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CIMB Malaysian Open 2011
18-23 Jul, Kuala Lumpur


Men's Draw   Women's Draw       Alex' Gallery

Top Seeds Triumph

Gregory Gaultier and Nicol David both lived up to their top billing at the 2011 Malaysian Open as the duo chalked up convincing straight game victories in today's finals at the Curve Shopping Mall in KL.

While it was Gaultierís maiden Malaysian Open title (in his first PSA tournament in Malaysia), it was Davidís seventh consecutive win in the event.

[1] Grťgory Gaultier (Fra) bt Aamir Atlas Khan (Pak)
                         11/8, 11/3, 11/3 (43m)

Fairy tale ends for Khan

First on court were the men, with Aamir Atlas Khan featuring in his first five-star final looking to continue his giant killing run. With Khan being on form and had beaten Gaultier back in 2009 when the Frenchman was world number one, many had expected this to be an interesting and close affair. Gaultier, however, was a class above and apart from the first game, was never threatened.

The match started off very slowly, with both players choosing to get their lengths and depth right, never putting much pace on the rallies. The first 2-3 points were similar to watching a back court game. At 3-each, Gaultier decided to up the pace but Khan managed to keep up till mid game. The Frenchman broke away to 10-7 with some ferocious rallies that often forced mistakes off Khanís racket rather than winners. Khan saves a game point, the next 3 rallies finishing in lets, before the Pakistani tins an attempted backhand kill.

The second half of the first game seemed to have tired out Khan, who was nowhere like the player he was in the last two days. His movements were slower and his touches were not as sharp - four strokes in a game against him from his attacks which either came right back or he couldnít clear fast enough.

The first was a real shocker, when at 1-3 down, he went for the nick off the serve and the ball sailed right back to the T nearly waist high.

With the score at 5-2, Gaultier hit a forehand kill which Khan thought was down. He questions the main referee who thought it was good, who then asks for a call on the shot from the other two Ė and they were split. A let was finally decided by the main referee due to the different calls from the two assistant referees. This drew disagreement from Gaultier and also surprised many, as it seems the main referee's call was not considered in the decision. Of course, this was even more evident in this tournament since the term of ďteam/majority decisionĒ was so often used by the referees.

Unfazed by the call, the Frenchman continued with the intensity and won the next five points to get to game ball. Khan saves just the one and was now faced with a 2-game deficit. The third saw Gaultier in total control and never allowing Khan much time on the T. The former world number one clinched the title with a tight straight forehand drop which hugged the side wall.

Though soundly beaten, Khan would have been very happy with his run in the tournament and debuting in a major final. So much so, I couldnít help but notice Khan went straight to collect his pay cheque even before changing and the prize giving ceremony (held after the ladies final)!

[1] Nicol David (Mas) bt [2] Jenny Duncalf (Eng)
                         11/6, 12/10, 11/5 (42m)

David delivers

Nicol David kept the Malaysian Open trophy on home soil as she clinched her seventh in the series in front of a loud and cheering crowd. As the menís final came to a close, you could see the balconies on all floors being filled while at the vicinity of the court, the usual fans were already at full force with the cheering.

Iíve always pitied anyone whoís had to play David in Malaysia in the final the last couple of years. It can be pretty daunting!

The match started just the way the crowd had wished for. David was sharp and on song to take a quick 4-0 lead, the last through a backhand drop. This was aided by a less impressive Duncalf, who mightíve been a little shaken by the atmosphere, but at the same time, if thereís anyone who could get used to it, it would be her. The English lass earned her first point courtesy of a tin from David, who by then had a 6-point cushion.

As the game progressed, Duncalf settled in and was her usual self, matching Davidís game. But it was a little too late in this game as the huge deficit did the damage.

Both players continued playing well in the second and had some long rallies. It was the Malaysian who was in the lead most of the time; 4-2 then 7-4 after Duncalf tins. A string of 3 points by the world number two brought her on level terms.

