Laura Massaro bt Nicol David 11/9, 11/7, 9/11, 11/8
"I played the best I've ever played" ... well done Laura!
MASSARO STUNS DAVID IN CLEVELAND! Nathan Dugan reports
There were over 200 spectators in the crowd at the Cleveland Racquet
Club who were just as stunned as Nicol David, after Laura
Massaro played the match of her life to claim her first WISPA
Gold title tonight in Cleveland, Ohio.
When the event started on Friday evening of last week, few would
have picked Massaro as being in the finals, let alone holding the
trophy aloft as the last match of the tournament finished. To reach
her first ever final in a Gold event or higher, Massaro had already
dismissed two higher ranked opponents including World Number 2,
Jenny Duncalf. It would be interesting to know the statistics of
when in fact a player last beat the World Number 1 and 2 to win a
title in the same event, but tonight’s is an achievement that I am
sure will be unmatched for quite some time.
The confidence Massaro had accumulated from the past three days was
evident as she jumped out of the blocks to a 7-2 lead in the first
game. She showed no respect whatsoever to the World Champion, as she
patiently rallied up and down the wall before catching David with a
deceptive boast or a winning volley kill. David, who is known for
her ability to get herself back into a game from a losing position,
then reeled off six straight points and it appeared the momentum had
shifted largely in the Malaysians favour.
As David once again leveled at 9-9, the atmosphere in the crowd was
tense, realizing that this was maybe a game Massaro had to win to
make the night competitive. When Massaro held game ball, so did the
breaths of the spectators as Massaro hit a winning forehand volley
drop to take the first game and an unexpected lead in the match.
The lead doubled as a confident Massaro stuck with her tactics of
playing patient squash, frustrating David into uncharacteristic
errors as she tried to attack balls earlier in the rallies. The pace
of the game was noticeably slower than we had seen David play in the
earlier rounds, but this was largely due to Massaro playing tight
controlled squash which didn’t give David the room to maneuver she
has become accustomed to.
When an opening arose for Massaro she was deadly on the volley,
putting balls away for winners which David is normally seen counter
attacking with great ferocity. Once again she moved into an early
lead which proved to decisive for David to be able to retrieve.
David got off to a better start in game three, using the boast from
short court to great effect. Massaro was not going away though and
with the score tied at 9-9, she was just to points away from the
biggest win of her career.
By this time the crowd had switched allegiances, willing David to
win the game and push us into the fourth. They got their wish just
moments later as a rare Massaro error going for a forehand kill; put
one game on the score board for the World Number 1.
As David served at the start of the fourth game, many thought we
would now see what we knew David was capable of delivering. David
looked to pick up the pace and her trademark rushing between points
as she took a 3-1 lead. Massaro continued her stubbiness of shot
though, as she refused to attack the front of the court, but instead
pinning her quick opponent into the back of the court.
This strategy tempted David into a few unforced errors, giving her a
7-5 lead. Massaro then put together a sequence of a tight backhand
drop from the back of the court followed by an aggressive forehand
volley to take an 8-5 lead and a cushion that would ultimately be
too big for even David to climb. A winning boast from Massaro, then
an aggressive crosscourt short volley gave Massaro 10-6 and an
unlikely match ball. David fought back to 10-8 before Massaro buried
an un-returnable backhand volley, giving her the victory of her
It was a well-deserved win for Massaro who had played great squash
throughout the week, for David it will give her new incentive to
reach for new heights as the 2011 season progresses.
Racquet Classic 2011
28 Jan - 02 Feb, Ohio, Usa, $55k
01-Feb, Semis: Massaro marches on, David Delivers
Nathan Dugan reports
David had been a little subdued as the tournament started but
tonight she certainly came out with the eye of the tiger. She raced
into a 10-2 lead in the first game with opponent, Annie Au, unable
to penetrate David’s defenses.
The flicks and holds that had proved so successful in qualifying and
in the early rounds for Au, only worked on a rare occasion all
match, as David jumped on anything that was stuck on the wall. David
played at pace unrivaled all tournament, volleying at will and
attacking off balls that most would be happy to have just got back
Au was able to put some points on the board with some great
attacking kill shots, but David always looked in control and a step
ahead as she progressed to her first final of 2011.
will face surprise finalist Laura Massaro in tomorrow night’s
championship match. Massaro, seeded eight only after a late
withdrawal from defending champion Alison Waters, produced another
solid display to gain her first final berth in a gold level or
higher event. Fresh off her victory against World Number 2, Jenny
Duncalf, in the quarter finals, Massaro appeared full of confidence
as she looked to beat a second higher ranked opponent in two days.
Massaro played with great patience and accuracy up the left wall
which prevented Madeline Perry from using her trade mark backhand
volleys to any reel effect. Perry didn’t look to have quite the same
energy levels which she had showed in the first two rounds, and her
pace of play reflected her body language. Both the first two games,
won by Massaro, where close in score line, but Massaro always looked
the more relaxed on the court.
