David Stuns British Open Champion
WISPA reports from China
On a clear evening beside the Wang Pu River in central Shanghai real spectator squash came to China. The semi finals of the Shanghai WorldStars WISPA Championship were played on the Hong Kong SRA owned transparent court brought to the city under the auspices of the Shanghai Sports Commission.
The first thing that was seen was a major upset.
Four full stands of spectators on the Bund saw seventh seed Nicol David start slowly against Rachael Grinham but level at five all as she became accustomed to the pace – not great – of the court. A light but cold breeze swirled around the outside, while inside the court a good length was clearly a pre-requisite to avoid being stranded. Managing to do so led the Asian champion to an initial game lead in the match.
However, Grinham was not unused to being under pressure, having dropped a scattering of games this week, including very nearly three against Tania Bailey in the quarters!
Neon lights on the buildings that make up the ultra modern skyline beamed out their advertising messages and river freighters boomed their elephantine horns as David recovered similarly in the second to move from 7/4 down to another 9/7 win with a mixture of anticipation and fewer errors. She seemed to be reeling in the top seed.
The Grinham error rate was a little too high in the third as lobs spilled over the line and drops onto the tin at times. But for all the inconsistency in her play she had been making the Malaysian run and swirl…and the edge was maybe being taken from her. From a close start the pattern changed with the Australian taking over the front and counter dropping to maximum effect. From three all she moved swiftly to game as David wavered.
So to round four. Both compact battlers were still racing round the rectangle but Grinham was working positions more and moved into the lead; but only until a few very much forced errors enabled David to regain the initiative. So much so that she was poised for victory at 8/5 before losing hand with a missed forehand drop. A further match ball slipped by at 8/6 when a David cross court drive didn't clear the tin. Two audacious Grinham overheads took the game to setting, but one of the longest and most exciting rallies of the match ended with David putting away a drive to reach her third match ball. This time the Australian floated a cross court lob a fraction too high and wide and David was in the final.
David's smile was nearly as wide as the Wang Pu as she excitedly told local TV reporters that it was the first time that she had beaten her opponent. "I played a good game and I went for it" she said. Watrerside locations really suit her as the Malaysian had reached the World Open semi final a year before at the Hong Kong Harbour.
Grinham was philosophical about the defeat though. "I thought I was putting in some good drops but she kept getting them back. It was simply more her day than mine; she played well". With a narrow British Open semi escape against Vanesa Atkinson and here similarly fraught Shanghai quarter against Bailey as a backdrop, perhaps a result like this was on the cards.
The Grinham sisters had not played a major WISPA final before, and not only wasn't it to be here, but Cassie Jackman was blocking the path of younger sister Natalie's bid to have a family presence at all on the last day.
Roles were reversed as Rachael combined warming down with supporting Natalie. But despite a professed dislike of cool conditions Jackman started fast and kept going at pace. Her driving was ferocious.
Grinham combines being arguably the fastest player on the WISPA Tour with great tenacity but even she found the Jackman power and control too hot to handle. Time and again she would waspishly reach a ball at the front only to end up being driven or lobbed to the back or into a corner from which there was no escape.
Both the first too games saw some great all court squash but only the former world number one racking up points. The same was true of the third as Jackman continued the onslaught. "You are terrible" Grinham shouted to herself at one point. She wasn't at all, but was playing somebody who was on fire.
Jackman reached seven in the third without reply, and though a match ball was saved she was not to be denied for long, courtesy of a wrong footing drive.
When asked about the match Jackman told journalists "I needed to have a good length and not give her opportunities. I was happy with my game and pleased to be in the final".
Since it was the 31 year old English number one who stopped David's waterfront progress in the semi finals of the World Open last year she also has a penchant for the location. A favourite for the final, but then Rachael Grinham was also odds on to reach the last day. Time for the last leg of the battle on the Bund tomorrow.
David Slays Goliath Grainger In Shanghai
WISPA reports from China
Almost a year after upsetting Natalie Grainger in the second round of the World Open in Hong Kong, Malaysian Nicol David pulled off a second successive victory over the world No4 in the quarter-finals of the Shanghai WISPA WorldStars Championship at the Megafit Sports Club in Shanghai.
Grainger, the fourth seed, started brightly enough but even as the first game reached its mid point she was beginning to look listless. Seventh seed David took the first game when Grainger hit a loose attempted nick off a return of serve only for it to sit up allowing the Malaysian a simple finish.