The tempo of play was fast and aggressive from both players by now, with Duncalf more aggressive with going for winners while David trying to extend the rallies. Duncalf leads for the first time in this game 8-7 after a long rally and a tin from David followed after that. The crowd was looking rather worried for the first time, and Duncalf added salt to the wound with a drop shot winner to have her first of three game balls. Two winners from David brought her within a point and a no let decision to Duncalf drew her level.

At this point, the press officer came to tell me about prize giving proceedings and by the time she was done, the pair was leaving the court already. Two points had come and gone in a flash! David two games up.

The third saw David came firing right from the start, took the lead and never losing it. The first half was close, Duncalf tried to keep up and was most of the time just 1 or 2 points away.

But at 5-4 up, David played a very attacking game and was controlling the T so well to string a series of 5 points to game ball. She converted it on the second attempt with a tight forehand drive.

The crowd went crazy!

Duncalf was unlucky to not clinch the second and lose the tiebreak so easily (so quick I assume it was easy). Had she drew level at a game each, things might have been very different.

Both the finals ending in straight games is rather anti-climax!


Men's Draw   Women's Draw       Alex' Gallery

Gaultier just too good

Gregory stormed into the final of the 2011 Malaysian Open in a sounding fashion as he disposed off Alan Clyne in just 41 minutes. The Frenchman was simply a class above the world number 49 from Inverness.

Tried as hard as he may, but Gaultier was never troubled and dictated play from the start. The first two games saw Gaultier race to huge leads before Clyne broke the duck.

Gaultier dropped 5 points towards the end in each but closed both out easily. Though having played in the qualifiers and had some long matches, Clyne did not show much after effects in the first two.

The third was a similar story, Gaultier going 8-0 up before Clyne got back a point. Gaultier worked Clyne hard and his speed was beginning to slow down. Tiredness was slowly creeping into the Scot as he begun to have trouble clearing his drops, and Gaultier picked up a few easy points through strokes.

This had Clyne upset, who disagreed with the referees on more than one occasion. Another 3 points from Gaultier and he enters the final without dropping a single game.

Clyne wouldnít be too unhappy with his loss. Ranked 49th in the world and reaching the semis of an International 50+ tournament isnít a bad feat at all. 

Khan scores a first

The other semi final was against Cameron Pilley and Aamir Atlas Khan. There was a lot to play for both of them as the winner would be in the final of a tournament of this stature for the first time. In the end, it was Khan who came out the winner deservingly, who later said he is currently on form and playing great squash.

Both players started very cautiously in the first, playing the court deep and wide. It was Khan who was the first to step up a gear as he began to go for his shots, earning him a healthy lead to 8-3. Pilley continued to stick to his game plan of keeping the ball at the back and not allowing much play in the front corners, where Khan is lethal.

The Aussie must also have watched Khanís match the day before, as all attempts to the nick off the serve were saved. Slowly, Pilley clawed back to 9-9. A no let decision gave Khan game ball, after which he tinned in the next rally.

A no let again, this time against Khan and Cameron had game ball. He duly converted with a forehand volley kill. Khan would have been very unhappy to have lost this game.

Having won the first, it mustíve given Pilley some confidence as he began to play more aggressively and started to attack the front a lot more. At 2-each, Khan slams the serve into the nick, his first of the afternoon after many failed attempts.

Then at 3-3, Khan hits a forehand crosscourt drive so hard and low, it had Pilley looking for the ball, who thought it was another attempt at the nick. Khanís shot making were coming to effect and he finished the game off with a deceptive forehand drive off the front which sent Pilley the wrong way.

The third was a stroll for Khan, who was 10-2 up in no time and a stroke wrapped up the game 11-4, Khan started off from where he left and went 5-0 up in the fourth. Employing a strategy of somewhat hitting the ball hard and low, the Aussieís tall frame worked against him as he was forced to bend real low to retrieve. A long rally ensued at 5-1, with great retrieving on display from both players and Pilley finally gave up.

Khan continues to dominate and races away to 8-3 before Pilley gave all that he had left in his reserves. He does manage to get close within 2 points to 7-9. Khan won the next rally to hold game ball, which he needed three to score his biggest final ticket of his career.


Top two to meet in final

The top two seeds, Nicol David and Jenny Duncalf, who are also the worldís top two players, setup a mouth watering final tomorrow when both beat their opponents in straight games.

