Rachael Grinham (Aus) bt  Natalie Grinham (Aus) 9/1, 10/9, 9/1 (44m)
 Vanessa Atkinson (Ned) bt  Linda Elriani (Eng) 6/9, 9/6, 9/4, 9/4 (57m)
Report from WISPA
Rachael Grinham's victory over her sister Natalie not only gave her a
place in the Brunei International final, it also guaranteed her the
world number one position for the first time ...
The Brunei International action shifted to the Hassanal Bolkiah
National Stadium Complex for the semi finals. In addition to the six
glass back courts ranged in a line, the main feature where the event
main feature would be played out was the three sided glass court with
500 surrounding seats nearly filled for the occasion.
Would Brunei be the place where Rachael Grinham would take over
at the apex of the WISPA world rankings? Could her younger sister halt
this aspiration by fighting her way to the final. The only thing that
was abundantly clear was that they were not going to fall out over it.
Having practiced together deciding that they wouldn't change their
normal routine, they were still chatting on the way to and at the
Stadium. Perhaps a little more tense than normally, but generally it was
business as usual.
On a warm court with a lively ball two of best all court players were
likely to produce a feast of long rallies. They did, and the crowd
gorged itself. Regularly they would applaud rallies that had not ended,
thinking that there would be no way that some shots could not be
winners, but back the ball came.
Grinham senior started the stronger, finding more winning options in the
first while Natalie settled; but settle she did and the second was a
different matter. Natalie purposefully slotted home some deft drops to
go to 6/2 up but in compelling rallies characterised by their intimate
knowledge of each other's game Rachael began to reel in her sister. Soon
she was ahead and standing at 8/6 game ball. Now Natalie crept back.
Once with a lucky dead sidewall nick, but to even things up at eight all
with a wickedly clinging drive. One long rally later and she was poised
with her own game ball but undone when an outrageous reverse angle that
had winner marked all over it ran along the top of the tin.
Rachel then again repeatedly showed her sister all the outer reaches of
the court until an opening appeared. With a dying backhand drop the 22
minute game was hers. Eleven minutes later of hard but ultimately
fruitless Natalie graft the third was Rachael's too, and with it the
match and the world number one spot.
In a match that was closer than the scoreline suggested, if rallies are
deals then Rachael is a slightly better closer. That was the difference.
"Am I definitely number one now, can I tell my friends for sure?"
Rachael asked after an on-court embrace with her sister. Then she
tellingly added, "It's great to have the number one but the difficult
part will be keeping it. This year the top seeds haven't been winning so
I need to focus on tomorrow".
As for Natalie, she was relieved to have completed the match at all
having been carrying a shoulder injury. "I strained my rotator cuff
three days before the start and wasn't sure I would make the first round
but it stood up okay. I was struggling to get power on the forehand but
luckily my opponents haven't noticed and played on it!"
The following semi between second seed Vanessa Atkinson and
Linda Elriani merely had a place in the final at stake! Both matches
featured great variety and retrieving but were very contrasting in
respect of the power and indeed stature of the players.
In the first Elriani bore out the comments of her quarter final opponent
Jenny Tranfield who had been impressed how well she was playing. There
were errors, winners and screams of anguish, but the fourth seed had the
edge over the Malaysian Open champion; and having traded punches to six
all, capitalised on a tinned drive from Atkinson and a squirting front
nick ball that came straight back to the Dutch number one.
The Atkinson error rate in the second was lowered and a more
conservative approach added. While she levelled the match both players
took time out to also offer the referee occasional tutorials, very often
punctuated with humour and grins.
As the match moved on, there were signs that the even higher level of
fitness that Atkinson developed this year was paying off. Elriani could
only lunge at a few balls that were taken so early and powerfully that
extending a racket would only be after the fact.
From the middle of the third it became clear that only a lapse in
concentration would prevent the victor over the erstwhile number one
Cassie Jackman in the Qatar Airways Challenge being given the
opportunity to contest another final. A concealed cross court drive
sealed Elriani's fate at match ball after three minutes short of an
All smiles, Atkinson said that all the work was paying off, but then
added, "I've got to be prepared to do a lot of running tomorrow against
Rachael. She'll have me all over the place!" But the quality of her
retrieving along with the rest of her game should mean that a long
tussle with an uncertain outcome is in prospect.
The new world number one will not be able to celebrate her elevation
in Brunei Semi Showdown ...
