Brunei International 2004
28-31
July, Brunei, $43k 

31-Jul, Final:

[2] Vanessa Atkinson (Ned) bt [1] Rachael Grinham (Aus)
      10/8, 9/5, 3/9, 2/9, 10/8 (76m)

   
Vanessa Vanquishes
New Number One ...
Report from WISPA

The cream had risen to the top – in the case of Rachael Grinham, the very top. The hoopla of elevation to world number one needed to be put aside for the number one seed to deal with the matter of competing against second seed Vanessa Atkinson in the final of the inaugural Brunei International Championship.

The last two encounters had seen honours even. Atkinson had won their quarter final tie in the World Open, 10/8 in the fourth, last December, but this had been reversed in the Texas Open in April.

Contrasting styles but both so very effective would lead to an exciting match, or so the expectant crowd at the Brunei National Stadium hoped.

Early rallies were to a length and lengthy as they felt out each other and the court, though punctuated by the occasional tightly struck long drops that would give Grinham the advantage in early exchanges. But the navy clad Dutchwoman has a widening repertoire and was not to be left behind. Chasing down the increasing number of flicks and feints she was beginning to counter drop effectively. But as the first game progressed in small steps the number of breathtaking volley drops that Grinham conjured from above her head grew. As did the amount of chasing that Atkinson was required to do…..much as she had predicted the evening before.

Grinham reached game ball at 8-6 but Atkinson's fine drop and two induced errors brought it back to parity. A tentative missed overhead from the Aussie waif took Atkinson to game ball – with the game sealed on a mid court stroke in one hand from game ball down.

Sister Natalie took the ninety seconds to try to re-focus after squandering a winning opportunity, while Atkinson sat alone with her thoughts.

Nineteen minutes of squash of the highest order with the first game mileage covered by Atkinson had brought its dividend. The next question being whether she could maintain the momentum ...

It certainly seemed to as she got the better of more of the front wall exchanges. And when she remonstrated with herself about the number of overhead forehand opportunities she was giving her opponent to delicately channel the ball into the nick and cut these down she moved further forward. At 8-5 game ball she again hit a drop so characteristic of her opponent and she was two up. Exiting with fists clenched, Atkinson's inner strength was matching the physical output.

But in what seemed like only moments later Grinham was 6-1 up in the third, taking advantage of lapses of concentration – or could it be tiredness? A small recovery provided no answers as Grinham romped home 9/3 after only seven minutes.

Grinham was noticeably skipping more now, bouncing around the court with what appeared to be a second wind. Atkinson was making her win rallies and trading punches all over the court so maybe the expectation that that Grinham would stroll home in five wouldn't be fulfilled. It would need some deep inner reserves from Atkinson though, as the fourth was lost 2/9 despite continuing Dutch resolve.

Brought back to court for the fifth to rousing applause from the captivated crowd it was Atkinson who struck the early blows going 4-1 up, floating the ball over Grinham and winning some exhilarating rallies. But even as the quality was maintained – just where did the energy come from after an hour of the highest calibre squash on a warm court with a lively ball – Grinham crept back.

As buttocks moved closer to the edge of the seats the scores reached 5-4 to Atkinson. Two great rallies later she was 7-4 up before finding Grinham directly behind her and giving away a stroke. A Grinham tin gave hand back but another squirting nick gave it away. Then one of the many great rallies of the event brought the crowd to their feet and the players hardly able to stand. 7-all, then 8-7 to Grinham. Match ball saved with a Grinham error and eight all reached with a wondrous drop teased along the length of the tin.

Bolstered by this Atkinson performed yet more court sprints to reach match ball and won the memorable match with a drive that was too deep and low for her opponent.

Slumped in the corner of the court she drunk in the moment before dragging her tired body out so that the presentations could begin. Illuminatingly, she managed to wring about half a pint of water from her dress before returning to another standing ovation.

It was a game of three halves! Atkinson explained "at the start of the third I hit a wall. I had no energy left and couldn't face the prospect of fighting back. But then I found some and tried to win the fourth but she was going too well. Then when I got ahead in the fifth I got another surge when I could see the end".

When asked whether she thought she had taken control in the middle period and would go on to win, Grinham commented, "It's never easy with Vanessa, she is so up and down you don't know what is going to happen next. I thought she might be carrying an injury and would shake my hand in the third, but she got going again".

The victory brings Atkinson's WISPA title haul to 10 - five of which have been won this year!
  