While the scores may be 3-0, they were both very well challenged by their opponents in two of the games that couldíve gone either way.

Duncalf took to court first against French youngster Camille Serme, who was clinical yesterday in her win against Joelle King. She continued to impress here, matching Duncalf point for point in the first game.

The world number two started much better compared to yesterday and got her rhythm very quickly. However, it was Serme who broke away to 10-7 but failed to convert any of the three game balls she had, allowing Duncalf to force the tie break. A pair of game balls were split, before Serme tins a drop to 12-13, which Duncalf converts at her second attempt.

Duncalf came firing in the second game and opened up an 8-2 lead with some well orchestrated rallies. Serme simply did not have an answer in this game and manages just another 3 points. The third started very equally matched with the pair trading point for point and exchanging leads several times, with Serme last led at 5-4.

Duncalf levels and pulls away to 7-5. An amazing rally followed; Serme in total control and attacking the corners. The English lass chased down everything, and suddenly turned what wouldíve normally been a defensive pickup into a deceptive flick to the back of the court which Serme could only watch. Duncalf maintains goes 8-5 up and maintains the 3-point margin till the end.

Having beaten Delia Arnold in a very close match in the first round, the Malaysian audience was looking for their squash queen to exact revenge on Omneya Abdel Kawy.

The pair has a rivalry dating back to their early/mid teenage years so both are very familiar with each otherís capabilities. David has pulled away in the last few years, but today she was not in her element and was made to work by the Egyptian.

The first game was fairly contested with both players having their chances to be in the lead. David was playing her game of moving Kawy around while the Egyptian was trying to attack when she could. The Malaysian was making far too many mistakes than her usual self, clipping the tin on one too many occasions.

Towards the end, Kawy led 8-7 after executing a beautiful backhand crosscourt drop from the back. She led again at 9-8, after which David made no more mistakes to take the next 3 points to go one up.

The second started similarly and this time, Kawy opened up a much healthier lead at 8-5. David pulled back within a point at 7-8, and Kawy responded with a cross court drive so wide David had no chance.

A dubious call of awarding David a stroke at Kawy 9-8 up got the Egyptian out demanding an explanation from the referees (who couldnít quite do so) and earned herself a conduct warning. However, after discussing with Nicol, the Malaysian gave thumbs up for a let to be played and the decision was reversed.

David responded by taking the next point to draw level. A stroke followed when Kawy reversed directly into an oncoming David off a loose return to give her game ball at 10-9.

In the next rally, another drama ensued when the main referee had called Davidís lob out, asked to stop play and awarded the point to Kawy, but later reversed it because of ďteam decisionĒ from the other 2 referees.

The next rally literally killed off Kawy. It seemed that David had in plan to keep it going forever until the Egyptian would fall flat. After hitting a defensive boast, Kawy had given up and stayed at the back of court but David hit it straight back at her, who smacked it hard and low and it was now David who had to hit the defensive boast, which Kawy killed off with a drop into the nick. David won the next two points without much resistance as Kawy had tire out.

There wasnít much competition in the third as the Egyptian was still reeling off the effects of the rally at the end of the previous game. With David increasing the pace and speed, Kawy was left with no choice and tried for winners from all corners. A stroll from the Malaysian to seal victory.



Duncalf Escapes

Coming onto court right after the menís second seed had been beaten in straight games, Jenny Duncalf was heading towards the same fate in her match against Kasey Brown. But the world number two managed to regain her cool to sneak through to the semi finals after coming back from two games down.

Duncalf started off the match well, taking a 3-point lead right till middle of the game. Brown manages to pull back to 5-all, after Duncalf had sent her return of serve into the tin. Duncalf manages to get into the lead again at 6-5 and 7-6, but that would be the last time she did. Two tins in a row gave Brown her first lead of the match at 8-7 and a crosscourt volley drop later earned her game point. Duncalf pulls back to 10-9 and a stroke decision in favour of the Australian sealed the game. A clearly unhappy screamed at the decision in disgust.