Report from WISPA
The opposition has been brushed aside; the semi showdown is now in
place. If Rachael Grinham beats her sister Natalie she will take
over the world number one slot from Cassie Jackman.
Third seed Natalie Grinham fulfilled her part of the deal with a
straightforward victory over Jenny Tranfield. The Englishwoman, coming
back after an Achilles problem, couldn't cope with the front of court
play of the Dutch based Australian and went down in 21 minutes winning
only three points. As Tranfield put it "I was a yard off the pace and
she's on fire. I needed to be at my best to play the best but I need
some more hard work on my way back".
And then it was a case of anything you can do
. As Rachael permitted
seventh seed Rebecca Macree one point less in a match where Macree
simply was given no chance to get going.
As for the semi final, Natalie suggested that it will be her sister who
is doing the worrying. "I'm not putting pressure on myself, I'm letting
Rachael have it all. She knows what she has to do but I need to win to
get my ranking up there", she said. "I'm in the way now but I know she
will take over soon".
Asked about how the unusual situation would affect their preparations
she added " We are rooming together and we'll probably still practice
together tomorrow. Mind you, I might start snoring tonight!"
The other half of the top drawer draw for the Brunei International
Championship meant that the final of last week's Malaysian Open would be
thrown up in the quarters this time.
Then, Vanessa Atkinson comprehensively beat Nicol David in front
of her home crowd, and the question that would be answered was whether
she could mount a stronger challenge without the weight of family,
friends and national media tugging at her. As it happens she did, but
Atkinson was still able to exert control, place the ball effectively and
wait for the opportunity to slot home a winner or force the error that
would end the rallies.
Meanwhile, Linda Elriani fetched up as her opponent when she also
managed a speedy win over fellow Englishwoman Fiona Geaves who was
clearly feeling the effects of her close encounter of the fifth game
kind with Vicky Botwright. In fact Geaves provided the whole story of
the 31 minute match in a couple of sentences afterwards. "I think that's
the best Linda has played for a long time. Even if I'd been fully fresh
it still would have been difficult for me as she was very positive and
moving really well. She picked up so much stuff and the longer the
rallies went on the more I felt fatigued from yesterday" she summarised.
Elriani playing Atkinson will be one semi, but the family affair in the
other is where the main focus will be. Bring it on.
28-Jul, Round One:
Linda's Lizard Fright
as all seeds progress ...
Report from WISPA
When a large lizard the size of a juvenile crocodile fell out of a
nearby tree and scuttled along the Jerudong Park Country Club patio the
scream from fourth seed Linda Elriani could probably be heard
back in UK! It shot down the stairs to the courts before being cornered
by club staff and captured in a large dustbin before eventually being
released in the grounds.
Player pulses slowly returned to normal and thoughts turned back to
The first Brunei International Championship is being held for the most
part at Jerudong Park, a sumptuous country club close to the Borneo
island capital of Bandar Seri Begawan. Amongst other superb facilities
it features two side by side all glass courts that are to be used before
play transfers to the National Stadium for the semis onwards to take
advantage of the greater seating.
The opening round of the main draw featured four matches on each of the
Pencil thin Annelize Naude got little change from eighth seed Jenny
Tranfield, but was delighted to have made the main draw at the
expense of Pamela Nimmo in the final qualification round; but Kiwi
Shelley Kitchen was mounting a real challenge to in-form Vanessa
Atkinson next door. Adorned in the national colour of mourning she
set about disrupting the Malaysian Open champion. However Atkinson seems
to be in fine retrieving fettle and eventually Kitchen was harried out
of any prospect of victory.
Next up were Nicol David & Rebecca Chiu, arguably top two in
Asia, though Sharon Wee would have something to say about this having
beaten Chiu in the Asian Championships last month. The fighter from Hong
Kong fared no better against David as she had done when they met earlier
in the year, squandering a game point in the first and never quite
recovering from that setback.
Meanwhile, third seed Natalie Grinham found the going tough
against fast improving Jenny Duncalf, now up to ten in the world.
Duncalf took the first and would have continued to cast a spell over the
diminutive Australian if she hadn't been aware enough to stop feeding
Duncalf at the front. From that point with Grinham playing a more
conservative game she was able to wait for the storm to slowly abate.
"I love to play short but she is very good at the front. I played the
wrong game at the beginning" the winner explained. Moving on to the
event in general, she purred about Jerudong Park, "this is a perfect
setting for a major event with two courts with an identical feel. And I
love their feel, too!"
