GRAND CAYMAN, Cayman Islands: Even though she is now a mother and well into her 35th year, Natalie Grinham’s fine performance and ambitious words suggests she has not entirely relinquished the idea of becoming world champion.
The Australian-raised Dutch player upset the seedings to reach her ninth World Open quarterfinal in 10 years with a fighting 8-11, 11-3, 8-11, 11-8, 11-7 success against Joelle King, a New Zealander six places higher at world No. 5.
Grinham may have lost a little of the physicality of her superbly light-footed style, but she went some way toward making up for it by allying one of the most skilful games on the tour with just as much will to win as when she reached her four World Open finals.
She also looked good enough to have chance of reaching the final in the opposite half to Nicol David, the record-breaking six-times champion. This though apparently has limited attraction.
“I would rather win my first title than just make my fifth final,” said Grinham, whose showdowns with David in Belfast and Amsterdam in 2006 and 2009 showed her capable of halting the squash legend.
Such tough-minded qualities were now vital against a heavier-hitting opponent in sweaty, humid conditions.
There were disjointed pauses for court wiping, as well as moments when fluency gave way to more scrappily earned points.
Surviving this was not easy for someone not long out from freezing conditions at her home in Amsterdam.
King, one of the most improved players on the tour this year, pushed to within three points of victory in the fourth game, and remained threatening even though Grinham was always slightly ahead in the decider.
“It was so hot on court it was hard to find that extra fight, but I did,” she said.
“My results have been up and down, so I am just happy I am playing. I like being the underdog: there’s no pressure on me then.”
Grinham next plays Raneem El Weleily, the world number two from Egypt, who inflicted a rare defeat on David before the legend’s home crowd in the Malaysian Open final in September.
El Weleily now accounted for Dipika Pallikal, the first Indian player to reach the top ten, by 7-11, 11-9, 11-6, 11-5.
There were though moments while Pallikal was leading in the second game when it seemed she might achieve her first win in six encounters against her deceptively gifted opponent.
Meanwhile Laura Massaro, the third-seed Englishwoman, who boasts a couple of wins over David, earned a quarter-final with Low Wee Wern, the second best Malaysian, who saved a game point in the third game to win 11-5, 11-8, 12-10 against Kasey Brown, the Commonwealth Games bronze medallist from Australia.
Massaro overcame both Nicolette Fernandes, the Caribbean champion, and a noisy partisan crowd, recovering from 6-8 down in the first game and 1-4 down in the second to win 11-9, 11-9, 11-7.