Kuala Lumpur Women's World Open 2004
07-11 December, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

World Title
To Atkinson
Vanessa Atkinson, who remained in The Hague when her British father moved on to pursue his civil engineering career elsewhere, became the first Dutch player ever to win a world squash title.

The sport's most surprising late developer achieved that with an overwhelming 9-1, 9-1, 9-5 victory in the final over Natalie Grinham, the Australian who had beaten her at the Dutch Open at her home city six months ago.

Atkinson thus defeated on successive days the first two sisters ever to reach the later stages of a major World Open, having crushed the world number one, Rachael Grinham, in straight games in Friday's semi-finals.

But the 28-year-old third seed had become odds on favourite even before her one-sided revenge. Natalie Grinham had left almost everything on the court the day before, when she had recovered from 0-4 down in the decider in an epic semi-final against the local heroine, Nicol David.

"I knew Natalie was very tired," said Atkinson. "So I went on with a specific plan. I tried to keep her deep and play the rallies long, and it (her oppoenent's tiredness) was showing already in the first game."

But Atkinson denied that this had made it easy. "I knew it was within my grasp. But it was actually one of the hardest finals I have played," she claimed. "I think I was thinking about not losing rather than winning. I was wanting to get off the court too quickly rather than making it hard for her."

It was this impetuousness which brought one or two errors and allowed the younger Grinham to play out the longer rallies with a little more hope and occasionally to score with some deft drops and wrong-footing boasts.

But Atkinson generally hit the ball too hard and deep, had the right game plan, and was by far the fresher player. "I was just a bit late on the ball most of the time," said Grinham. "But I did all I could."

Despite her self-deprecation, Atkinson was many people's pick forthe title before this surprising tournament unfolded.  She hads ignificantly improved both footwork and stamina with the help of trainer Jan-Willem Koopman, enabling her to purvey an already impressive array of shots with fewer errors.

This had helped her to six titles during the year - more than the rest of her career put together.  Her decision to miss the Shanghai tournament three weeks ago may also have been a significant one, helping her to arrive in Malaysia fresher than some of her rivals.

Atkinson may now be a candidate for the Sports Personality of the Year awards in The Netherlands in a week's time. She certainly has the capacity with her better movement and potentially improved finances to become the undisputed leader of the women's game during 2005
.

  • (Left: Vanessa Atkinson with the World Open trophy.
    Below: Atkinson dominates Natalie Grinham in the final.)
     
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Cassie Jackman
Reports From
World Open in
Kuala
Lumpur
 

(Above: New Zealand's Shelley Kitchen goes through to the quarters with win over Jackman.)

KL Women's World Open 2004
07-11 December, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, $63k
First Round
Tue 07
Last 16
Wed 08
Quarters
Thu 09
Semis
Fri 10
Final
Sat 11
[1] Rachael Grinham (AUS)
9-0, 9-4, 9-2 (21 m)
Melissa Martin (AUS) 
Rachael Grinham
9-1, 9-0, 7-9, 9-5 (50m)
Madeline Perry
Rachael
Grinham
 9-1, 9-1, 9-7
Atkinson

