Grinham advances with vintage performance

Updated 19 December 2012
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Grinham advances with vintage performance

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.


Mohamed Salah threatens Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo Ballon d’Or stranglehold

Updated 21 min 24 sec ago
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Mohamed Salah threatens Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo Ballon d’Or stranglehold

  • Messi and Ronaldo have won the award for the past ten years
  • Salah has emerged as a genuine rival after scoring 43 goals this season

LIVERPOOL: Mohamed Salah could be the man to finally break the Ronaldo-Messi duopoly at the top of world football after the Liverpool forward burnished his soaring reputation with a mesmerising Champions League performance against Roma.
Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi have locked down the Ballon d’Or award for a decade, winning five gongs apiece — for the past seven years they have occupied the top two slots.
But Salah is now second favorite behind Ronaldo for this year’s award after scoring his 42nd and 43rd goals of the season in a thrilling 5-2 victory for Liverpool in the Champions League semifinal first leg.
After his first strike against his former club on Tuesday, the man dubbed by fans as the “Egyptian King” stood motionless, hands raised in apology, as bedlam broke out on a night for the ages at Anfield.
Salah’s curling effort arrowed into the top corner with such accuracy his manager Jurgen Klopp labelled it “a genius strike.”
Soon after came the forward’s signature finish, a cute dink over advancing Roma goalkeeper Alisson for his 43rd goal in 47 games for Liverpool.
When Salah, 25, made the move from the Italian capital back to the Premier League just 10 months ago for €42 million ($51 million), there were plenty who felt Roma had got the better deal. Salah after all was a talented player, but who often lacked an end product.
It also came just a few weeks before Neymar’s move from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain for a world record €222 million revolutionized the transfer market.
The Brazilian’s desire to leave the Catalan giants was tied to his ambition to beat Messi and Ronaldo to the Ballon d’Or by stepping out of Messi’s shadow.
Now, though, it is Salah who has emerged as the pretender to end the Messi-Ronaldo domination by not only scoring the quantity of goals that have become the pair’s trademark but doing it when it really matters, in the latter stages of the Champions League.
“If you think he is the best in the world, write it or say it,” urged Klopp, who has been credited with bringing out Salah’s previously untapped potential.
“To be the best in the world you need to do that over a longer period I think, and there are a few others that are not so bad.”
Heavily left-footed, small, speedy and with a low center of gravity, Salah’s characteristics are far more like those of Messi than the muscular goal-machine Ronaldo.
“In a certain light, at certain points, it is possible to glimpse in Salah a little of Messi’s afterglow,” wrote Rory Smith in the New York Times.
And he demonstrated another Messi-like quality in showing no mercy to Roma.
Chasing his first hat-trick in the Champions League, Salah would have been forgiven for going for goal as he bore down on Alisson once more after half-time.
But he showed why he is considered one of the game’s more unselfish superstars by instead creating another two goals for strike partners Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.
When Salah left the field to a standing ovation 15 minutes from time, Liverpool led 5-0.
“Unstoppable (when Salah’s on the pitch),” said the back page of The Times.
Two late Roma away goals have at least given the Italians hope of recreating the incredible comeback they staged from a 4-1 first-leg deficit against Barca in the quarter-finals.
For once it is Salah’s turn to lead the way where Messi faltered on his return to the Eternal City next week.
Messi is almost certain to win a La Liga and Copa del Rey double and Ronaldo could lead Real Madrid to a third consecutive Champions League after another bucketload of goals this season.
But Salah is the coming man and after bagging the African and English players’ player of the year crowns, it is hard to back against him also conquering the world.