In the second, Brown raced to a quick 7-3 lead. Duncalf seem not to be able to play her normal game and many of her shots were loose. Perhaps the stroke decision earlier was still bugging her. It didnít help that Brown was in her element and picking up everything Duncalf threw at her. As Brown got to 8-3, Duncalf flips her racket into the air in frustration. A drive that dies at the back would give Brown her game point at 10-5, after which she drops another point before taking a 2-0 lead.

The third was a close affair in the first half, both players trading point for point. More decisions had to be made by the referees, of which Duncalf questioned. Clearly, she was getting annoyed that she wasnít given an explanation to the decisions apart from ďitís a team decisionĒ. Two consecutive tins proved costly from Brown as this opened up a 8-5 lead for Duncalf, who finished off in style with a dead crosscourt nick to the front left corner.

Kasey Brown started the fourth brilliantly to take a 3-1 lead, before being wrong footed by Duncalf for 3-2. The lead increased as the game progressed, up to 8-5, where the English lass would pull back to 8-8 and then game point at 10-8. An attempt to play a drop ends in the tin to force the tie break. But Duncalf manages to recompose and win the next 2 points to force the decider. Duncalf was very pumped up now while the tiredness in Brown was more and more apparent. From 3-3 onwards, Duncalf cruised to 11-4 to wrap the match.

End of the road for giant killing King

Joelle King, who yesterday evening was impressive in her straight games upset of Madeline Perry, the fourth seed, today was out of sorts against Camille Serme of France.

Both players started out very cautiously, playing deep into the back corners without much action in the front. Sermeís better depths in her shots were the key, as she strolled through 11-6.

In the next game, King opened up a quick 6-1 lead, which was cancelled out almost immediately by her own self, no thanks to numerous tins. At 6-all, two strokes gave King back the lead to 8-6, but the rest was all she could manage.

The third game, though the score might indicate otherwise, but Serme was in firm control of things most of the time.

The Queen delivers

Nicol David, undoubtedly the sports darling of Malaysian sports currently, delivered what she did best, WIN.

The crowd had gathered all around the concourse and also the balconies on the upper floors of The Curve shopping mall for this moment. As she was introduced, loud cheers were all around. She did not disappoint and raced to a 7-0 and 8-1 lead, never allowing Massaro much time at the T. The English lass, the only one who has beaten David this year, somehow managed to get control and came back to 9-7, before David closed out the game.

In the second, it was very close in the beginning before Massaro pulled away 6-3 and continued to lead all the way. David managed to reduce the deficit to a single point to 8-7 with a tight backhand drive but lost the next 2 points and now faced game ball. Massaro tins a drop and the next point as well, allowing David the opportunity to be a point away from forcing the tie break. One could sense the anxiousness of the audience by now. Massaro finishes with a perfect length, drawing sighs from all over.

David came back with a vengeance in the third, allowing Massaro only a single point in the earlier part of the game.

The fourth was similar, Massaro winning the first point before David raced to 8-1 with her trademark Duracell bunny performance. Everything Massaro threw at her, she chased them down. Then either she would send Massaro all over the court or force a mistake.

It seems dťjŗ vu as Massaro was slowly fighting back again just like in the first game, only this time up to 9-6, before Malaysiaís squash queen wrapped it up in just under an hour.

What a comeback!

In the last match of the evening, third seed Rachael Grinham was outlasted by Egyptian Omneya Abdel Kawy in a highly entertaining match between these two great shotmakers - plenty of volley drops and deceptive flicks. Such a shame the majority of the crowd had left (as the shops were closing and itís close to 10pm) by the time this started.

The Egyptian took first game 11-7. Both players had a run of a series of points each, and Kawy had the final straw. The second game was all Grinham as she led from start to finish, outrunning her younger opponent in most of the rallies, picking up everything and forcing mistakes out of Kawy. A beautiful forehand crosscourt drop from the middle of the court sealed the game.

Grinham started well in the third and led most of the time, with Kawy drawing level twice at 5 and 7-all. There were long rallies being battled throughout the game. A stroke against Kawy at 8-7 gave GRinham a 2-point cushion to 9-7. However, the Egyptian won the next 4 points to lead the match once again. The punishing rallies in the third probably took its toll on Kawy, as the fourth was practically given away. Grinham was never really troubled and was aided by the six shots into the tin by Kawy.

