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Seven In A Row For Nicol

Women's Draw
Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Open 2011
Piazza, Hong Kong Cultural Centre, Kowloon $77k
Round One
15/16 Nov
Round Two
17 Nov
18 Nov
19 Nov
20 Nov
[1] Nicol David (Mas)
11/9, 11/4, 11/2 (23m)
[Q] Tong Tsz-Wing (Hkg)
Nicol David
11/6, 11/7, 14/12 (41m)
Donna Urquhart
Nicol David
11/5, 11/8, 6/11, 11/6 (50m)
Laura Massaro
Nicol David
9/11, 11/2, 11/4, 11/6 (45m)
Annie Au
Nicol David
11/5, 11/4, 11/9 (30m)
Raneem El Weleily
[11] Donna Urquhart (Aus)
11/4, 4/11, 11/6, 11/7 (36m)
Line Hansen (Den)
[5] Laura Massaro (Eng)
11/3, 11/4, 11/7 (34m)
[Q] Olga Ertlova (Cze)
Laura Massaro
11/5, 11/3, 11/5 (23m)
Delia Arnold
[16] Delia Arnold (Mas)
11/2, 12/10, 12/10 (42m)
[Q] Coline Aumard (Fra)
[3] Rachael Grinham (Aus)
11/4 rtd (5m)
Latasha Khan (Usa)
Rachael Grinham
11/5, 4/11, 8/11, 11/2, 11/8 (44m)
Jaclyn Hawkes

Rachael Grinham
8/11, 11/9, 4/11, 11/6, 11/4 (58m)
Annie Au

[12] Jaclyn Hawkes (Nzl)
11/3, 12/10, 11/8 (33m)
[Q] Tania Bailey (Eng)
[8] Annie Au (Hkg)
11/3, 11/6, 11/8 (22m)
Gaby Huber (Sui)
Annie Au
12/10, 2/11, 11/9, 11/6 (58m)
Joelle King
[9] Joelle King (Nzl)
11/8, 11/6, 10/12, 12/10 (47m)
[Q] Misaki Kobayasji (Jpn)r
Aisling Blake (Irl)
11/6, 11/8, 11/6 (42m)
[15] Joey Chan (Hkg)
Joey Chan
11/8, 11/5, 11/8 (29m)
Kasey Brown
Joey Chan
11/7, 11/3, 7/11, 9/11, 11/8 (43m)
Raneem El Weleily
Raneem El Weleily
11/6, 9/11, 11/3, 11/9 (47m)
Low Wee Wern
Melody Francis (Aus)
11/5, 11/6, 11/7 (30m)
[6] Kasey Brown (Aus)
[Q] Sina Wall (Ger)
11/6, 11/4, 11/3 (17m)
[10] Raneem El Weleily (Egy)
Raneem El Weleily
11/7, 11/7, 11/8 (29m)
Madeline Perry
Dipika Pallikal (Ind)
5/11, 11/8, 12/10, 5/11, 11/7 (61m)
[4] Madeline Perry (Irl)
Emma Beddoes (Eng)
11/6, 11/6, 2/11, 11/5 (43m)
[14] Sarah Kippax (Eng)
Emma Beddoes
11/9, 11/3, 11/7 (34m)
Camille Serme
Camille Serme
11/7, 9/11, 11/9, 5/11, 11/4 (54m)
Low Wee Wern
Liu Tsz Ling (Hkg)
 11/3, 11/3, 11/1 (23m)
[7] Camille Serme (Fra)
[Q] Kylie Lindsay (Nzl)
11/4, 11/4, 11/7 (29m)
[13] Low Wee Wern (Mas)
Low Wee Wern
11/7, 11/7, 11/1 (28m)
Jenny Duncalf
[Q] Lee Ka Yi (Hkg)
11/4, 11/9, 8/11, 11/9 (34m)
[2] Jenny Duncalf (Eng)

Seven In A Row For Nicol

While Malaysia's world champion and world number one Nicol David recorded her 35th consecutive win and collected her 7th Hong Kong title in a row, for James Willstrop it was a first final and a first title as he became the first Englishman to lift the trophy of one of the squash world's longest running and most prestigious tournaments in almost a decade.