Perry was not giving up though as she tried to fight back with some
attacking cross court volleys in the third game. At 8-8, Perry
rolled a nick return which seemed to give her a lift and she was
able to extend the match to a fourth game after benefiting from two
rare Massaro errors. In the fourth and final game, Massaro resumed
her relentless pressure and consistency of shot as Perry’s physical
resolve seemed to weaken.
Massaro will need to continue her good form tomorrow if she is to be
competitive in the final, with the tightness of shot she displayed
today a key if she is to have success.
The drama of the first round matches was not as evident in the
quarter-finals of the Cleveland WISPA Classic at the Cleveland
Racquet Club on Monday night.
Madeline Perry looked to be in control of her match against
Natalie Grinham until halfway through the second game. Perry
was moving very smoothly and executing precise racket control until
8-4, before a string of unforced errors allowed Grinham game balls
after winning six straight points.
Only then did Perry resume her patience, extending the rallies and
turning the momentum. A swing of four points in a row to Perry gave
her a 2-0 lead and seemingly no way back for the former World Number
2. In the third Grinham appeared visibly tired but did a tremendous
job of anticipating the right way to go every time she was in
None more so than at 10-9 match ball down as she committed to
chasing down a drop shot. If Perry hit anything other than the drop
it would have been the end of the match, but instead, Grinham hit a
winner off the next shot and went on to extend the match to a fourth
The fourth was a case of Grinham hanging in and Perry trying to find
a way to finish the match. Any loose ball was attacked short by
Grinham but with a one point lead at 9-8, she gave up on a basic
length, showing her opponent that she had very little left in the
tank. This may have been the boas Perry need as she was able to seal
her semi-final place.
up, Laura Massaro caused the upset of the round by removing
World Number 2 Jenny Duncalf from the tournament. Duncalf
squandered two game balls at the end of a very closely fought first
game which Massaro took 12-10.
This proved to be critical as Massaro grew in confidence, producing
some great attacking shots, which seemed to be adding to Duncalf’s
obvious unsettled state on the court. The third was more of the
same, as Massaro continued to move well absorbing any pressure that
Duncalf could put on her before finding a winning shot, or
benefiting from a Duncalf error.
This was Massaro’s first win against Duncalf for almost five years,
and was well deserved with her focused play. Duncalf, who was
obviously not at her best, will be looking to bounce back in strong
fashion as she heads to the British Nationals as top seed in
was a familiar pattern in each game between Hong Kong’s Annie Au
and Sarah Kippax from England. The shorter the rallies, the
more likely Au’s trickery with the racket would be successful. The
longer the rallies, then Kippax would go on a multi-point winning
Au took the early lead in the first, with any loose opening at the
front of the court dispatched with some delightful flicks of the
wrist. A long rally at 8-4 seemed to tire Au momentarily and Kippax
was right back in the hunt at 8-8. Au regained control of the points
though, keeping her nose slightly in front as she took the first
with a great fake after Kippax was forced to hit a back wall boast.
In the second game it was Kippax who had the slight edge, upping the
pace with increased volleying and stretching Au more from the T. It
was the end of each game where Au finished the stronger though,
winning the decisive points to take a 2-0 lead. Kippax looked as if
she was going to extend the match to a fourth game when she
established a 10-8 advantage in the third game, but Au continued to
trust her racket work and moved Kippax all over the court.
Once again Au finished the game the stronger and progressed to an
unexpected semi-final encounter with World Number 1.
World Champion Nicol David had not looked that sharp in her
first round match, but the Duracell Bunny was definitely awakened in
her quarter final appearance here tonight. It was credit to World
Junior Champion Amanda Sobhy that David had to kick into a
different gear, as Sobhy took an early 9-6 lead in the first game.
That is when the switch appeared to be flicked, as David reeled off
19 of the following 24 rallies, showing Cleveland why she has not
been beaten for over a year. Sobhy’s winners the prior day, in her
fantastic victory over World Number 7 Kasey Brown, were no longer
winners, as David tracked everything down with a stride length that
dramatically out proportioned her physical size.
For Sobhy, her first experience of playing the World Number 1 was an
exhausting one, but I am sure it will not be the last time the two
meet as Sobhy seems to get stronger each event she plays.
Round One: Sobhy shines as seeds fall in Cleveland
Nathan Dugan reports
American sensation, 17 year old high school senior Amanda Sobhy,
produced the shock of the tournament as she defeated World Number 7
Kasey Brown in an electrifying match at the Cleveland Racquet
Sobhy, the reigning World Junior Champion, got off to a great start
by taking the first game using a nice combination of power and
deception. The lead almost became two games after a couple of
attacking forehand volley winners gave Sobhy 11-10 and game ball.
