Nicol Continues Good Run
Alex Wan reports
Nicol David (Mas) bt. Shelley Kitchen (Nzl) 1-9, 4-9, 9-3, 10-9, 9-5
Cassie Jackman (Eng) bt. Stephanie Brind (Eng) 5-9, 9-1, 9-1, 9-4
The crowd was there once again to cheer on
local darling Nicol David, despite the match starting at an awkward
working hour. It’s definitely an encouraging sign to see people taking
time off to actually come watch a squash match and also an indication of
how much the locals are behind Nicol in her assault to the top. With a
target of a top 15 finish in the WISPA rankings at the end of year,
Nicol seems determined as ever to achieve that.
Nicol dropped the first two games rather easily, much to the dismay of
the strong and united Malaysian crowd. Just as everyone thought
Shelley’s height was proving to be a big disadvantage to Nicol, she came
back with a bang to take the third convincingly. The fourth set was a
delight to watch and certainly the highlight of the championship so far.
Many great rallies were played and on several occasions, Shelley’s shots
sent Nicol sprawling across the court to retrieve it. Shelley held match
ball on several occasions but on each one, Nicol kept the ball going,
waiting for a mistake. By now, the crowd was already hyped up and
cheering on loudly. Shelley, looking totally exhausted was desperate to
end the match and in the process, made several unforced errors. At
9-all, serve changed hands several times before Nicol took the game. The
fifth set was a contrast to the fourth, as Shelley was simply not the
same person anymore, giving Nicol a 5-1 lead. A lapse of concentration
gave Shelley a few easy points before Nicol regained composure to take
the game and match, much to the delight of the ecstatic crowd.
“Shelley was very quick in getting
back to the T and controlled the rallies. I made a did few errors and
only started changing strategies in the third game,” said the
“I lengthened the rallies in the third and in the fourth, I just went
for broke and gave my best, shot, not worrying about the outcome. It was
a very satisfying win and I hope that there will be more supporters
cheering for me in the final.”
Second seed Cassie Jackman was next on court against her English
compatriot Stephanie Brind. After an easy championship so far for
Cassie, who have yet to drop a single game, she finally faced some
resistance this time. Her shots were just not as deep as in yesterday’s
match against Rebecca Chiu and even had a few shots down the tin.
Stephanie, playing her relaxed game took the first game 9-5. The next
two games were pretty one-sided, with Cassie finding the length and
moving Stephanie around with her fast and powerful volleys to the back.
Somehow, Stephanie’s normally effective boasts just didn’t happen for
her today. In the final game, Stephanie put up a slightly better
performance but Cassie was just too strong for her.
Tomorrow’s final will pit ex-world champion Cassie Jackman against the
pint-sized Malaysian. This should prove to be an exciting affair with
Nicol looking for her first title since her break from the WISPA tour.
Cassie, on the other hand, will be seeking to win her fourth tour title
of the year.
“She is an up and coming player,
something I was about 10 years ago,” Jackman said of her final
opponent.. “Nicol has got the speed and she gets around well on court.
“She has also played a five-game match, so she might be a little tired
for the final.”
Shelly Kitchen (Nzl) bt Rebecca Macree (Eng) 7-9, 9-2, 10-8, 6-4 (rtd)
Nicol David (Mas) bt Jenny Tranfield (Eng) 9-6, 9-2, 9-3
Stephanie Brind (Eng) bt Madeline Perry (Irl)) 10-8, 9-2, 6-9, 9-6
Cassie Jackman (Eng) bt Rebecca Chiu (Hkg) 9-0, 9-3, 9-3
Shelley and Nicol
Set Up Semi Showdown
Alex Wan reports from KL
Shelley Kitchen and local hopeful Nicol David set up an
exciting semi-final clash against each other, with upset wins in their
matches today. However, both won in contrasting styles, with Shelley
having to outlast top seed Rebecca Macree in 4 games and Nicol sending a
warning to the top players with a convincing straight game win over
world no.10 Jenny Tranfield.
Playing first on the all-glass court, Shelley and Rebecca were
neck-to-neck in the first game, with Rebecca stealing it. Shelley
bounced back in the second, dropping only 2 points to tie the match. The
third game proved to be a delight, with Rebecca using her deft backhand
drops to kill off weak returns on that side. Both players were on par
and it was Shelley who first reached game point thanks to an unforced
error by Rebecca.
By now both players were already
exhausted from their long rallies in this game. Rebecca crawled back to
draw level, but Shelley hung on to take the third 10-8. In the fourth,
Rebecca, who had been coughing throughout the match, called it quits at
6-4 and handed Shelley a ticket into the semi-finals.