It was a tough ask for 10th seed Raneem El Weleily to put an end to Nicol David's 34-match unbeaten streak in Hong Kong, and for two games in the first final of the evening at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre it looked as though the pressure had got to her.
David took a 4/1 lead in the first, and although the Egyptian levelled it was only a temporary respite as Nicol raced through to take the lead 11/5.  A 4/1 lead in the second, but this time the mini-comeback only got as far as 6/3 before Nicol doubled her advantage 11/4.
She wasn't needing to do anything special, was the world champion and six-time defending Hong Kong champion, just her usual steady speedy self, and Raneem was helping her along the way too with a few typically casual errors.
But, in Nicol's own words, "she just fired in a few winners in a row in the third," and she did too. A 4/1 lead for Raneem became 4-all, but she continued her improvement and led 9/8 as Nicol's video appeal after being denied a let after a lungbusting rally was denied.
That was as close as Raneem got though, three points in a row for Nicol and that seventh title was hers.

"In the beginning, I was too eager to win, too exited and I just didnít play my game at all," admitted El Weleily."In the third, I thought, nothing to lose, and maybe I started looking a bit better on court!"

Nicol was naturally delighted with a seventh success at a venue which really started it all with her first World Open win in 2005.

"It was pretty hard tonight, especially when she played six nicks in a row in the third, I had to just keep on running and running. Hong Kong has special memories for me so to win here again feels just great. Thatís that feeling Iím working for and that I want to keep every time I play."

Seventh Heaven For Nicol But First Final For Raneem

After a day of upsets and revenge at Hong Kong Squash Centre yesterday some of the semi-final lineups at the Kowloon Cultural Centre on the harbourside overlooking Hong Kong Island, had an unfamiliar feel to them, particularly the women's semi-finals where top seed and six-time defending champion Nicol David was the only one of the original top eight seeds remaining.

Hong Kong's Annie Au delighted the home crowd as she took the first game off the overwhelming favourite, but David struck back to take the next three to reach a seventh successive Hong Kong final.

"I knew it would be tough, that the crowd would get behind her," said the victor, "and she played really well in the first. I knew I had to tighten up and find my lengths from the second and I managed to do that."

There she'll meet Raneem El Weleily, the tenth seed who overcame Malaysia's Low Wee Wern in a high-quality match, coming from 7/1 down in the fourth game to clinch the win.

"It's very hot on there, difficult to breathe even for us Egyptians and I could see she was suffering too," admitted El Weleily. "She got a good lead in the fourth, I'm glad my mum wasn't watching I would have given her another heart attack! Obviously I'm really pleased to get through to the final, especially in such a wonderful setting, I just hope I can play my best ..."


A Day of Upsets as Annie Advances and Nicol Closes in on Another Final

Well, what a start to quarter-finals day as Hong Kong's own Annie Au continued the trend of upsets in the women's event as she came from 2/1 down to beat third seed Rachael Grinham to delight the packed crowd at the Hong Kong Squash Centre.

The first two games were close, but when Grinham eased through the third the crowd looked worried. Their fears were allayed as Au took a lead in the fourth, their hopes raised when she did the same in the fifth, and were finally realised as she ran away with it in the end.

"I felt quite comfortable when I was getting her into rallies in the second and the third," said Grinham, "but from the end of the fourth and the fifth she was chopping the ball away and I just couldn't get any rallies going. It was frustrating, and the harder you try the worse it gets when it's like that - I was still feeling fresh at the end."

Annie was understandably happy: "Very happy, and excited for tomorrow! I was a bit nervous at the end of the match, I tried to not think about it being the last game, just tried to win a point at a time."

The second match was also a five-setter, and also provided an Asian winner as Low Wee Wern repeated her World Open win over seventh seed Camille Serme. 

It seemed that whoever got the early lead won the game - although Camille led the second 10/4 and only took it 11/9 - and although the Frenchwoman threatened to come back a couple of times in the decider, unforced errors proved her undoing. It was a crisp winner though that took the Malaysian into the semis.

"I knew it was going to be tough, because in the worlds, she was not in it in the first, but after, every game was a battle. Today, she was much quicker into the match," said Wee Wern. "What made the difference I think today, was that I was just a bit more patient at the end of each game."