The second game was similar as Grainger was competing in waves of rallying combined with spells of lethargy. Her cheeks were pinked, face stressed and it was clear that she was off colour.
The match ended with Grainger hitting two weak tins as the former world junior champion from Penang secured her 9-6 9-4 5-9 9-6 triumph in 43 minutes.
"I have been carrying something for the last week; not sleeping well and just feeling tired," Grainger commented. As for David, she now moves onto the see-through court on the Bund in central Shanghai for the semi-finals.
There she will meet Australia's Rachael Grinham - the other half of the pairing that became known to squash enthusiasts in China's second city as they played exhibitions on the WISPA Promotional Tour in June.
Grinham dropped the second game in her quarter-final, as she had done the day before. Her opponent Tania Bailey showed just why she was flying much higher in the rankings before a series of illnesses and injuries in the last couple of years took their toll. She moved round the court with purpose, regularly causing problems for the world number one.
Grinham ran away with the third much as Bailey had done in the second, but when it seemed that she might ease through with the fourth too, instead she found the English challenger reaching 8-4. At the fifth attempt, Bailey won a game ball to draw level.
Bailey moved forward in the fifth with more tight and controlled squash before Grinham levelled at four-all, then moved forward to 7-4. But Bailey then benefited from a lob floated out (symptomatic of the Aussie's evening), another tickled tin and moved to seven all.
But Bailey then made a couple of tired errors of her own to allow the mightily-relieved top seed to squeeze through 9-6 1-9 9-1 6-9 9-7 after 81 increasingly-fraught minutes.
Afterwards, the recently-crowned British Open champion admitted that she had been fortunate to escape. "I haven't played Tania for such a long time and it was uncomfortable not knowing quite what to expect. I was really hesitant - Tania was playing really well and caught me cold," Grinham added.
In the other half of the draw both Natalie Grinham, Rachael's third-placed sister, and second seed Cassie Jackman had a good deal less difficulty in reaching the last four.
Grinham had to deal with another grazed knee acquired from her low level flying around the court; but although her opponent Omneya Abdel Kawy was edging back into contention as she recovered to eight all in the third, she couldn't find a strong enough finish to pick up a game ball and the Egyptian's Shanghai experience was over in 28 minutes in a 9-2 9-5 10-8 scoreline.
Jackman also had to deal with an increasingly effective and confident opponent, but compatriot Vicky Botwright's defences couldn't withstand the flow that Jackman unleashed as the world No2 raced to a 9-4 9-0 9-6 victory in 29 minutes.
The Shanghai action now moves to the city's picturesque Bund riverside where the eyes and the cameras of the nation will be on a top pro squash event for the first time.
England's Seeds Tumble in Shanghai
WISPA reports from China
The first round of the Shanghai WorldStars as event organised by the Chinese Squash Association became a triumph for youth over England's aging stars.
It certainly couldn't be put down to inexperience, but Fiona Geaves admitted that she had been less than tactically astute in going in short too early against Vicky Botwright. The sixth seed failed to establish any regular length against her fellow Englishwoman and paid the ultimate penalty. With a first round loss in the British Open too, Geaves is having a difficult autumn her career and this year.
Cassie Jackman, next up for Botwright, took longer to repel the bustling challenge of Jenny Tranfield than she might have hoped. Never a fan of cooler conditions which require even more warming of her back, she found herself under pressure as Tranfield got to grips with the match and began to stretch the former number one. Tranfield just fell short of taking the match to a decider at the five court Megafit Club.
Like Fiona Geaves, her friend and fifth seed Linda Elriani tumbled out of the championship as she failed to get the better of world junior champion Omneya Abdel Kawy. "Omneya couldn't do a thing wrong and every time I tried to get back into it she tried something that came off", the loser explained. On an unresponsive court leaving Abdel Kawy at the front was her downfall as she became more and more at odds with herself. "Hit it up" she shouted at the court lights as another drop at the wrong time hit the tin.
The Egyptian now plays third seed Natalie Grinham who found Shelley Kitchen in the obdurate mood that has been a feature of her improving year. It started well enough for Grinham as she raced to an 8/1 lead in the first, but then Kiwi Kitchen started to pick up more of the short stuff and return with interest. It was only after she had got back to 7/8 before Grinham capitalised on her third game ball by retrieving three seemingly lost causes - certainly as far as the already applauding crowd were concerned - and took the rally. A grazed knee requiring attention during the second took away her edge as she returned with strapping but enough control to reach the last eight was resumed in the next two games.