“My game was affected ... I was coughing during the match. And Shelley
did a great job to keep the pace up throughout the match,”
said Macree, who has been suffering with flu this week.
The next match was played to a rather packed house, who have crowded to
cheer on local darling Nicol David in her match against third seed Jenny
Tranfield of England. Jenny started with a bang and took 5-1, thanks to
several shots into the tin by Nicol. From then on, Nicol recomposed
herself and picked up every shot hit by Tranfield, to grab the first set
9-6. In the next game, it was Nicol’s turn to start with a bang, which
was aided by 2 easy opening points.
Again, she picked up every shot and
sent Jenny scampering all over the court. In her match tomorrow, Nicol
will have to be at her best again, as Shelley Kitchen is currently
playing very well. Shelley holds the psychological advantage tomorrow,
having won their previous meeting in the qualifying finals of the Texas
Open earlier this year.
A delighted Nicol said: “I gave everything I had today
and I’m happy that it turned out well. “I was making mistakes in the
earlier part of the first game and I was down but, as the game
progressed, I became more settled and it proved to be fruitful.
“The most important factor is that I have been doing what I worked on
during training especially with my shots. At the same time, I try to get
the ball back as soon as possible. After winning the first game, I was
more confident for the second game and everything went smoothly after
that progress against a rejuvenated Nicol in fae of a partisan crowd
won't be easy. “I know I will be playing a different Nicol
this time," said the New Zealander. “She has
improved tremendously since the first and the last time I played her.
But, after going this far, I will produce my best to stop Nicol.”
In the bottom half of the draw, matches went to the higher seeded
players. Stephanie Brind, sporting an all red outfit looked
comfortable and at ease throughout her match against Madeline Perry. The
last time the both met, Madeline snatched a five game victory, having to
fight back from a 0-2 deficit. The match started closely, with each
player winning point by point, before Stephanie eventually romped home
10-8. in the second game Brind found her rhythm and won relatively
easily before Madeline came back strongly to take the third. The fourth
game was also a rather close affair, with Stephanie winning 9-6 and
taking the match.
Rebecca Chiu, a familiar face on Malaysian shores, faced an uphill task
against former world no.1 Cassie Jackman. The hard hitting
English woman never gave the petite Rebecca a chance to settle down,
romping home with the first game without dropping a single point.
Rebecca was simply having troubles with the fast and deep drives, often
returning half court to give Cassie a chance to kill it off. Rebecca,
however fared much better in the next two games, claiming 3 points each.
Tomorrow, local fans will be hoping to see Nicol upstage Shelley to book
a final berth. Both players are playing very well, so expect a tough
encounter. The winner of this match should earn a place against Cassie
Jackman in the final. Cassie, after today’s performance, seems
indestructible. If Stephanie is harbouring any hopes of upstaging her,
she will have to be at her very best.
Sharon The Only
Seed To Fall ...
Alex Wan reports
First match on centre court was between top seed and last year’s
runner-up Rebecca Macree and Tegwen Malik. Rebecca fought back
from a one game deficit to emerge victorious after a highly entertaining
match. Over at the next court, lanky New Zealander Shelley Kitchen
had a much easier time, dropping just 5 points in her demolition of
Belgian qualifier Katline Cauwels.
Usually a quiet sight in the early rounds, hundreds thronged to pack the
galleries today to witness Nicol David dethrone compatriot Sharon
Wee as the National no.1 women’s player. Many had come with high
expectations of a close and exciting match much to their disappointment.
Both players started cautiously in the first few rallies before the
tempo picked up and Sharon threw everything she had but could only
manage 6 points from her straight game loss.
“It wasn't as easy as it appeared to be,” Nicol, a two-time
world junior champion, told the Star. “I had a
game plan and everything just worked out accordingly. I was able to move
well and quickly on court and it gave me more time with the ball before
executing a shot.”
Wee conceded defeat graciously.
“I am disappointed with my overall performance. Nothing was happening
for me today,” she said. “But I would like to congratulate Nicol. She is
a tough opponent to beat and I was unlucky to meet her in the first
round. All I can do now is to work on improving my game and narrow the
gap in standard with Nicol.”
Nicol’s opponent tomorrow,
Jenny Tranfield had a relatively easy match too, beating Jenny
Duncalf in straight sets.
"It is unfortunate to a meet
a compatriot in the first round but I am happy to have made it to the
last eight," said Nicol. "It will be my first ever match against Jenny
and it is going to be a good experience," she added.