9-0, 9-2, 9-2

Atkinson
9-1, 9-1, 9-5
[16] Madeline Perry (IRL)
9-4, 9-2, 9-5 (44 min)
Rebecca Chiu (HKG) 
[7] Fiona Geaves (ENG)
9/1, 10/9, 9/4 (38 m)
Tania Bailey (ENG) 
Tania Bailey
7-9, 9-2, 9-3, 9-6 (47m)
Jenny Tranfield
[10] Jenny Tranfield (ENG)
9-4, 9-0, 9-0 (29M)
Kasey Brown (AUS) 
[3] Vanessa Atkinson (NED)
9-2, 5-9, 9-2, 9-7 (30m)
Pamela Nimmo (SCO) 
Vanessa Atkinson
9-6. 9-6, 2-9, 10-8 (55m)
V. Botwright
Atkinson
7-9, 9-1, 9-3 (35m)
[11] Vicky Botwright (ENG)
9-7, 10-8, 8-10, 9-3 (55m)
Tamsyn Leevey (NZL)
[5] Linda Elriani (ENG)
9-3, 9-4, 9-1
Engy Kheirallah (EGY) 
Elriani
9-5, 9-7, 8-10, 9-2 (79m)
Duncalf
[13] Jenny Duncalf (ENG)
9-3, 9-6, 9-3 (30m)
Latasha Khan (USA) 
Laura Lengthorn (ENG) 
6-9, 9-4, 9-7, 9-7 (63m)
[14] Isabelle Stoehr (FRA)
Lengthorn
9-5, 9-7, 9-5 (48m)
Macree
Natalie
Grinham
9-6, 9-3, 9-0
Grinham
9-3 9-7, 2-9,
 9-10, 9-7
Carla Khan (PAK) 
9-7, 9-3, 7-9, 9-7 (83m)
[8] Rebecca Macree (ENG)
Runa Reta (CAN) 
9-4. 2-9, 7-9, 9-5, 9-4 (67m)
[15] Stephanie Brind (ENG)
Stephanie Brind
9-7, 9-4, 9-1 (42m)
Natalie Grinham
Annelize Naude (NED) 
10-8, 9-1, 9-4 (44m)
[4] Natalie Grinham (AUS)
Alison Waters (ENG) 
2-9, 6-9, 9-4, 9-3, 9-5 (56m)
[9] Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY)
Alison Waters
10-8, 7-9, 9-2, 10-8 (55m)
Nicol David
David
9-7, 9-3, 9-4 (29m).
Tegwen Malik (WAL)
9-3, 9-0, 9-3 (21m)
[6] Nicol David (MAS)
Amelia Pittock (AUS) 
9-4, 6-9, 9-1, 9-5 (51m)
[12] Shelley Kitchen (NZL)
Kitchen
9-5, 9-4, 9-7 (43m)
Cassie Jackman
 Dominque Lloyd-Walter
9-1, 9-1, 9-5 (29m)
[2] Cassie Jackman (ENG)


Qualifying (05/06 Dec):

First Round:
Engy Kheirallah (EGY)  bye
Suzie Pierrepont (ENG) bt Line Hansen (DEN)  10/8, 9/10, 2/9, 9/4, 9/6 (74m)
Melissa Martin (AUS) bt Lim Yok Wah (MAS)  9/4, 9/1, 9/5 (23m)
Becky Botwright (ENG) bt Jemma Saxby (AUS)  9/3, 9/1, 9/1 (18m)

Amelia Pittock (AUS) bt Triciah Chuah (MAS)  9/2, 9/6, 9/5
Diane Desira (AUS) bt Delia Arnold (MAS)  9/6, 9/6, 9/5 (27m)
Heidi Mather (AUS) bt Nur Adawiyah (SIN)  9/1, 9/0, 9/1 (20m)
Runa Reta (CAN) by Sally Looi (MAS)  9/4, 9/4, 9/4 (28m)

Kasey Brown (AUS) bt Amnah El Trabolsy (EGY)  9/0, 9/4, 9/6 (28m)
Nicolette Fernandes (GUY) bt Eman El Amir (EGY)  9/3, 10/8, 9/10, 9/0 (45m)
Raneem El Weleily (EGY) bt Sarah Kippax (ENG)  8/10, 6/9, 9/7, 9/3, 9/6 (51m)
Tamsyn Leevey (NZL) bt Elise Ng (HKG)  9/2, 9/4, 9/0 (20m)

Lauren Briggs (ENG)  bye
Dominique Lloyd-Walter (ENG) bt Manuela Manetta (ITA)  9/2, 9/7, 9/0 (30m)
Karen Kronemeyer (NED)  bye
Tegwen Malik (WAL)  bye

Qualifying finals: 
Engy Kheirallah (Egy) bt S. Pierrepont (Eng) 9/7, 9/3, 9/2 (35m)
Melissa Martin (Aus) bt R. Botwright (Eng) 3/9, 8/10, 9/2, 9/5, 9/7 (47m)
Amelia Pittock (Aus) bt D. Desira (Aus) 9/7, 9/0, 9/7 (46m)
Runa Reta (Can) bt H. Mather (Aus) 9/5, 9/5, 9/4 (31m)
Kasey Brown (Aus) bt N. Fernandes (Guy) 8/10, 9/7, 9/2, 9/6 (73m)
Tamsyn Leevey (Nzl) bt R. El Weleily (Egy) 9/5, 9/3, 9/6 (31m)
Dominique Lloyd-Walter (Eng) bt Lauren Briggs (Eng) 9/6, 9/6, 9/3 (57m)
Tegwen Malik (Wal) bt Karen Kronemeyer (Ned) 9/0, 6/9, 9/7, 9/2 (43m
)

REPORTS

Atkinson moves to favourites position
Vanessa Atkinson made herself odds on favourite to become the first Dutch winner of a world squash title when she overwhelmed the top seed, Rachael Grinham, by 9-2, 9-2, 9-0 in only 23 minutes.