Nicol David, on the other hand, has appeared in each of the last six Hong Kong finals, and she's won them all. The newly crowned six-time world champion stayed on course with her 33rd Hong Kong win in a row as she too gained a measure of revenge, beating England's Laura Massaro, who had beaten her in two of three meetings this year, 11/5, 11/8, 6/11, 11/6.

Massaro mounted a too-late comeback in the second but kept that momentum to pull a game back in the third, but Nicol regrouped and looked a solid as ever as she closed the match out in the fourth.

"I came out so fast in the first two, I just dropped a little in the third and she found some good shots and played well to take it," explained David. "I knew I had to come out strong in the fourth and my lengths and volleys were working well."

"I know there might be some bad weather tomorrow but it would be great to play at the harbour again, it has so many good memories for me. But it's the semi-final, we just need a court to play on!"

The unlikely dream of four Asian and two Hong Kong semi-finalists didn't come about, but it wasn't down to a lack of effort on the part of Joey Chan or the crowd, that's for sure. Raneem El Weleily weathered the early storm, and from 5/7 down in the first took 18 of the next 21 points to establish a commanding-looking two game lead.

But a few typical errors in the third let Joey back in, and the left-hander needed no encouragement - although she got plenty - as she levelled the match with some scintillating and determined play.

Raneem was never behind in the decider, but never far enough ahead to be comfortable, so when Joey called her own ball out at 10/8 the Egyptian was both grateful and relieved.

"I couldn't believe she called that out when three refs missed it, all credit to her for that," said Raneem. "I felt good at the start then played a few poor shots and let her back into it. I was nervous in the third and fourth, I was trying to tell myself the crowd were behind me too but it was hard!

"In the fifth it was already two-all so I had nothing left to lose and I relaxed more. It's great to play squash in front of a crowd like that whether they're supporting you or your opponent, and I'm really looking forward to the harbour tomorrow.

Semi-finals commence the Cultural Centre on Victoria Harbour at 18.00 on Saturday, weather permitting - adverse forecasts mean that a decision will be taken at 15.00 as to whether play can go ahead there, otherwise matches will be played at Hong Kong Squash Centre.


Second And Fourth Seeds Out,  But That's Not The Main Story ...

The opening women's match of the day brought exactly what the packed crowd at the Hong Kong Squash Centre wanted, a win for local favourite Annie Au.

The diminutive Annie utilised her experience on this court and her delicate shot making skills to good effect, only in the second game did New Zealand's Joelle King manage to get on top.
It was the Hong Kong girl who got the better of the three close games though, despite the match being over physical at times with Au receiving a conduct warning for blocking and being on the floor several times as King tried to get past.
The third was crucial as King missed a volley drop which would have given her game ball, and she was always playing catch-up in the fourth.
If the crowd were delighted by the first match, they were stunned by the second as Malaysia's 13th seed Low Wee Wern sent world number two Jenny Duncalf crashing out 11/7, 11/7, 11/1.
The Englishwoman didn't look comfortable against HK youngster Lee Ka-Yi yesterday, and after losing two close first games today she visibly wilted as Low pressed home her advantage.
"Jenny wasn't 100%, I know she's not been well over the last couple of days," said Wee Wern. "The first two games were close then I got a good lead in the third, I knew I had to keep on pressing as Jenny has all the experience and even at 7/0 I couldn't afford to relax.
"It's good to be able to carry on my good form from in the worlds last week, it's the last tournament of the year, so come on !!!"
Losing one top seed is careless, losing two would be, well, sensational, but Rachael Grinham managed to sneak home against Jaclyn Hawkes on the upstairs courts.
"I got a good start but then from 4-all in the second she just ran away with it," said the Australian third seed.
"I was trying to make her run but was taking it in short too much and she was just feeding off it, so I had to change game plan and keep it at the back more."
That change of tactics did the trick, but a lead of 9/4 in the fifth was seriously threatened as the Kiwi refused to go quietly.
"She never gives in, so I knew I had to keep on pressing, but in your mind you think you've got it won so it's difficult when she starts coming back, in the end I was just grateful to get to 10-8 rather than 9-all, that would have made it very difficult."
Grinham faces home favourite Au next.
"She's always one of the most difficult to play," admitted Grinham, "it's tough to get any rallies going as she'll chop it in as soon as she can - if she wants to chop it into the tin that's fine of course!
"It should be good playing with a big crowd, that doesn't get to me at all and for her it might help or it might make her nervous. We've played a couple of times this year and won one each so we'll see how it goes."
Camille Serme put an end to the run of England's Emma Beddoes, the seventh seed winning 11/9, 11/3, 11/7 in just over half an hour. 

