Rachael Grinham (Aus) bt  Vanessa Atkinson (Ned) 9/2, 9/7, 9/3 (43m)
 Cassie Jackman (Eng) bt  Natalie Grinham (Aus) 9/0, 9/5, 10/8 (38m)
TOP TWO SET UP
Photos & Reports
The WISPA year has been characterised by semi finals and finals played
between different combinations of the four players making up the last
four of the Bahrain WISPA Classic.
This time the Al A' Ali Mall in the Kingdom's capital city of Manama
would see the Grinham sisters in separate halves. First Natalie would
have Rachael in her corner; later the roles would be reversed.
The younger Grinham [Natalie] was pitted against Cassie
Jackman, whom she had beaten in the Dutch Open final in May, though
Jackman had held the edge until that point. Here, Jackman was so quick
out of the blocks it must have been a false start! Helped by a few
nervous tins by her opponent, Jackman rained winners and took the first
nine points without reply in only six minutes.
Indeed, although the rallies in the second were more prolonged Jackman
had scored a further five points before Grinham chalked up her first.
The Perspex court suits the game of the world number one until August
and while Grinham was flailing around to get racket on ball, she was
beginning to settle into a bit of a rhythm. As so often happens the
trickle becomes a flow and three quick points followed the first for her
before normal winning service was resumed from the Jackman racket.
Two games up but soon 5/0 down as elfin Grinham managed to take up
residence in front of Jackman on a more regular basis. While Jackman
began to slam home a few winners, the Australian was managing a few
ripostes. These took her to game ball but a superb reaching backhand
volley levelled up affairs for the second seed, a compelling drop set up
match ball and when in the next rally Grinham had to hit a second
consecutive back wall boast the coup de grace of a drop was delivered.
This win was surprisingly comprehensive given that Jackman had been
sidelined for two months with an Achilles injury and had only returned
to active play two weeks ago.
"As a result of my injury problems I came here not knowing what to
expect but I am playing pretty well. A 3/0 win over Natalie is very
pleasing since we have had some real battles", said Jackman.
Grinham, meanwhile, was simply confused. "It went so fast I really don't
know what happened in the entire match", she mused.
If the nature of Jackman's win was surprising, the comprehensive nature
of Rachael Grinham's was more so.
Vanessa Atkinson had come to Bahrain on the back of a hat-trick
of titles, one of which in Brunei had seen her beat Grinham 10/8 in the
deciding game of a tumultuous final.
Here, though, she was less vibrant. She was not helped by the world
number one playing with fewer obvious patterns and not allowing the
Dutchwoman to get comfortable, thus inducing more mistakes and so
avoiding being put under too much pressure herself.
It seemed possible that an ebb and flow might be created for the match
when Atkinson went 7/3 up in the second, but Grinham clambered out of
the hole and ceased to be troubled again.
Assessing her lacklustre performance Atkinson suggested "I didn't feel
that sharp and I didn't get forward enough. Mind you, Rachael wasn't
missing anything, and as for her cross court volley drop………!". Enough
But it has been a great few months for her, and the fact that she is
disappointed to get beaten by the world number one speaks volumes for
her upward trajectory.
Indeed, an Atkinson silver lining is in place - "Part of me is a little
relieved to have finally lost as I can now get myself motivated
positively to get back".
THE FINAL ...
As for Jackman, a win over the top seed in the final will not get her
back the top slot in the WISPA rankings but Grinham will certainly feel
her warm breath on her shoulder. The fact that neither comes to the
final day having had to endure a horribly sapping semi bodes well for
another of their top drawer clashes.
Rachael Grinham (Aus) bt  Omneya Abdel Kawy (Egy) 9/4, 9/4, 10/8 (28m)
 Vanessa Atkinson (Ned) bt Tania Bailey (Eng) 9/3, 9/1, 10/8 (33m)
 Natalie Grinham (Aus) bt  Rebecca Macree (Eng) 9/2, 3/9, 9/5, 10/8 (58m)
 Cassie Jackman (Eng) bt  Nicol David (Mas) 9/7, 9/5, 9/1 (34m)
Top Four Prosper In Bahrain
Photos & Reports
The Bahrain WISPA Classic giant killing run of England's Tania Bailey
was ended in the last eight when she fell to Vanessa Atkinson,
the third seed.
Atkinson, winner of her last three events, is in a rich vein of form and
cantered to a two game lead leaving Bailey chasing shadows, but the
former British Open finalist visibly settled to the pace and edged into
a 6/3 lead in the third before being pegged back and eventually losing
However, the loser was anything but downhearted. "These last two matches
are the first time that I have played well and felt really well in two
years" she said, referring to the series of illnesses and injuries that
have plagued her during the period. "It's there and I'm really looking
forward to more tournaments and to try to fight my way back into the top
ten" she continued.