The decider was indeed a gem. Both players traded point for point in the first half, before Kawy dictated play and raced to match ball at 10-5 from 3-4 down. Grinham fought back very hard, ran and picked up everything. Again, in between, there were some decisions by the referees that were questioned by both players. The final few points saw Kawy in total control, but Grinham somehow managed to pick up winner after winner, but eventually luck ran out for the Aussie, when a mishit from her came straight back to herself to give Kawy a stroke, and place in tomorrow semis.

Alex' Gallery


Pilley taller.....and better today

Cameron Pilley started off the day with an upset of second seed Mohamed El Shorbagy in three convincing games. With Pilley playing a very disciplined game, Shorbagy was not able to play his usual shots as much as heíd like to. The Aussie was hitting very consistent lengths and covered the court well to pick up nearly everything thrown at him. 190+ centimetres was put to its full use. The Egyptian never looked comfortable in the first two games and the taller of the pair won both to 6.

Pilley continued his momentum to take a 9-3 lead. Some loss of concentration, perhaps sensing victory, allowed a vengeful comeback by the youngster who drew level to 9-9. The next rally saw Pilley being sent to all corners by the crafty Shorbagy. A flick to the backhand corner at the back sent Pilley diving, who somehow manages to just about retrieve with a boast. Shorbagy drops and Pilley comes in lightning speed and hits a crosscourt beyond the reach of the Egyptian to get to match ball. It was quickly cancelled out with a backhand crosscourt nick off the serve. Pilley gets another match ball off a forehand winner which was cancelled out in similar fashion Ė off a crosscourt nick. A stroke in favour of Pilley followed and this time, he converts.

End of local interest for the men

Azlan Iskandar and Ong Beng Hee both crashed out of the tournament to deserving conquerors. The nationís top player Azlan Iskandar, playing in his first PSA event since his stint with the Army reserves was ousted by an on form Aamir Atlas Khan. Iskandar struggled with his lengths in the start of the first. By the time he found his momentum, it was a little too late as Khan went on to win the game to 5. Iskandar came back strongly in the next game, quickly racing to an 8-1 lead. He followed this with a string of unforced errors to allow Khan 4 quick points. At 9-5, Khan called his own pickup not good and faced game ball. More mistakes from the Malaysian and it was all level in no time. He recomposed himself and finds the nick next to game ball and then closed it out.

With Iskandar having found his rhythm now and Khan playing well, it was now a good matchup. The Pakistani took an early lead in the fourth to 7-3, but the Malaysian, cheered on by a loud crowd, climbed back to 6-8. Khan responded with two consecutive beautiful forehand crosscourt nicks off the serve, much to the Malaysianís frustration. A long rally followed which ended in the front right corner after both players traded drops with the Malaysian coming out tops. This was followed by a stroke in the front and Iskandar was within a point of forcing the tie break. The next four rallies were long and all ended up with lets, the last one which looked a stroke. Iskandar had the opportunity in the next rally, but instead tinned loose ball.

The fourth was practically given away Ė an ace to start off after Iskandar missed a tight serve and seven tins. That leaves Khan only 3 points to win, which he did, the last one where he displayed amazing retrieving skills and anticipation. Iskandar was not his usual self today, but all credit to Khan who covered the court very well, was able to read Iskandarís game and most of all, his honesty with his own bad pickups a few times in the match.

Top seed
Gregory Gaultier ended Malaysian interest in the menís event when he beat a spirited Ong Beng Hee in straight games. The first saw both players start off in blistering pace, both hitting the ball hard and using the court very well. It was the Malaysian who was in front most of the time. Two consecutive strokes were split between the pair to bring the score to 8-6 in the Malaysianís favour, before Gaultier rallied his way to draw level. Ong won the next rally to be in front again, which was cancelled out immediately. Though the Malaysian tried very hard, it was Gaultier who closed out on his second game ball, both of which were won through strokes.