"I was able to play the right game at the crucial times," said the French number one. She's a very spirited player, but I think I was able to make her work hard, to grind her physically, as in the third, I could see she was struggling to pick up my attacks.
"Tomorrow, revenge time against Wee Wern: it will be a big battle!"

Madeline Perry wouldn't choose to spend as much time at the front of the court as she did tonight, but against Raneem El Weleily on a court like this she didn't have much choice. 

Looking cool, calm and composed, the Egyptian, who won her second world junior title here in 2007, was in charge for all but a brief spell in the third as she produced a second major, if not entirely unexpected, upset of the day in the women's draw.
"I felt pretty calm on there tonight," confessed El Weleily, "sometimes I can get too calm but I'm happy that I stayed composed tonight. I started to rush things a little in the third and hit a few tins but stuck with it and managed to turn it around."
She may be going for a seventh straight HK title to go with her six World Open crowns, the first of which was won here back in 2005, but Nicol David didn't have it all her own way against Donna Urquhart today.
The tall Australian stuck with David until 6-all in the first, fell behind early in the second but then extended a close third game, even getting a game ball at 11/10, but eventually the relentless pressure that Nicol exerts paid dividends as she went through 11/6, 11/7, 14/12.
David's quarter-final opponent will be England's Laura Massaro, who was in no mood to become another seeded casualty as she eased past Delia Arnold  11/5, 11/3, 11/5, leaving the court 9 stage free for the final act as Hong Kong's Joey Chan aimed to join Annie Au in the quarters, and how she rose to the challenge.
The 23-year-old who won the Macau Open just days ago looked supercharged on court, and the pace and accuracy she showed proved too much for sixth seed Kasey Brown as the Australian went down 11/8, 11/5, 11/8 in just under half an hour to the delight of the packed crowd.
"It's definitely my best ever win," said a delighted Joey, "and it's fantastic to reach the quarter-finals along with Annie. The pressure was all on Kasey and I could sense she wasn't moving as well as she can so I kept going for my shots and it worked."
Head Coach Tony Choi was delighted too:
"To have two players in the quarter-finals for the first time, this is payback for some of the work we've put in over the last 10 to 15 years.
"It just goes to show that if you want to progress at the world level you have to have the commitment - Annie and Joey have been full time for three years now, and this is Joey's first big breakthrough, we're all delighted for her."
So, the second and fourth seeds are out, but the big story is that not only does Hong Kong have its first ever women's quarter-finalist ... it has two of them!


Lee Delights But Joey Wins ...

After a relatively comfortable first game against 17-year-old local qualifier Lee Ka-Yi, world number two Jenny Duncalf ended up being relieved and grateful to finish off the opening women's match on her first match ball opportunity in the fourth.
The Hong Kong youngster, far from being overawed by her opponent or the occasion, really made a game of the second which she lost narrowly, then fired in a series of winning shots at the end of the third to pull a game back. She continued to impress in the fourth, and at 9-8 had an opportunity of the sort she'd been making, but tinned it.