When Omneya Abdel Kawy was cruising ahead in the first game of her match
against Linda Elriani it seemed that an upset was on the cards,
but from 8/3 up in the first she contrived to lose her pattern, the game
and then the match. It didn't need Elriani to do more than be there and
compete. When asked what went wrong when she was up in the first the
Egyptian world junior champion used no words, simply tapped the side of
Like steady Elriani, Rebecca Macree tends to make her seeding and
she did so again by beating Tania Bailey in a typically tumultuous
performance that saw Bailey creeping back in the fourth having already
taken one game when Macree went walkabout in the third. However, Macree
regrouped and used a series of compellingly thrusting driven shots to
The late shift saw top seed Rachael Grinham do what top seeds are
supposed to in opening rounds - clinically wrapping up her match against
Madeline Perry, but next door the al English battle between somewhat
experienced Fiona Geaves weaving her front wall patterns against
robust resistance from Vicky Botwright. One way then the other the
balance of power tilted. The full house from two courts crammed around
the one to see where it would end. It was a backhand drop fest, but with
Geaves just a little more in control and Botwright scuttling to stay
abreast. Both had chances in the fifth but on her third match ball
Geaves slotted an exquisite forehand volley drop to conclude matters.
And they say that quarters tend to be the best night.
Nobody told them in round one!
Bailey Battles Into
England's Tania Bailey, the former world No4 who has been beset by a
series of injuries over the past three years, battled for 77 minutes to
earn a place in the first round of the inaugural Women's Brunei Squash
International which gets underway in the Brunei capital Bandar Seri
Bailey, the 24-year-old world No19 from Stamford in Lincolnshire, twice
had to fight back from behind before overcoming rising New Zealand star
Tamsyn Leevey 6-9 9-6 7-9 9-4 9-5 in today's qualifying finals. Leevey,
the 26-year-old world No28 from Wellington, has already notched up five
Tour titles since joining WISPA just a year ago.
Bailey will face compatriot Rebecca Macree, the seventh seed, in the
Australia's world No2 Rachael Grinham, now the event favourite after the
last-minute withdrawal of England's Cassie Jackman following an Achilles
injury, will meet Madeline Perry, the Irish No1 who qualified after
beating US National champion Latasha Khan 9-6 9-6 9-6.
Asian interest in the new $43,500 WISPA Gold event which will televised
internationally as part of the Qatar Airways WISPA Grand Prix TV
international programming will focus on the first round pairing of
Rebecca Chiu and Nicol David. Hong Kong No1 Chiu qualified after beating
Wales's Tegwen Malik 9-2 9-1 9-3 - and will face the sixth seed just a
month after losing to her in the semi-finals of the Asian Championships
in her home country of Malaysia.
The players all dressed in Jerudong Park Polo Club polo
to be introduced to the guests at the formal opening.
Rachael eyes number
one spot in Brunei ...
Cassie Jackman could lose her world No1 squash ranking as a
result of an Achilles injury which has forced the English No1 to
withdraw from this week's Brunei International.
The world's top women have been attracted to the first major
international event to be staged in Brunei's capital city of Bandar Seri
Begawan, beginning on Wednesday.
Australia's world No2 Rachael Grinham takes over as top seed in
the new $43k WISPA Gold event which will be hosted by the Brunei Squash
Rackets Association and televised internationally as part of the Qatar
Airways WISPA Grand Prix TV international programming.
If Grinham reaches the final, the 27-year-old from Toowoomba in
Queensland will overtake Jackman, whom she has beaten in two WISPA
finals already this year, to become world No1 for the first time.
Amazingly, however, it could be Rachael's sister Natalie who
preserves the English woman's status at the top of the rankings: The
pair are drawn to meet in Friday's semi-finals - and third seed Natalie,
the younger of the Toowoomba twosome, beat her higher-ranked sibling in
straight games in their last meeting in the WISPA World Grand Prix
Finals in April!
The Brunei International will be staged at the Hassan Bolkiah National
Stadium Squash Complex and at the superbly-appointed Jerudong Park
Country Club, which boasts two permanently-sited all-glass courts.
Brunei Boost for WISPA
In an exciting new arrangement with the Brunei Squash Rackets
Association, a new WISPA Gold event will be held in the capital city of
Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei, from 26-31 July.
Boasting a $43,500 prize fund, the championship will be televised
internationally as part of the Qatar
Airways WISPA Grand Prix TV international programming.