It was always going to be hard for David Palmer to perform the day after his
loss in the five game final at the Liverpool08 event. And so it proved. He
was well in with a shout against Nick Matthew but the compounding pressures
of a lack of sharpness at the end of each game, frustration with himself and
the referee, combined perhaps with a little despondence following his
Liverpool experience engineered his downfall.
Palmer took the first game authoritatively but then went down 7-11, 11-8,
“David played so many matches in Liverpool that he was striking the ball
well and I had to grind him down,” said Matthew. “It was a bit strange at
the start and I was thinking more about his condition than getting my length
and width. Paul Carter helped me with that after the first game.”
“I can relax now. I wasn’t relaxed because I was aware it was a good
This was a hard physical confrontation with Palmer striking the ball
furiously. He had the edge with volley kills, kills from deep and beautiful
deception especially when Matthew was on the wrong end of a rally. A game
apiece and 7-all Palmer’s outstretched volley was passed by a beautifully
weighted crosscourt from his opponent that died as he chased it frantically
around the back court. Palmer categorised the experience as similar to
interaction with a very loose women, a comment that passed referee Foster
by, and he sacrificed the game in a hand.
Matthew had the advantage but Palmer and was still in it with a lead 5-3 in
the fourth but was becoming increasingly tetchy lost the rally on tinned
forehand volley drop and rebounded his racket of both side walls. That did
not pass the referee by and a conduct point against him compounded his
misery as Matthew went through to take the game 11-6.
“I found the court hard and it was not easy to get my touch. I struggled
with the pace of the court. The referee was up and down. He was trying to
make it a physical match by awarding no lets when it was not necessary,”
Palmer, the top seed, must now conjure two wins from his remaining too pool
matches. For Matthew the pressure is off a little.
In the second match on James Willstrop’s put in a determined shotmaking
performance to overwhelm the Commonwealth Games gold medallist Peter Nicol
11-8, 11-4, 7-11, 11-5 in just 46 minutes. Nicol put up determined
resistance in the third establishing a 5-1 lead and went on to take the game
11-7 but fell behind 6-2 in the fourth and was not able to close the gap.
Shabana has had a poor record at the Super Series Finals. That is something
he is resolved to rectify here.
“I was injured last year. I think I have won just two matches out of seven
here but hopefully that will change this year,” said Shabana.
Shabana started at a frantic pace. He was serious now. The clown that had
often some to the fore was under control. He was able to blend length and
extravagant width with deadly attack all at high pace. This was a high
intensity match. Shabana’s fast hands barely let the ball rise off the floor
as he stunned kills from deep, plucking volleys of the wall and high out of
the air all with minimal margins.
Lincou got into his game and chased. He hung onto every ball never having
time but somehow got there to just get it back, lobbing, floating it down
the wall whenever he could to try and grab a few tenths of a second of
precise time and each time Shabana was waiting there ready to smash it away
and send Lincou chasing again.
A few errors crept into Shabana’s play. Lincou got back into the rallies and
attacked superbly when the slightest chance arose, attacked without margins
and got back into the match.
“I was 2-0 up last year and lost. He was two down in Liverpool but came
back. I though he was going to do it again in the fifth.”
Lincou was under incredible pressure but he absorbed it. Shabana had him all
over the court but he kept coming back, lead 4-3 in the fifth, but was
forced to go for low margins and the crucial mistakes came and tipped the
balance Shabana’s way.
“I love the game. As long as I can run I try,” said Lincou.
It was a valiant effort after his 83 final battle in Liverpool but it was
not quite enough.
“I will get better each day,” said Shabana. He is serious. This was a very
serious opening. It had a pace and intensity beyond the other matches. There
is however a long way to go.