GRAND CAYMAN, Cayman Islands: Six-time champion Nicol David’s slight hiccup en route to the World Open Squash semifnals only served to highlight how extraordinary has been her dominance of the women’s tour.
The superbly consistent Malaysian’s dropped game during a 11-3, 11-7, 9-11, 11-3 victory over Ireland’s Madeline Perry on Wednesday was only the second that she has allowed to get away from her in four years and 18 matches at this venue.
Hurtling into the fourth game, she ramped up her intensity, stemmed a trickle of errors on the backhand side, and closed out the match with a whirl.
“I know that Madeline can come back from two-love down and I had to do something about it,” she said. “I didn’t want that to happen. So I had to adjust my shots in the fourth and I’m pleased with that.” Perry may take comfort in having suddenly made a match of it, engineering a brief but passionate recovery during which she once hurled her racket away in frustration, a misdemeanor bringing mild admonishment from the referee.
To reach the final David now has to win a repeat of last year’s final in Rotterdam. That is because Jenny Duncalf upset the seedings with her best win of the year, by 7-11,17-19, 11-5, 11-4, 11-9 against her English compatriot Alison Waters.
Duncalf was behind for almost all the match, failing with three game balls in a monster second game and somehow taking strength from the setback.
“I felt it affected her more physically, which gave me confidence,” Duncalf explained. “I felt physically okay and, in a weird way, positive. I was starting to find my way and keen to push on.” She and Waters are rooming together but there will apparently be no antagonism. “There’s no bad blood. We’re still friends after matches,” claimed Duncalf. “We’ve grown up together.” The other semifinal will be between David’s two closest rivals, Laura Massaro of England who beat her twice last year, and Raneem El Weleily of Egypt, who overcame the champion three months ago.
Massaro gradually got on top against another Malaysian, Low Wee Wern, during an 8-11, 11-4, 11-5, 11-5 win.
Although Low may have increasingly have been feeling her strained hamstring, Massaro was solid and consistent and well-ordered and will be expecting to trouble the second-seeded Weleily.
The Egyptian nevertheless showed what a deceptive shot-maker she can be when she is relaxed, as she gradually appeared to be during an 11-9, 11-9, 11-7 win over Natalie Grinham, the four times a former World Open finalist from The Netherlands.
Grinham might have hoped to do better. She went to 7-5 in the second game and 6-3 in the third against but could not capitalize on either lead, making a few too many errors to stay in contention.
The intensity of El Weleily’s focus was later revealed by her dry response to the interviewer who was attempting to draw attention to the island’s attractions.
“I haven’t seen much of the island so far but I’ve seen plenty of other girls with the dolphins,” Weleily said. “I haven’t been to see them yet, and I hope I don’t get the chance to.”