Atkinson will now meet Rachael Grinham in the semis – and if it
comes anywhere close to their memorable last encounter in the final of
the Brunei International in July then the watching enthusiasts at the Al
A' Ali Mall in Manama will be in for a treat tomorrow.
Grinham reached the last four with a 3/0 victory over Omneya Abdel
Kawy, the current World Junior Champion. The Egyptian provided a
genuine test for Grinham, playing with patience and placement, only
falling behind when she suffered lapses of concentration and rushing too
soon to play a winner. This was particularly evident when the scores
were tied at eight all in the third where two tinned attempted drops
handed the Australian the game.
Both players have similarly wristy and deceptive games, and with Grinham
being based in Cairo it may be that their knowledge of each other's game
is unsettling. Not so says Abdel Kawy. "We don't actually play very much
so we deceive each other a lot".
The bottom half of the draw saw Cassie Jackman, recently ousted
from top spot in the WISPA rankings pitted against Malaysian Nicol
David. In a repeat of their World Open semi final last December
Jackman again prevailed without dropping a game. Rallies were extended,
David fighting against the heavy bombardment that is such a feature of
the former world champion's game, but fell away in the third. Referring
to the last game David commented, "She put me under more pressure,
caught me off guard and killed me off".
After enjoying a morning visit to the new Formula 1 motor racing circuit
on the island, where the players were given a behind the scenes tour of
the magnificent facilities which cost a mere five hundred million
dollars to build, Natalie Grinham ensured that the top four seeds
made the semis….. but only after an extended struggle with Rebecca
Macree. The match had a lot of fine squash but was punctuated with
Macree creating occasional traffic problems, some requests for lets that
were not likely to be there and a few times adopting an overly physical
approach to reaching the ball. Along with this she is a great striker of
the ball and first and foremost a genuine competitor. Even after a
gruelling win against Shelley Kitchen the previous evening Macree was
fighting all the way. Let down by the occasional tinned drop and being
pinned back by some high quality Grinham lobbing, Macree was within a
whisker of taking the match into the fifth game, a territory where she
is very strong.
We now wait to see whether none, one or both of the Toowomba twosome
make the final, whether Atkinson, the winning machine can keep on track
and if Jackman can take a step towards retaking the number one spot.
Two great Bahrain semis are in prospect.
13-Sep, Last 16:
Elriani's Bahrain nightmare ...
Photos & Reports
for no good reason a player has a nightmare match…. It happened to
Linda Elriani tonight. The fifth seed in the Bahrain WISPA Classic
looked at sixes and sevens and never looked likely to get that many
points against unseeded Tania Bailey.
After the match she confirmed that she wasn't ill nor was there any
reason that she could proffer for what happened. "No excuses, no reason.
I can't remember the last time I played so badly. It was strange, I just
wasn't moving and I didn't know what the hell I was doing", Elriani
She gave credit to Bailey however; and certainly the quality of her play
accentuated Elriani's discomfort. Bailey was steady and accurate and is
getting back towards her single figure WISPA ranking that preceded a
prolonged bout of illness and injury.
Bailey meets Vanessa Atkinson in the quarters, the third seed
beating her Dutch team mate Annelize Naude as comfortably as she
had done in the final of the Mexican Open last weekend. That was her
third WISPA Tour win in a row and her confidence is clearly high.
GRINHAM ON CRUISE CONTROL
Top seed Rachael Grinham was also on cruise control as she moved
into the last eight. Paired with Rebecca Chui, another scurrier,
play covered the whole court, but the Australian was dominating the
rallies. Astute squash coupled with a timely lob when under pressure and
she was through in 38 minutes.
Grinham will now face Omneya Abdel Kawy in what is essentially a
Cairo Closed final. The Egyptian caused opponent Pamela Nimmo all
sorts of problems with her wristy play. "I knew if I could get her
behind me I would do better but she was too good tonight", said the Scot
who was nevertheless happy with clearing the first round hurdle.
In her first match back after an Achilles injury Cassie Jackman
had eased herself in the previous night, but Jenny Duncalf bore
the brunt of Jackman firing on all cylinders as she reached the
quarters. Her sheer weight of shot was irresistible.
STOEHR STRETCHES DAVID
Her next opponent was open to doubt for a while as Isabelle Stoehr
took the first game from seventh seed Nicol David. The Malaysian
picked up her game though and eventually came through, but not without
difficulty. Stoehr recently left France to base herself at the Village
Cheadle in Manchester as it fulfilled three criteria for her. It would
be good for her squash to move away from the comfort zone of her home,
to improve her English (which is already fluent!), and, as she put it
"turn a page in my life".