 

BRUNEI BONUS
 

 Linda Elriani

 


 

RACH REPORTS
from Brunei


 


 

Qatar Airways
WISPA Grand Prix

Full details: qsaquash.com


.

Brunei International Championship  2004
28-31 July, Brunei, $43k 
 
First Round,
Wed 28th
Quarters,
Thu 29th
Semis,
Fri 30th
Final,
Sat 31st
[2] Vanessa Atkinson (Ned)
9/4, 3/9, 9/5, 9/5 (51m)
Shelley Kitchen (Nzl)
Vanessa Atkinson
9/5, 9/3, 9/5 (27m)
Nicol David
Vanessa Atkinson

6/9, 9/6, 9/4, 9/4 (57m)

Linda Elriani

Vanessa Atkinson
 

10/8, 9/5, 3/9, 2/9, 10/8 (76m)

Rachael Grinham

[6] Nicol David (Mas)
10/8, 9/1, 9/5 (27m)
[Q] Rebecca Chiu (Hkg)
[4] Linda Elriani (Eng)
10/8, 9/5, 9/2 (37m)
Omneya Abdel Kawy (Egy)
Linda Elriani
9/2, 9/1, 9/3 (31m)
Fiona Geaves
[5] Fiona Geaves (Eng)
5/9, 9/7, 9/4, 7/9, 9/6 (72m)
Vicky Botwright (Eng)
[Q] Annelize Naude (Ned)
9/4, 9/1, 9/2 (29m)
[8] Jenny Tranfield (Eng)
Jenny Tranfield
9/3, 9/0, 9/0 (21m)
Natalie Grinham
Natalie Grinham

9/1, 10/9, 9/1 (44m)

Rachael Grinham

Jenny Duncalf (Eng)
3/9, 9/3, 9/1, 9/5 (46m)
[3] Natalie Grinham (Aus)
[Q] Tania Bailey (Eng)
9/4, 9/0, 1/9, 9/6 (51m)
[7] Rebecca Macree (Eng)
Rebecca Macree
9/2, 9/0, 9/0 (25m)
Rachael Grinham
[Q] Madeline Perry (Irl)
9/5, 9/1, 9/2 (22m)
[1] Rachael Grinham (Aus)


[1] Cassie Jackman withdrawn with achilles injury

Qualifying:

Finals, Tue 27th:
Madeline Perry (IRL) bt Latasha Khan (USA) 9-6, 9-6, 9-6 (31m)
Rebecca Chiu (HKG) bt Tegwen Malik (WAL) 9-2, 9-1, 9-3 (37m)
Annelize Naude (NED) bt Pamela Nimmo (SCO) 9-5, 9-2, 9-2 (43m)
Tania Bailey (ENG) bt Tamsyn Leevey (NZL) 6-9, 9-6, 7-9, 9-4, 9-5 (77m)

First round, Mon 26th:
Madeline Perry (IRL) bye
Latasha Khan (USA) bt Runa Reta (CAN)  9-5, 2-9, 9-4, 9-1 (52m)
Rebecca Chiu (HKG) bt Raneem El Weleily (EGY)  9-5, 9-2, 9-0 (29m)
Tegwen Malik (WAL) bt Nur Adawiyah (SIN)  9-3, 9-0, 9-0 (24m)
Annelize Naude (NED) bt Mami Nishio (JPN)  9-3, 2-9, 9-4, 9-0 (24m)
Pamela Nimmo (SCO) bt Line Hansen (DEN)  9-3, 9-1, 9-1 (22m)
Tamsyn Leevey (NZL) bt Ellen Petersen (DEN)  1-9, 6-9, 9-6, 9-4, 9-3 (53m)
Tania Bailey (ENG) bye

Reports

30-Jul, Semi-Finals:

[1] Rachael Grinham (Aus) bt [3] Natalie Grinham (Aus)   9/1, 10/9, 9/1 (44m)
[2] Vanessa Atkinson (Ned) bt [4] Linda Elriani (Eng)       6/9, 9/6, 9/4, 9/4 (57m)

   
Rachael Reaps
Brunei Bonus

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 hour.

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 tonight.

29-Jul, Quarters:
Toowoomba Twosome
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 squash.

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 two courts.

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 her head.

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 close out.

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!

27-Jul:
Bailey Battles Into
Brunei International


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 Begawan tomorrow.

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 first round.

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 playing shirts
to be introduced to the guests at the formal opening.

26-Jul:
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. 

Full story