However she became a little too aggressive making a couple of errors
from open positions, allowing Brown to level the match.
The third was a repeat of the first with Sobhy at times out powering
one of the most physical and powerful players on the WISPA tour.
Brown attempted to slow the pace down in the fourth, with the end of
the game, which Brown won 13–11, producing some of the best squash
of the tournament so far. The crowd was on the edge of their seats
as point after point was one with precision accuracy and balls glued
to the wall. At the start of the final game, the odds would have
been stacked towards the fitness and experience of Brown, but Sobhy
dug deep and produced one of the best wins of her career to date. It
was an incredibly mature performance form the teenager against the
inform player Brown, who claimed her 11th WISPA tour title just over
a week ago.
Sobhy will now face an even tougher challenge against World Number 1
Nicol David in the quarter-finals. David was not at her best
in her 3-1 victory over Mexican Champion Samantha Teran and
was made to raise her game after Teran took the first game. Teran
battled throughout but was made to cover a lot of the court by the
The second quarter final in the top half of the draw will be between
Annie Au from Hong Kong and Sarah Kippax from England.
Both players came though qualifying the previous day so their
quarter final showdown would have been unexpected by most. Kippax
was the first to cause an upset today by beating former World Number
1 Vanessa Atkinson in a tight five game battle lasting just
under an hour. The pair had played earlier in the month in
Greenwich, with Kippax again being the victor. Today looked like it
would be vengeance and a different story though as Atkinson secured
the first two games with a great display of control and touch into
the front of the court.
Kippax showed she is not frightened of a little hard work though as
she kept up the pressure by retrieving everything Atkinson could
throw at her. With her breathing being audible by the crowd at the
end of the fourth game it was a wonder that she had any legs at all
for the decider, but apparently her tenacity had got to the former
World Champion and she notched up her second win of the year against
the World Number 9.
Au’s path to the quarter-finals was a complete contrast to that of
Kippax’s. Au and third seeded opponent Rachael Grinham
exchanged drops and lobs for best part of the first three games.
Grinham, who usually finds a lot of success with the slower pace of
play, struggled to match the flicks and holds that the younger
player had to offer with countless drop exchanges going Au’s way.
Grinham tried picking the pace up in the fourth, playing more length
and trying to minimize Au’s attacking opportunities, but when the
chances arose, Au wasted no time in finishing the points in the
Early play in the day at the Cleveland Racquet Club in the bottom
half of the draw, saw all the seeds progress, but not without a few
scares along the way. Defending Champion Alison Waters was
unfortunately absent due to injury this week, so it was fourth seed
Madeline Perry and French Champion Camille Serme who
took to the court first.
Perry had yet to find her form in her prior two trips to Cleveland
and it looked like it wasn’t going to get any better as Serme took
the first game. Serme also led 6-3 in the second before
uncharacteristically serving out after a long rally, which seemed to
give Perry a lift and a renewed bounce in her stride as she went on
to win 8 of the following 9 points.
Incredibly, the same thing happened in the third game when Serme
held a 6-4 lead. Another serve out and another momentum shift as
Perry took control of the game and then the match with by far her
best performance in her three years playing the event.
Natalie Grinham now lies in wait for Perry, after beating New
Zealander Jaclyn Hawkes. Only a shade of paint and a few
controversial refereeing decisions separated the two after an
unorthodox display from Grinham who threw in a drop shot at
seemingly any available opportunity.
At 11-10 down in the first game, Grinham wrong footed Hawkes with an
incredibly risky volley crosscourt drop that barely cleared the tin
before going on to take the game. The second again was tight with
only two points separating them. Hawkes pushed further up the court
to cover the drop shots in the third game and took advantage of some
errors off her opponent’s racket. Grinham retained control in the
fourth game going into a 10-6 lead, but Hawkes battled bravely back
only to see a very unfortunate stroke call go against her at match
ball down at 11-10.
An English semi-finalist will be guaranteed tomorrow after first
round victories for Laura Massaro and Jenny Duncalf.
Massaro was the first to progress after playing against Egyptian
Raneem El Weleily. It was the seventh meeting between the two
players in the past 12 months, with Massaro’s consistency prevailing
over the Egyptian's racket wizardry.
At times El Weleily was pure genius with wrong footing volleys and
creative shot-play delighting the crowd. There were also spells in
the game where it felt like the movie Tin Cup. El Weleily would send
a wrong footing crosscourt flick into the tin on numerous occasions
before finally hitting the shot, which when up was highly effective.
It was if she had to prove to the Cleveland masses that she did
indeed own that shot.
The 3-0 result for Massaro could have easily gone the other way, but
you have to feel that El Weleily’s focus may have been distracted by
events in her homeland.