The third-seeded British-born Atkinson's outstanding performance was her second victory over the Australian within a week and confirmed her as the most dangerously improved player on the circuit this year
.

Her chances of a bit of sporting history for The Netherlands were increased by the even more surprising semi-final which followed, in which the lesser known of the Grinham sisters won one of the finest and most exhausting matches the World Open has ever seen.

Natalie Grinham's 9-3,9-7,2-9,9-10,9-7 win over Nicol David lasted almost an hour and a half and contained rallies of such athletic brilliance that there were times when both players seemed close to collapse.

David, the former world junior champion and local heroine, seemed certain to triumph when she recovered from two games down, saved a match point at 8-9 in the fourth game and advanced rapidly to 4-0 in the fifth game.

But most people reckoned without the guts, the brains, and the desire of the younger sibling, who clung resiliently to the chance of escaping her sister's shadow.

"At 0-4 I realised that I was being over-cautious," Natalie said. "I thought that if I'm going to lose, I'm not going to lose like this.

"So I played a couple of high tempo rallies again and won a few points.  I didn't know if I had enough left to keep doing that, but I decided to pretend that I had."

Near the end the players dropped their rackets simultaneously at the conclusion of an immense rally, and both struggled to continue. Grinham then had to wait agonisingly to convert her match point because David had almost performed an astounding behind-the-back interception, only to see her volley sail over the front wall and on to a disatnt balcony.

When at last the ball was retrieved Natalie finished it with a nerveless dropshot-drive combination and the two players embraced emotionally. "Although my body hurt I thought I could push through," said David.  "But she played truly great rallies to get those points back."

Atkinson watched with other, more self-interested feelings as both semi-finals unfolded in a manner which could hardly have helped her more. Her victory always seemed probable after she won a long rally at 1-0, after which Rachael Grinham subsided disappointingly.

"I didn't have much left at the end of a long season,"she explained.  Atkinson seemed as surprised as anyone at the devastation which her varied and consistent attack created.  "I was expecting it to be difficult," she said. "But I feel like I played my best game."

David Sinks
Kitchen's Hopes
Nicol David, the best known sports woman in Malaysia, increased her chances of becoming one of the better known sports women in the world by reaching the semi-final of the World Open squash championships.

The 21-year-old former world junior champion moved to within two wins of a piece of history when she overcame giantkiller Shelley Kitchen 9-7 9-3 9-4 before an adoring home crowd at the Malaysian national squash centre."
Everything came together at the right time," said David. "I was seing it really well, and anything is possible now. I hope the home crowd can cheer me all the way now."

David's performance was characterised by great speed, deftness and disguise in the front court, and an impressive calm, and it earned her a surprisingly emphatic triumph over the 12th seeded New Zealander.

Only the day before Kitchen had ousted Cassie Jackman, the second-seeded former world champion from England, but now, after leading 7-6 in the first game, she was outplayed by the fleet-footed Malay.

The rally by which David reached 7-7, when Kitchen played a good-looking drop shot only to find David instantly there to drive it for a winner, made an important statement - that there were no places where Kitchen could put the ball and make it safe.

When David won the first two points of the second game, each with lob service winners taking awkward bounces in the back corner, Kitchen tossed her racket high in the air in disgust. Her mood was frayed after that and her game lacking consistency.

David raced to 6-0 in the second game and to 4-0 in the third, and her confidence appeared to mount even more quickly than the score, leaving little chance of a Kitchen recovery.

David next plays the fourth seeded Australian, Natalie Grinham, who won 9-6,9-3,9-0 against Rebecca Macree, a member of England's world team title winning squad in Sheffield in 2000.

Grinham made surprisingly one-sided progress after her opponent was rather harshly denied a let at 6-6 in the first game, and Macree slipped dispiritedly away to defeat amidst an increasing ratio of errors.

The entertainment highlight was simultaneous falls in which Grinham almost did the splits as she went down while the tall Macree toppled head first over her, providing the cameramen with unusual images like a couple of acrobats forming a human wheel.