In the lower half of the draw, matches were more exciting, with only
Cassie Jackman winning in straight games over Dominique
Lloyd-Walter. Both hard-hitting players employed a much faster game as
compared to the earlier matches on centre court, providing a by now,
very small crowd in the gallery. Rebecca Chiu of Hong Kong and
Egyptian Salma Shabana played the longest match of the day. Rebecca, who
had to crawl back from huge 5 point deficits in the 2nd and 3rd games,
eventually saw her efforts paid off with a 4 game win over Salma, and a
quarter-final berth against Cassie Jackman.
The other quarter-final tomorrow will see Madeline Perry and
Stephanie Brind battling it out. Madeline booked her slot with a 4
game win over Dutch no.2 Annelize Naude in another long match, coming
back from a 1st game loss. Stephanie Brind meanwhile started brilliantly
with an easy 9-2 first game win in her match against Vicky Lankester.
She had put her delicate boasts to full use. Vicky however, came back
strongly but lost 9-10 in the 2nd, before claiming the 3rd with a 10-8
score. In the 4th set, it was Stephanie winning all the way without
dropping a single point.
All matches from tomorrow onwards will be played at the National Squash
Centre’s all-glass court and there should be an even bigger crowd, as it
is not everyday that local Malaysians get the opportunity to witness
top-level squash matches.
Mixed Feelings in
the Malaysian Camp
Alex Wan reports
Nicol David qualified for the main draw with relative ease with a
straight set victory over Kozue Onizawa of Japan, but luck was not on
Malaysia’s side as she is drawn to meet compatriot Sharon Wee in the
first round. On a more positive note, local representation in the last
eight is virtually guaranteed.
The only English player to survive through qualifying, Vicky Lankester,
will meet her England colleague Stephanie Brind in the first round.
Vicky halted Tricia Chuah’s hope of a significant comeback with a 9-1,
9-6, 9-4 scoreline. Stephanie will be vying to claim her second
Malaysian Open title here after winning it in 2000 without dropping a
single game (this match will be just one of three all-English first
Tegwen Malik overcame her English opponent with a similar straight set
win to earn a berth against top seed Rebecca Macree, who has qualified
for the quarter-finals of every event she has taken part this year.
Rebecca is also enjoying her most successful year on the tour with a
career-high world ranking of 7. The last time both met at the 2003 Irish
Open 4 months ago, Rebecca overcame a gritty Tegwen in 4 sets.
Kate Roe (nee Allison), who received a walkover in the first round
yesterday, failed to add numbers to the English assault after losing
rather tamely to the petite Belgian, Katline Cauwels. She meets world
no. 16, Shelley Kitchen of New Zealand next.
Tegwen Malik (Wal) bt Sarah Kippax (Eng) 9-4, 9-3, 9-1
Nicol David (Mas) bt Kozue Onizawa (Jpn) 9-1, 9-0, 9-4
Katline Cauwels (Bel) bt Kate Roe (Eng) 9-1, 9-2, 9-1
Vicky Lankester (Eng) bt Tricia Chuah (Mas) 9-1, 9-6, 9-4
Seeds Cruise Through
Round One of Qualifying
Alex Wan reports
There were no surprises in the first day with the seeds winning their
matches without much trouble. Six national juniors were given the
opportunity for a taste in the WISPA tour when they were pitted against
seasoned professionals. Qualifying second seed Vicky Lankester and
fourth seed Kate Roe, both of England, didn’t even have to lift a racket
after their local opponents didn’t turn up for their matches.
Double-world junior champion Nicol David and former world number 31
Tricia Chuah, were both in uncompromising moods in the demolition of
their local counterparts, dropping only one point each. While Nicol looks
good to make the main draw, Tricia faces an uphill task against second
seed and world number 38, Vicky Lankester of England. This will serve as
a good indication to see if Tricia can make a bang in her comeback onto
the tour, after being kept out of court by a toe injury sustained in the
KL Open in February.
Sarah Kippax earned an opportunity to add to the English invasion with a
9-0, 9-0, 9-0 trouncing of Azaliana Azahari. However, she has to first
upset top seeded Tegwen Malik, ranked 30 places above her tomorrow, to
make the main draw.
The other two fighting for a place would be between Belgian, Katline
Cauwels and Kate Roe of England.
ENGLISH INVASION IN KL
The draw for the Mulpha-Head Malaysian Open is dominated by English
players, with Rebecca Macree, Cassie Jackman, Jenny
Tranfield and Stephanie Brind the top four seeds.
Macree lost out to Carol Owens in the
2002 final, and is set to face another New Zealander, Shelley Kitchen,
in the quarter-finals.
Home interest will centre on Sharon Wee, the
eighth seed, and Nicol David, who looks likely to be a dangerous
qualifier as she continues to improve her world ranking after an