Duncalf needed no second invite as she finished the match off, a match that ended up tougher than she, or anyone else, might have imagined.
Coach Rebecca Chiu was pleased with her protege's performance: "I thought she would be more nervous and make more mistakes than she did," admitted Chiu, "but she played really well and was hitting some very good winners, and she had a chance to take it to five games."
Duncalf's next opponent is Malaysian Low Wee Wern who also faced a qualifier in New Zealand's Kylie Lindsay. The rallies were well contested, mainly at the back of the court, but the Malaysian always had the edge, winning 11/4, 11/4, 11/7.
Camille Serme looked determined not to let her young Hong Kong opponent Liu Tsz Ling get a sniff of an upset, moving on with a 11/3, 11/3, 11/1 scoreline.
An upset - on paper, not necessarily on current form - came about in the following match as Emma Beddoes won her all-English match with 14th seed Sarah Kippax.
"It's always weird when you play another English player," commented the winner, "the crowd are very quiet, I don't think anyone applauded anything for the first two games!"
Beddoes took those two 11/6, 11/6 but Kippax stormed back with 11/2 in the third. "She came out hitting winners, which I wasn't expecting," said Beddoes, "but I was pleased with how I regrouped to take the fourth.
"I'm very pleased, of course, I've been playing well and that's my first ever win over Sarah after playing her a lot over the years, so it's nice to do it in a big event like this. It's the last tournament of the year for most of us so the further we can go the better."
The shortest match of the day saw in-form Egyptian Raneem El Weleily breeze past German qualifier Sina Wall 11/6, 11/4, 11/7 in just 17 minutes, while her prospective opponent Madeline Perry needed just over an hour to see off the challenge of another in-form youngster, Dipika Pallikal.
The Indian number one had chances of a two-nil lead until a few errors at the end of the second let the fourth seed back in, but it remained an even contest until the death, the Irishwoman eventually winning 5/11, 11/8, 12/10, 5/11, 11/7.
"She was firing in winners from everywhere at the start," said a relieved Perry, "I was expecting the ball to come back to me but it just didn't. It was all pretty quickfire stuff, not many long rallies until the end, but it was always going to be close as she's been playing very well.
"I felt that if I could stick in I would get some errors from her, which I did, but the fourth was poor from me, the fifth was good though - it was a good match to get me used to the court!"
Where Lee Ka Yi had earlier delighted without being a realistic prospect for the second round, the Hong Kong crowd expected Joey Chan to progress and she duly delivered, repeating he Macau Open final victory just days ago, beating Aisling Blake again 11/6, 11/8, 11/6 to join Annie Au in round two.
"I was confident going into the match," said Joey, "having already beaten her in Macau and playing on my home courts this time. I tried to stay calm and keep patient, but I felt she was tiring towards the end of the second so I started to attack more.
"I'm really happy to get through to the second round for the first time."


All Seeds Safely Through In Top Half

The first women's match saw New Zealand's Joelle King survive a tougher-than she might have expected encounter against Japan's Misaki Kobayashi.

The Japanese qualifier led in each of the first three games but King's more powerful game brought her back, taking the first two and getting matchball at 10/9 in the third. 

Kobayashi stuck in though, and at 11/10 served into the nick to pull a game back. She also had game ball in the fourth but this time it was King who finished stronger to take the match.

"I just didn't feel comfortable out there," admitted King, "the racket felt heavy, nothing was really working and I was letting it get to me. 

"That was a tougher first match than you'd want but you know these days you can't take anyone for granted and she played well. "

Kobayashi was happy enough: "It was a good match I thought, especially since I didn't get a chance to practice on the glass court. You have to go for your shots on their, it's quite cold and dead, and I missed a couple of shots at the end of the fourth, but overall I'm happy with how I played."

King's next opponent is local favourite Annie Au, whose touch shots, experience of the court, and support of the crowd were all factors in her straight-game win over Gaby Huber

"I don't mind playing Annie," said King. "The crowd will be for her, and she's not number seven in the world for nothing, but I've won most of the times we've played so I'm looking forward to a good match."

A second Kiwi win as Jaclyn Hawkes beat former Hong Kong finalist Tania Bailey in straight games, although the Englishwoman had game balls in the second and led the third 8/6 before going down 11/3, 12/10, 11/8.

"Tania was one of the hardest draws you could get," said Hawkes, "we all know how good she is, so I'm really happy to get through that one in three. I'm glad I played on the upstairs court, it suited my game."

She'll meet Rachael Grinham, the most experienced Hong Kong campaigner of all, who had an easy passage after Latasha Khan, still suffering from an injury sustained last week in Macau, retired after a 5-minute first game.