If David fails to go further, the World Open could have two sisters in the final for the first time. Natalie's elder sister Rachael Grinham, the top seed, also won, convincingly beating Jenny Tranfield, the tenth-seeded English player 9-1,9-1, 9-7.

Now however the favourite's real test comes. Rachael's semi-final is against Vanessa Atkinson, the third-seeded Newcastle-born Dutch number one who is many people's tip for the title. Atkinson overcame Rachael in the final of the Qatar Classi in Doha six days ago and earned her chance to do it again when she was leading Linda Elriani by 7-9 9-1,9-3 and the red-faced 'flu-ridden English player retired.

Jackman's  Performance Leaves Numb Feeling
Former world champion Cassie Jackman's career may be in danger after she collapsed to a 40-minute straight games defeat in the women's World Open squash championships.

Jackman suffered numbness in her left leg early on during her 9-5, 9-4, 9-7 loss to the 12th-seeded New Zealander, Shelley Kitchen, and by the end of the match she was having difficulty pushing off with it.

The symptoms are similar to those which the English player experienced at last month's British Open in Nottingham and before the two major back operations she has had in the last four years.

The setback has also occurred only six days after Jackman withdrew from the Qatar Classic with rib pains and difficulty breathing. Then she was kept in hospital in Doha overnight and although tests revealed nothing, doctors were worried her symptoms might indicate deep vein thrombosis caused by long haul travel.

This brought rumours that Jackman, winner of the world title in Seattle in 2000, might pull out of this year's World Open, but after flying to Kuala Lumpur she decided to take a chance on playing.

"Maybe that wasn't the right decision," she admitted. "I now know there is something going on and I'm going home immediately to find out what it is."

England's physio Pauline Newton tried to dispel fears that Jackman might still have a DVT problem. "My first reaction is that this isn't the same," Newton said. "What happened last week was totally different and Cassie has always had some symptoms in her left leg. But it will have to be assessed."

Kitchen took her chance well, volleying confidently against the lobs which Jackman tossed up during a a revival which carried her to 7-4 in the third game, and now plays Nicol David, Malaysian's best known sportswoman.

David, the 21-year-old sixth-seeded former world junior champion from Penang, halted a comeback from 1-8 to 8-8 in the fourth game by England's unseeded Alison Waters before winning 10-8, 7-9,9-2,10-8.

Kitchen is good enough to become the second Kiwi finalist in succession - titleholder Carol Owens has retired since winning it in Hong Kong last year - but Jackman's departure has increased the possibility of Australians making a piece of history on Saturday.

The favourite to come through in the bottom half is now Natalie Grinham, the fourth seeded Australian, who won 9-7,9-4,9-1 against another English woman, Stephanie Brind, the winner of the deciding match in the world team final at Sheffield in 2000.

If Grinham does reach the final it opens up the possibility of the first pair of sisters ever to contest a World open final. Elder sister Rachael Grinham is the top seed and reached the quarter-final with a 9-1, 9-0, 7-9, 9-5 win over Madeline Perry, the Irish number one.

England Cause Upsets on Day 1
Cassie Jackman, the former world squash champion who considered quitting her bid to win the world title back because of fears of deep vein thrombosis from long haul flights, overcame her anxieties to survive her first round match in the World Open.

The 31-year-old English woman had endured prolonged testing and a sleepless night in a Doha hospital but had recovered well enough to avoid any first round stumbles as she overcame her compatriot Dominique Lloyd-Water in less then half an hour.

"I was quite pleased with that," said Jackman after her 9-1,9-1,9-5 win. "It's nice to get it over and done with. I feel fine, but it will get harder from now on."

The second-seeded Jackman realises she should know far better afterher next match against New Zealand number one Shelley Kitchen whether there is any risk of a return of the pains and breathlessness which caused her to retire in the semi-finals of last week's Qatar Classic. Kitchen has been in the best form of her life this year although she wasn't quite in top form as she reached the second round with a 9-4, 6-9,
9-1, 9-5 victory over Amelia Pittock, a member of Australia's world title winning team in Amsterdam last month.

Three seeds fell at the first hurdle. They were Fiona Geaves, the number seven from England, Omneya Abdel Kawy, the number nine from Egypt, and Isabelle Stoehr, the number 14 from France, and the most surprising of them was Kawy.

T
he 19-year-old from Cairo let slip a two-game lead as her stamina proved unequal to the task of containing the hard-working 20-year-old Alison

Waters, from England, who thus repeated the win she had over Kawy in Monte Carlo last year.