In the top half Tania Bailey ensured that seeding supremacy would not prevail, and Madeline Perry came tantalisingly close to dumping a second one.
Bailey, unluckily sidelined during the British Open by illness came roaring back to defeat eighth seed Rebecca Macree to create the hat-trick of youthful wins. Macree was never at the races, discombobulated and unable to impose any pattern to the match. She now plays top seed Rachael Grinham who gave Hong Kong's Rebecca Chiu a chance to bring the large supportive crowd to life when she snatched the second game from 7/3 down. It was however only the briefest glimpse of home success as the Australian resumed the control of the court she had shown in the first with her varied, floating game; but in a competitive match in which the home favourite was able to show just why she is well placed within the world top twenty.
An upset did look possible when Jenny Duncalf cruised to the first game against seventh seed Nicol David; the Malaysian looking like she was in another time zone. But she slowly roused herself as the second unfolded before taking full control of the match with her trademark all court movement.
Qualification as expected in Shanghai
WISPA reports from China
While the seven and eight seeds faced an uphill battle in a bid to make
the main draw of the inaugural Shanghai WorldStars, the five and six
seeds will have hoped to have a real shout.
In the end only one of the lower four came close to upsetting the order
at the Megafit Club in the Chinese Squash Association hosted event.
Eighth seed Christina Mak from Hong Kong had neither quite the
pace or tightness to trouble Tania Bailey, now recovered from the
nasal infection that caused her midstream exit from the British Open.
Meanwhile, Mami Nishio from Japan was gamely trying to dent the
composure of Vicky Botwright, but without success.
Watched by two members of the Chinese Olympic Committee who had
travelled from Beijing to watch the play, Shelley Kitchen and
Annelize Naude put on a 56 minute battle. Sixth rated Naude, with
matching orange outfit and hair profited from a couple of Kitchen
periods of inconsistency but although she managed a partial comeback
from 8/1 down in the fifth, it was little more than a delay in the end.
Ms He Huixian, Vice President of the Chinese Olympic Committee
appeared enthused by both the play and Naude's hair colouring! Mr Hu
Jianguo, who has tried to play squash a few times also enjoyed his
first exposure to the professional game.
The final match saw in form Madeline Perry comfortably extinguish
the expected challenge from Pamela Nimmo in their Celtic
match-up. Nimmo was not entirely comfortable with her performance but
knew that the Irish number one is in the best form of her life. Perry
now faces fourth seed Natalie Grainger, while Bailey drew Rebecca
Macree, Kitchen was paired with Natalie Grinham and Botwright is pitted
with Fiona Geaves in the first round tomorrow.
Deng Li, Deputy General Secretary of
the Chinese Squash Association (2nd
left), addressing a well-attended press
conference on the eve of the event in
Shanghai, featuring more than thirty
journalists and representatives from
three TV channels. Also at the press
conference was WISPA Executive
Director Andrew Shelley (2nd right).
The world's leading women begin the battle to claim the first ever major
squash title on mainland China when the main draw of the Shanghai WISPA
WorldStars gets underway at the Megafit Sports Club in Shanghai on
Thursday after two days of qualifying.
Fresh from her second successive British Open triumph in England ten
days ago, Australia's world No1 Rachael Grinham leads a
star-studded field which features the top women in the world. The
later rounds of the WISPA Gold event will be staged in one of the
world's most spectacular settings - on the all-glass court erected on
the city's stunning Bund waterfront.
The $43,500 event will be hosted by the Shanghai Sports Commission in
conjunction with the Chinese Squash Association. The Shanghai
WorldStars Championship will be shown on television across the world as
part of WISPA's Qatar Airways Grand Prix TV programming.
Grinham is expected to meet England's world No2
Cassie Jackman in
the final on Sunday 21st November - though the Cairo-based Australian is
first likely to face USA's fourth seed Natalie Grainger in the
semi-finals in what would be a repeat of this month's British Open
Grinham's first round opponent will be Rebecca Chiu, the reigning
Asian Games champion from Hong Kong who is certain to be a firm
favourite with the local crowds. Jackman begins her Shanghai
campaign in an all-English clash with Jenny Tranfield, ranked 11
in the world.
England's Vicky Botwright and New Zealand's
ranked 12 and 13, respectively, in the world, head a high-quality
qualifying draw for four places in the main draw after Jenny Tranfield
was elevated following the withdrawal of third seed Vanessa Atkinson
with a shoulder injury.