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02/02/2012
CLEVELAND CLASSIC 2012
 

Nicol Claims Revenge In Cleveland

Tub O’ Towels Cleveland Classic 2012
27 Jan - 01 Feb, Ohio, Usa, $50k
Round One
29 Jan
Quarters
30 Jan
Semis
31 Jan
Final
01 Feb
[1] Nicol David (Mas)
11/4, 11/9, 9/11, 8/11, 11/7 (63 mins)
[Q] Joelle King (Nzl)
Nicol David
11-5, 11-6, 11-1 (27m)
Annie Au
Nicol David
11-3, 11-4, 11-6 (31m)
Madeline Perry
Nicol David
7-11, 12-10, 11-7, 11-8  (57m)
Laura Massaro
[8] Annie Au (Hkg)
w/o
Camille Serme (Fra)
[4] Madeline Perry (Irl)
 11/7, 11/9, 11/6 (35 mins)
[Q] Jaclyn Hawkes (Nzl)
Madeline Perry
11-8, 9-11, 14-12, 11-3 (41m)
Raneem El Weleily
[7] Raneem El Weleily (Egy)
11/13, 11/7, 11/4, 11/9 (36 mins)
Natalie Grinham (Ned)
[Q] Donna Urquhart (Aus)
10/12, 11/7, 11/6, 13/11 (62 mins)
[5] Kasey Brown (Aus)
Donna Urquhart
11-8, 4-11, 11-6, 11-2 (40m)
Laura Massaro
Laura Massaro
11-9, 11-5, 11-6 (28m)
Amanda Sobhy
Low Wee Wern (Mas)
11/4, 11/6, 9/11, 11/5 (53 mins)
[3] Laura Massaro (Eng)
Amanda Sobhy (Usa)
11/3, 11/7, 11/2 (19 mins)
[6] Rachael Grinham (Aus)
Amanda Sobhy
6-11, 11-5, 11-3, 4-1 ret
 Jenny Duncalf
[Q] Sarah Kippax (Eng)
11/8, 12/10, 11/7 (52 mins)
[2] Jenny Duncalf (Eng)


Click Images For Larger View
 

Nicol Claims Revenge In Cleveland

Nicol David triumphs in Cleveland after a close-fought win over Laura Massaro to claim the WSA Gold $50k Cleveland Classic 2012.  

The world No1 lost out at the hand of Massaro last year, with Cleveland 2011 being one of just two WSA titles she was unable to win.  Revenge was exacted this year however, despite early signs that the Englishwoman was unwilling to relinquish her title. 

Massaro started strongly, establishing a deliberate rhythm and showing precise racquet work to reel off four winners on her way to a 6-0 lead. David was given the chance to counter, after some unforced errors from her opponent allowed her a way back into the game.  Neither player could keep errors from their game as they battled for the advantage. 

The English No2 took the first game 11-7, but not before David had upped the pace, the faster tempo more suiting the Malaysian’s game and was a sign of things to come. 

The second game was a highly close-fought affair, with neither player moving out of reach of the other.  The scores were level at 9-9 until a fortunate back-court nick gave Massaro game ball. 

The following point was the turning point to the match.  Massaro, keen to finish the game off, hit a string of likely winners all of which were scraped back by David until one such retrieval lodged itself in the back corner to force the tiebreak.  Almost a similar display of shot returns from Massaro followed, but she was just unable to find the quality of return to force the World Champion off guard and succumbed 12-10. 

David didn't find the tin once in the third, buoyed by her fight-back in the second game.  Her improved execution would be decisive in her taking the game 11-7, with Massaro seeming to have dropped of the pace. 

In the fourth she began forcing Massaro to the front of the court, an effective strategy against the English player’s tiring legs.  David raced to a 7-1 lead, heavily utilising the drops and drives fed from Massaro counter-drops. The Englishwoman still had some fight in her, coming back to within two points at 9-7, but a marginal stroke gave David match ball, and after knocking a backhand overhead into the tin, she hit an unreachable drive that gave the Malaysian the championship, and her 59thtitle. 

David and Massaro through to set up rematch of last year’s final

Nicol David will face Laura Massaro in the Cleveland Classic final, to try and win one of the few titles that eluded her in 2011. 

Yesterday, at the WSA Gold $50k event semi finals, home-hope Amanda Sobhy’s title challenge came to an end at the hand of Englishwoman Laura Massaro.  The first year Harvard student has impressed all week, but extra level of pace and accuracy demonstrated by the English No2 put paid to an otherwise valiant effort from the teenager. 