The last of the quarter finalists, World Number 2 Duncalf, also had
a shaky start to her campaign here in Cleveland, losing the first
game to New Zealander Joelle King. King, a finalist in
Greenwich last week, looked sharp from the start and used the
strength and power we have become accustomed to pressurize her
In the second game Duncalf became more creative with the ball,
slowing the pace down and adding more drops from the back of the
court. The result was positive as she had King doing more of the
retrieving as the match progressed. The fourth was a close affair
with King having a great opportunity from a loose ball to take the
lead with a backhand volley drop at 8-8. Unfortunately the shot that
had been so reliable for King so far in the event caught the tin,
and with her nose in front, Duncalf never looked back.
It was a fantastic day’s play in Cleveland with a number of the
matches having twists and turns that could have resulted indifferent
outcomes. Hopefully the quarter-finals will be equally enthralling.
29 Jan, Qualifying Finals: TOP FOUR QUALIFIERS PROGRESS
Nathan Dugan reports
The first match tonight was the longest of the tournament so far
this year. Samantha Teran, who was involved in the longest
match in the tournaments five year history, a 101 minute marathon
with Jaclyn Hawkes in 2009, was at it again. Tonight the opponent
was Aisling Blake. It took 55 minutes for Teran to battle past a
valiant effort from the Irish World Number 25. The match would have
extended further if Aisling had converted a game ball in the fourth.
Teran’s reward for qualifying is a main draw encounter with top seed
Nicol David, an opponent I am sure she would rather have avoided.
Sarah Kippax benefited from an early retirement from Emma
Beddoes in the second match of the evening. Beddoes, who had been
suffering with illness since her arrival, was visibly struggling on
the court, so unfortunately the retirement came as no surprise.
Kippax now plays Vanessa Atkinson, an opponent she beat earlier in
the month in Greenwich.
Greenwich finalist Joelle King continued her good run of form
beating American Latasha Khan in straight games. King started each
game well, getting out to an early lead. Khan challenged at the end
of each game but was unable to close the deficit. King will now face
World Number 2 Jenny Duncalf in the main draw.
Olivia Blatchford was hoping to create a second upset in the
tournament against World Number 12 Annie Au in the final
match of the evening. The match was highly entertaining with both
players playing an extremely attacking style of squash. Au had the
slight edge the whole way through the match with her front backhand
holds being particularly devastating. Blatchford was unable to notch
up a game, although close in the third, but her performance showed
that there is a lot to come from the talented young American star.
28 Jan, Qualifying Round One: All in a day’s work for Blatchford
Nathan Dugan reports
The lead up to the qualifying of the Cleveland WISPA Classic was
heavily affected by the snow falls in the North East of America this
week. Within only a few hours of the first ball due to be struck,
players were still in the air trying to make their way out of New
York. Amazingly, as the tournament commenced, only one player failed
to reach the destination on time.
seeds in qualifying all progressed fairly comfortably in Cleveland
on day one with the exception of Line Hansen, who competed in
the last match of the day against young American Olivia Blatchford.
Blatchford had started off the day in New York’s JFK airport only to
find her flight cancelled for the second consecutive day.
She landed in Cleveland just over an hour before her start time
after finding a path via LaGuardia and then Detroit. The transit
seemed to be taking its toll in the first game as Hansen looked in
complete control winning 11-5, but with a 7-2 lead in the second
Hansen seemed to be having some back trouble, which Blatchford was
able to capitalize on.
9-8 down Hansen was driven corner to corner, making her use all of
her reach. Blatchford may have sensed the tide changing as by
winning the point the momentum shifted and she too the game 11-9.
The third game was close until Hansen called an injury time out and
was visibly suffering from a tightening back. After she returned to
the court she was unable to make an impact losing 11-5. The match
was over just two rallies later as Hansen was unable to continue
giving Blatchford a unexpected victory in a most unusual day on the
In earlier matches at the Cleveland Racquet Club Emma Beddoes
overcame Alexandra Norman in three close games, the last two
being tie-breaks. Sarah Kippax was a little too strong and
consistent for Canadian Miranda Ranieri, winning in three and
World Number 12 Annie Au was in a cruise control as she
dismantled last minute substitute Katja Amir.
At the Cleveland Skating Club all three matches were also won by the
seeded players. American high school senior Julianne Chu made
the most of a snow day in New York by competing against World Number
25 Aisling Blake. Chu put in a good performance but the end
outcome was equally as frosty, going down in three games.
Multiple USA National Champion Latasha Khan progressed
unscathed against Mexican Nayelly Hernandez, as too did
in-form Kiwi Joelle King. King, who reached the final in
Greenwich last week, had a tough draw on paper with Nicolette
Fernandes from Guyana. King showed that her ranking is not maybe
matching her playing level right now though as she won in a straight
forward three games.