Stoehr knew she would need to apply pressure, volley regularly and not
drop too early against the fleet David, and although she ran out of
steam her game is clearly benefiting from the new regime.
MACREE MAKES IT LAST
After Natalie Grinham had done a very workmanlike job of stopping
the progress of Vicky Botwright in three games, the last match of
the evening produced a nail biting finish. The hard hitting pairing of
Rebecca Macree and Shelley Kitchen started with Macree
looking at ease and in control. The first two games took only 19 minutes
as the Englishwoman went two games up.
But as the match progressed Kitchen seemed to grow in strength and
confidence, Macree was breathing more heavily and losing her sharpness.
Once the two game lead Macree had gained was equalled Kitchen kept going
at a rate of knots while Macree was chasing too many lost causes. The
Kiwi point count in the fifth reached five without reply as blows were
traded but any look at the records would show that Macree loses few
matches when she goes to five. Here she started to look less spent and
slowly crept back, winning the rallies not ending with traffic lets. Now
Kitchen was finding it hard to get her drives tight and deep enough to
limit response and after ninety nine minutes she faced a match ball that
she would lose to a deft attacking boast.
Asked about the turning point in the fifth Macree said, "I had to keep
going, let her make the mistakes. She made a few and that was handy for
me". Whether Natalie Grinham will be similarly accommodating tomorrow is
open to doubt.
12-Sep, Round One, bottom half:
Restored In Bahrain ...
Photos & Reports
After the first night when four of the
eight first round matches in the Bahrain WISPA Classic saw seeds
scattered to the winds, the pecking order was restored when the bottom
half of the draw was played out in the island of Bahrain's capital city
Word had spread and it was clear that the newspaper and TV coverage was
bringing out some local players who joined the intrigued onlookers but
also applauded as they recognised quality rallies as they occurred.
ON A ROLL
English players featured in five of the eight jousts and four prevailed.
Eighth seed Rebecca Macree started the English roll with a hard
fought victory over countrywoman Alison Waters. It started well
for the younger player as tight, sensible squash took her into a one
game lead, but inexorably experience began to tell as Macree became more
forceful in rallies and held sway at the front.
This match followed New Zealander Shelley Kitchen beating another
English player, Dominique Lloyd-Walter. The Kiwi has been firing
well recently and after a relatively slow start romped home comfortably
to book a last sixteen tie with Macree.
Third match in a conveyor belt of top squash placed before the shoppers
of Manama saw Vicky Botwright stemming the challenge from
athletic but pressured Carla Khan. There were times during the
third game when a comeback seemed to be more than a glimmer, but petered
GRINHAM WAKES UP SLEEPING CITY
Manana may be literally translated as sleeping city but it certainly is
not sleepy. Amidst the mall buzz it seemed unlikely that Natalie
Grinham would falter, but she was given a strong test by Laura
Lengthorn who played better than the symmetrical score of 4,4,4
suggested. Lengthorn found the same difficulty as everybody else at
countering the high and low flow of the Australian. This, coupled with
her electrifying pace round the court, is potent indeed, but Lengthorn
hung in and forced Grinham to keep at the task for thirty eight minutes.
In the bottom quarter fourteenth seed Isabelle Stoehr took the
first two games from Egyptian challenger Eman El Amir with an all
out attacking assault. Volleying at every opportunity she ensured that
El Amir only saw the front wall from afar. But then in the third as
Stoehr explained, "Eman played tighter, I stopped volleying and that
cost me the game as I was too far back". Stoehr, currently based in
Manchester, was also 8/5 down in the fourth before turning things
around. "I really wanted to win that game very much as in the fifth game
you never know what will happen". In this instance she wasn't dragged
back on court to find out.
Her last 16 opponent will be seventh seed Nicol David who
comfortably saw off Australian Heidi Mather.
The evening had passed into night and ended with two English wins
against Australian opposition. Talented and fleet Jenny Duncalf
took her next round place with a three love win over Dianne Desira
despite playing the whole match feeling that she was not hitting the
ball particularly well - only to find that the cause was the hairline
fracture she thought was a feature of the other racket she had brought
across to the venue.
CASSIE'S LATE SHOW
Last up was Cassie Jackman, now demoted to world number two by
Rachael Grinham, and clearly wanting her top slot back. After a powerful
start she found herself taken short more often in the second by
Australian Melissa Martin, with Mrs Brett Martin finding success
with this ploy. However top gear was engaged again in the last two games
by Jackman, each lasting six minutes as she didn't drop another point.