Massaro was near flawless with her width, putting in tight, clinical lengths to demonstrate her determination at defending the title she claimed last year. 

Soby’s counter-attacking efforts were sparse, such was the pressure she was under and often her point scoring opportunities were limited to the choice between hitting an outright winner or risk hitting a loose shot. 

A focussed display all round from Massaro who reaches her 18th WSA tour final. 

Next Malaysian world champion Nicol David took on Northern Ireland's Madeline Perry in what was billed as a far from foregone conclusion.  However, from the outset David looked every bit the world No1.  She was patient but ruthless in attach.  Establishing good length, she moved the experienced Perry from corner to corner, calmly waiting for the opportunity to go for the kill, which was regularly executed with expert precision.

Perry looked outmatched and out of sorts, dropping the first game without much contention.  In the second David was more content to extend the rallies but remained flawless, soaring to a 9-1 lead.  Perhaps sensing she had nothing to lose, Perry ramped up the attack with three winners in quick succession, but David then made quick work of two loose balls to close out the game 11-4.

In the third Perry maintained the aggressive play.  Though the game would go decisively to David, 11-6, viewers were treated to long, fast-paced points, with Perry executing well but David covering the court even better, time and again catching up to apparent winners and returning them with interest.

The final will doubtlessly be a hotly contested affair, with one player looking to retain the title and the other looking revenge for last year’s failure.  If Massaro can retain her Cleveland title then it will be her tenth WSA win, if David wins then she’ll be adding WSA title number 59 to the vast collection.

Local-hope Amanda Sobhy sets up clash with defending champion Massaro

Eighteen-year-old Amanda Sobhy booked her semi final place at the WSA Cleveland Classic 2012 after Jenny Duncalf was forced to retire in injured. 

Duncalf started strongly, initially appearing untroubled by the blow to her knee, sustained in a round one clash with the racket of Sarah Kippax.  The world No2 played accurate squash to take the first game, but seemed to slow down significantly in the second.  The Harvard student Sobhy, took full advantage of the deterioration of her opponent and levelled terms before extending a lead comfortably in the third.  During the fourth the Englishwoman was clearly someway short of full fitness, and the blow to her knee yesterday was evidently still an issue.  At 1-5 down, Duncalf called time after pulling up short on a drop, offering her hand to the teenager in concession of the match. 

Sobhy will progress to face the reigning Cleveland Classic champion, Laura Massaro, who ended the run of Australian qualifier Donna Urquhart. 

Massaro got the better of things early on, jumping out to a 7-0 lead, but a few errors crept into her play, and Urquhart was able to fight back to 8-10 before surrendering a stroke to hand the English No2 the first game.  

Urquhart carried the momentum into the second and blasted past Massaro with some impressive front-court deception.  It looked like the makings of a see-saw battle, but Massaro came out in the third playing more aggressively and got Urquhart on her heels, taking the game 11-6.  The fourth game was all Massaro, as her precise shot-making forced a series of tins out of the Australian. 

At the other end of the draw, world No1 Nicol David dispatched Annie Au of Hong Kong in straight games.  Sitting out round one due to her opponent’s injury, the extra rest did Au no favours against the top seed.   David will be even more determined to finish as champion of this event, following her final-day loss to Massaro in last year’s competition. 

That said, Au played a stronger match than the score would indicate, her deft flicks and drops always put David under pressure. But the Malaysian was able to extend the rallies until she could find a decisive advantage and finish the points off. 

David will play experienced Irishwoman Madeline Perry, after the No4 seed beat young Raneem El Weleily in a close four-game battle.  It was a contest of strikingly different temperaments.  Perry seemed cautious at the start, whereas El Weleily was almost nonchalant as volley drops rolled off her racquet.  They gave the crowd further displays of aggressive squash, trading points equally until the business-end of the first game, when a pair of tins and a loose shot from El Weleily gave Perry the advantage to take the game. 

The next two games were nail-biters.  In the second El Weleily jumped to a 9-3 lead but then lost focus; Perry fought back to 9-9, but the Egyptian got her head back in the game and finished the game off 11-9.  The third was a similar story, as El Weleily again extended an early lead, but was unable to see away the result.  At 12-11, she hit a potential game-winning drop into the tin and that was the beginning of the end.  Perry took the game 14-12 and then cruised to an 11-3 win in the fourth.