The crowd noisily greeted young qualifier Tong Tsz-Wing onto court for her match with six-time Hong Kong and World Open champion Nicol David, and the youngster promptly took the first two points to allay any fears of annihilation. 

It got better, as Tong led the first 9/7 aided by some uncharacteristic David errors, but the champion, with a record of 30 wins here since 2005 and 22 of those in straight games, tightened up to win 11/9, 11/4, 11/2.

That was followed by a tough encounter between Donna Urquhart and Dane Line Hansen, who shared the first two games, both 11/4. It was the 11th seeded Australian who pressed on to win 11/4, 4/11, 11/6, 11/7 in 36 minutes to set up a meeting with David.

At match ball down Hansen was stranded at the front, waving her racket in submission. Urquhart, still in the zone, slammed the ball crosscourt right at said racket, but when the ball bounced back to her, much to the amusement of the crowd and her opponent, she didn't make the same mistake again as she put the ball away to finish the match.

The final two matches saw two seeds progress at the expense of qualifiers, and while Laura Massaro and Delia Arnold both won in straight games they were very different matches

Player of the Year Massaro was comfortable enough in beating Olga Ertlova 11/3, 11/4, 11/7, but Arnold, after taking the first 11/2, had some trouble seeing off France's Coline Aumard, who had game balls in each of the next two games which Arnold won 12/10, 12/10.

"I don't think she was properly warmed in in the first," explained the Malaysian, "she played much better in the next two and it was pretty rough on there, with way too many lets, so I'm very happy to get through in three games."

All today's winners get a rest day before the next round, with eight more first round matches from the bottom half of the draw, three with Hong Kong interest, set for tomorrow

New Faces Through In Women's Qualifying

The first winners of the day were two players delighted to make it to the main draw for the first time.

Coline Aumard and Misaki Kobayashi both eased through their first games - 11/2 and 11/1 respectively - before encountering stiffer resistance from Siti Munirah Jusoh and Choi Uen-Shah, but both came through in straight games.

"It's my first time in Hong Kong, and I've qualified, I'm so happy," said Aumard who certainly showed it meant a lot with her determination to finish the match off.

Kobayashi was similarly pleased: "It's my third Gold event and the first one I've qualified for. I love Hong Kong too so it couldn't happen in a better place!

"After winning the first easily I tried to do too much in the second and made mistakes, I was pleased to win that 3/0 in the end," admitted the Japanese number one. "I'm so excited, I really don't mind who I play."

Olga Ertlova also qualified for the first time, also in straight games after recovering from a big deficit in the first against Carmen Lee.

Someone definitely not qualifying for the first time was Tania Bailey, who beat young Indian prospect Anaka Alankamony in four games.

"I didn't really feel comfortable on there," admitted the32-year-old Englishwoman, "so I'm just glad to get out of qualifying and I hope that's woken me up a bit for the next round.

"I think the first time I made the main draw here was 12 years ago, and over that time I've lost in every round from the first right up to the final, so I feel quite comfortable here.

"I'd rather not play Nicol after the form she showed last week in Rotterdam, but other than that I don't mind, I think I can give anyone else a good run on the day."

Two popular wins followed as Hong Kong juniors Lee Ka Yi and Tong Tsz-Wing, coached by Rebecca Chiu and encouraged by new Macau Open champion Joey Chan, both won in four games against Lauren Selby and  Siyoli Waters respectively.

Chiu was delighted: "We knew they all had chances, but they both took theirs well, and getting to the main draw will be good for their exposure and development, getting experience against the top players.

[They'll get experience against the top players, that's for sure, as the pair were drawn to play the top two seeds Nicol David and Jenny Duncalf !]

"We have a lot of juniors coming through, so hopefully we can get even more into the main draw next year!"

The final two spots were claimed by New Zealand's Kylie Lindsay, who beat HK's Karman Siu in straight games, and Germany's Sina Wall.

"I got a bit overconfident when I was 2-0 up, I thought I could relax but I couldn't, so I was glad to take that third," said a delighted Wall, who beat England's Carrie Ramsey 11/7, 11/6, 13/11.

"I played in HK in the world juniors in 2007, but this is my first Hong Kong Open, it's great to qualify for such a big tournament."