As she said, "I am not used to playing quite so late but I am through
and that's all that matters".
Things wrapped up at 11.30pm, with the prospect of a long and
competitive series of eight matches in the round of sixteen once the sun
begins to go down on the Al A' Ali Mall at 5pm tomorrow.
11-Sep, Round One:
Witness WISPA Upsets
Photos & Reports
As strollers laden with shopping peered over the balconies surrounding
the mobile court rigged in the Al A' Ali Mall in Bahrain it was
clear on the first day that the Bahrain WISPA Classic was
fulfilling its aim of showing the sport to the local community.
All matches will be played on the Kuwaiti owned Perspex court mounted on
a platform at the convergence of several aisles in the mall.
locals probably had not heard of the sport and certainly not seen it;
but when the Bahraini Sports and Youth Minister Sheik Fawaz bin
Mohammed Al Khalifa formally opened the championship he made it
clear that the organisers had his total support to develop the
After proceedings got under way with top seed Rachael Grinham
scoring a comfortable win over fellow Australian Amelia Pittock,
the WISPA Tour showed how the depth of talent has spread in recent years,
with a number of upsets.
First, after a sluggish start, Hong Kong's Rebecca Chiu edged out
fifteenth seed Madeline Perry in a 69 minute five game battle. "I
didn't concentrate properly in the first game but after I came back
after being behind 6/1 in the second I felt more comfortable and
focussed" said Chiu. She can rest tomorrow when the bottom half of the
first round is played before facing
the world number one.
The third match of the evening fare placed in front of the milling
mystified throng was another five game upset. Sixth seed Fiona Geaves
squandered a match ball at 8/6 in the fourth before being pegged back to
eight all by Pamela Nimmo, calling one and contriving to hit a
ball down the middle of the court to give away a stroke. Shoulders
drooped she left the court and was never able to raise her game in the
A jubilant Nimmo commented, "I couldn't believe she called one at match
ball. When I got the game I reminded myself that I was playing the world
number six and I had nothing to lose."
Geaves, meanwhile summed up her call saying "sometimes it works,
sometimes it doesn't".
It was then that seeding business returned to normal with Omneya
Abdel Kawy and Vanessa Atkinson reaching the last sixteen
with routine wins against Tamsyn Leevey and Engy Kheirallah.
But soon the form book was out of kilter again. Jenny Tranfield,
seeded ten and always a solid performer, found Annelize Naude too
hot to handle. It could have been the altitude training the Dutch team
player had accumulated reaching the final at the
Sports World Mexican
Open a few days earlier on high in Mexico City … or just her generally
improved form and results as of late. Whatever the cause, she seemed to
settle first to the pace of the court and maintained an edge to reach
the next round.
Linda Elriani serenely booked her last sixteen slot with a 3/0
win over Sharon Wee before the final all English encounter took
to the court over an hour after the centre had officially closed.
It brought another seed tumbling out, but not an upset. Sixteenth placed
Stephanie Brind was always likely to be vulnerable to a now fit
and healthy Tania Bailey, a past top tenner. Bailey cruised
towards a straightforward win and stood at eight three up in the third
before faltering. Brind was clawing her way back, saving two match balls
on the way to levelling at eight all, and reaching game ball only to tin
a long drop and finally lose when a relieved Bailey slotted home a rasping
Murphy's Law of scheduling, which states that the last match of a late
evening always goes to five, had been bucked!
Tomorrow sees the lower half of the draw entertaining the hundreds of
passers by to join those already in the last sixteen.
Bahrain gears up
for WISPA Classic
The next WISPA Gold event sees Women's squash continue to expand its
frontiers, with a new $47k event featuring a 32-draw in Bahrain, which
gets underway on Saturday at the Al A'ali Complex in Al Seef District.
A specially designed glass-back court has been erected at the Al A'ali
Complex for the first international squash event to be held on the
"Most of the players including world number one Rachael Grinham
have arrived and another set of players are set to arrive today," said
tournament director Fadi Qassim as he waited at the airport for
another group of participants.
The Asian campaign will be led by seven players, headed by Malaysian
seventh seed Nicol David and ninth seeded Omneya Abdel Kawy
Second seed Cassie Jackman will view the event as an opportunity
to reclaim the number one position she lost after missing the
Brunei International through injury,
while third seed Vanessa Atkinson, champion in Brunei, will be
aiming for her fourth successive title.
Top seeded Grinham takes on compatriot Amelia Pittock in the opening
match of the championship at 5pm on Saturday, with seven more matches
taking place on the first evening. Daytime temperatures at this time of
year in Bahrain average 36 degrees centigrade, with high humidity.