Urquhart and Sobhy claim Cleveland scalps

Donna Urquhart and Amanda Sobhy claimed the only two shock results in the first round of the WSA Cleveland Classic. 

Qualifier Urquhart took on No5 seed Kasey Brown in an all-Aussie affair, but went behind initially after a close 12-10 tiebreak first game.  From there some consistent retrieval, aided by a few errors from the higher ranked player, saw Urquhart establish and maintain a lead.  Brown fought back hard in the fourth game and led her opponent 9-2 with a fifth deciding game seeming inevitable.  But Urquhart retaliated with a number of winning shots to reinstate her attacking threat, and save three match balls forcing a tiebreak.  At 12-11 up, Urquhart finished off the match to progress to the quarter finals, also claiming her first victory over her national compatriot. 

Urquhart will face reigning Cleveland Classic champion Laura Massaro in the next round, after the Englishwoman beat Malaysian Low Wee Wern.  Massaro took a well-deserved lead early on thanks to some strong lengths and canny shot selection.  Wee Wern, still only 21-years-old, fought well and managed to claim the third game, before Massaro’s experience saw off the contest after 53-minutes. 

The last remaining US hopeful Amanda Sobhy played well in front of home-crowds as she dispatched the experienced Rachael Grinham in straight-games.  Grinham’s error count was unusually high, frequently hitting the tin early on to allow Sobhy the opportunity to establish and hold a lead from the start.  From there the Harvard student found a consistent length to trouble her opponent and her intelligent use of drop shots eased her unfancied progression to the next round to play Jenny Duncalf. 

No2 seed Duncalf beat English compatriot Sarah Kippax after a well-contested effort from the qualifier.  After registering a controlled first-game victory, Duncalf was troubled by a more settled game-plan by Kippax, but at the midway stage of the second game, play was halted after the higher ranked played sustained a nasty blow to the knee from a Kippax racket-swing.  An injury break of nearly 20-minutes was held whilst Duncalf recovered, but Kippax was clearly embarrassed by the incident and seemed unable to regain the focus she had found early on.  The 3-0 result that followed was a hollow victory for the world number two.

There was nearly a surprise result at the top of the drawer, as Nicol David was forced to five-games against New Zealand qualifier Joelle King.  Last week’s Greenwich Open finalist went two games down against the world No1 and David’s progression seemed inevitable as she took a 6-1 lead in the third game. 

King tried a last-ditch change of tactic however, and launched upon an impressive attacking tirade to come from behind and claw back a game in her favour.  More of the same followed in the fourth game as King drew level, standing firm as David looked to extend the rallies and look for signs of weakness in her opponent’s game.  

At 6-5 up, King looked on the verge of a momentous upset but the world No1, using all her experience from years at the top of the sport, further tightened her width and won six points in a row to sneak ahead of the 23-year-old and progress to the quarters.

David will play Annie Au of Hong Kong in the next round, who should be well rested following the withdrawal of her first round opponent Camille Serme, following a last minute back injury.

No4 seed Madeline Perry looked to get over her disappointing Greenwich Open exit last week, with a strong 3-0 win over qualifier Jaclyn Hawkes.  Hawkes, perhaps fatigued after an close 80-minute scrap with Emma Beddoes in qualifying finals the day before, was never able to establish herself against the experienced Irishwoman. 

Perry’s progression sets up an intriguing quarter final clash with young Egyptian Raneem El Weleily, winner of last week’s Greenwich Open.  The world No7 from Alexandria faced a stern test against former world No2 Natalie Grinham, who herself saw victory last week, winning the WSA Tournament of Champions title in New York. 

Both players tend to favour the attacking drop shots and there was nothing separating the pair at 11-11 in the first game.  Grinham showed little concern for the score line as she slotted in a crosscourt nick from well behind the service box, taking her to a game ball that she was able to convert.  El Weleily struck back, extending a 7-point lead in the second game before a lapse in concentration saw Grinham back in the hunt at 8-7.  Refocused, the Egyptian got her head down and saw off the game to draw level at 1-1.

In the third, El Weleily was able to string together a whole game of dominance, with Grinham unable to respond.  But again some youthful erraticism crept into her play in the fourth and allowed Grinham a glimmer of hope at 8-4.  The Egyptian flicked the switch back on though, and with some racket wizardry, worked seven out of the next eight points in her favour, to progress through to the next round.