
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
Tue 3rd Jun, Qualifying Finals:
KHAN COMES THROUGH
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.
Qualifying First Round (Mon 2nd):
UPSETS IN CAIRO QUALIFYING
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
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.