Waters' 2-9,6-9,9-,9-3,9-5 win earned her a meeting with the woman whose image is superimposed ominously upon the Petronas Towers in the tournament's citty-wide poster, Nicol David, the former world junior champion.

David, labelled the most famous woman in Malaysian sport, who carried the Olympic torch on its final journey to Athens, and who summarily dismissed Tegwen Malik, the best Welsh player for the loss of only six points and appeared to be revelling in the attention she received.

Geaves, who celebrated her 37th birthday the day before the
tournament and is the oldest woman on the tour, was unlucky to draw a first round with the most danbgerous come-back player on the tour, Tania Bailey, a member of England's world title winning side at Sheffield in 2000.

Bailey, who is surely heading back to the top ten after eight
months on the side line with a mystery virus, always looked the probable winner, despite needing to save three game balls in the second game of her 9-4, 10-9, 9-4 success.

Stoehr, who had hoped to produce a good performance to follow the
triumph of her French compatriot, Thierry Lincou, who won the men's World Open only four days ago, was also confronted by an in-form English woman.

This was the 21-year-old Laura Lengthorn, whose long reach, calm
demeanour, and willingness to volley have carried her to the verge of the world's top 20 for the first time, and who came from 1-3 down in the third game and from 3-7 down in the fourth game to win 6-9, 9-4, 9-7,
9-7.

Qualifying 1st Round:
EL AMIR FALLS


Nicolette Fernandes, Guyana's only full-time squash player, caused a significant upset in the first qualifying round of the Women's KL World Open Championship today (Sunday) in Malaysia when she defeated Egypt's world No32 Eman El Amir 9-3 10-8 9-10 9-0 in 45 minutes at the National Squash Centre in Bukit Jalil on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.

The 21-year-old world No75, who is based in Manchester in England, will now face Australia's Kasey Brown for a place in the main draw. Brown also beat an Egyptian, Amnah El Trabolsy, 9-0 9-4 9-6.

 

Qualifying Finals:
Aussies Excel In KL World Open Qualifiers


The Australian representation in tomorrow's (Tuesday) first round of the Women's KL World Open Championship in Malaysia has been boosted to five following the success of Melissa Martin, Kasey Brown and Amelia Pittock in today's qualifying finals at the National Squash Centre in Bukit Jalil on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.

Martin, from Adelaide but now based in the USA, fought from two games down to overcome England's European Champion Rebecca Botwright 3-9 8-10 9-2 9-5 9-7 in 47 minutes - and is now paired up with compatriot and top seed Rachael Grinham in the first round.

Kasey Brown, 19, from Port Maquarie in  NSW, ended the brave run of Guyana's Nicolette Fernandes, but needed 73 minutes to quash the country's only professional squash player 8-10 9-7 9-2 9-6 to earn a place in the main draw against England's tenth seed Jenny Tranfield.

Amelia Pittock, from Dromana, won an all-Australian clash against Dianne Desira, beating the 23-year-old from Victoria 9-7 9-0 9-7 to set up a first round meeting with New Zealand's 12th seed Shelley Kitchen.

England's sole survivor in the qualifiers was Dominique Lloyd-Walter, the Middlesex 23-year-old who beat compatriot Lauren Briggs 9-6 9-6 9-3 in 57 minutes and will now meet another English opponent Cassie Jackman in the first round.

Jackman, the No2 seed and World Open champion in 1999, is making her first appearance on court since withdrawing from last week's Qatar Classic suffering with breathing difficulties.  The world No2 from Norfolk spent a night in hospital in Doha - undergoing various tests, all of which were negative - but now looks forward to resuming her squash career in KL.  

"I feel fine and I will be playing tomorrow and beyond if I win, just as long as I continue to feel good," said Jackman.

All eyes will be on the predicted semi-final meeting between top seed Rachael Grinham and the third seed Vanessa Atkinson, the seven-times Dutch champion who beat the Australian in straight games in last week's Qatar Classic final.

Local interest in the KL World Open will be led by Nicol David, the 21-year-old from Penang who has been promoted to sixth seed following the last-minute withdrawal of USA's fourth seed Natalie Grainger.  Twice a winner of the Women's World Junior title, David has yet to claim the senior title - but is currently enjoying the best form of her career and would relish the chance to claim the KL world trophy on home soil!