The Frenchman opened the second with a huge 7-0 lead. Beng Hee was always on the receiving end of the rallies, of which some were long. There were a few lets in between the points and at 7-0, Gaultier was unhappy with a call and questioned the referees. This disturbed his concentration and he mishit a simple volley next. He drops just another point to take a 2-0 lead.

Gaultier continued on from the second game, taking the first 3 points very quickly before Ong slams the next serve into the nick for his first point. The Malaysian manages to come back to 4-5 but Gaultier then recomposed and played more patiently, to take the lead again to 9-4. Ong climbed back to 7-9 but that was all he could manage, and the former world number one finished off with a backhand volley into the nick.

Easy for Clyne
In the match between qualifiers, Alan Clyne came out victorious with an easy 39-minute win over Karim Abdel Gawad. The first started off with some cautious rallies from both. It was quite evident that the Egyptian was struggling to get used to the unorthodox style of the Scot. It was all level at 6-all before Clyne reeled off the next 5 points to take the lead. The second was similar, close in the beginning and Clyne reeling off 4 consecutive points in the end to win the game.

Gawad was getting slower by the points. The 238 minutes of match time to his credit in the previous three days was taking its toll. He practically gave away the third and was unable to bring himself to move to the front of the court anymore.


20-Jul: Round One:

As I look at the updated womenís draw printout, I canít help but notice that there couldíve possibly been (however slightly one might argue) up to four Asian quarter finalists. Now that wouldíve been quite a statement for an event of this stature.

Low impressive

First on court for the day was second seed Jenny Duncalf and uprising Malaysian Low Wee Wern, who reached a career high ranking of 13 in the first quarter of the year.

Duncalf took the first game rather comfortably 11-6. But in the next 2 games, the 21 year old Wee Wern matched Duncalf shot for shot but in the end, it was the more experienced world number two who played the final crucial points better to close both games out and the match in just under 40 minutes.

Nevertheless, it was a good performance by Wee Wern, who two weeks ago was upset in the Malaysian Nationals semi finals.

Pallikal stretches Brown all the way

Two courts away, another young Asian, Dipika Pallikal of India was battling it out against Aussie Kasey Brown.

Pallikal started off very strongly, placing the ball in all corners and had Brown doing a lot of work moving around. Brown came back strongly to take the next, dropping just four points. The next two games were evenly contested and split one each, before Kasey raced through the final game.

King stuns Perry

New Zealandís Joelle King provided the only upset of the day in the womenís event when she ousted fourth seed Madeline Perry in straight games.

It was certainly not what Perry had expected, whose last trip to Kuala Lumpur in March saw her reach the final of the KL Open.

The first game was close, with only two points separating the pair in the end. But the lanky Kiwi lass was in total control in the next two games and completed the upset in just 40 minutes.

* It was certainly a delight for Ross Stokes (NZ-er working in Singapore on business trip to KL), whom I met and gave a lift later. It was Rossí first time seeing Joelle play since she was 15 back in the local club!

Serme squeezes through

While Camille Serme may be the seeded player in this encounter, Raneem El Weleily is just a rung below in the WISPA rankings (now that Atkinson is retired), so it really didnít mean much.

This, they certainly showed in this lengthy 66-minute gruelling encounter. Serme won games 1, 3 and 5, while the Egyptian took the other 2. The scores of each game were either to 8 or 9, thatís how close it was.

While there was quite a bit of work for the referees tonight, this is probably the cleanest match of the evening with both players really going for the ball each time.

* If there was a best dressed for the day award, the French lass would bag this hands down, as she looked very fitting to be on the Wimbledon grass of SW19.

Grinham powers through,
but not without a fight

35 minutes in a four game match would probably sum up how short and fast the rallies were in this match between Rachael Grinham and Hong Kongís first top-10 womenís player, Annie Au.

Both players have similar games in many ways and like to take the ball early. There was plenty of volleying between the pair to the front corners, and Grinhamís deceptive flicks made Au work very hard. In the end, it was the more experienced Aussie who got through.

Arnold fails to close out

Delia Arnold, fresh from a very successful Malaysian Nationals, continued her good form today against Egyptís Omneya Abdel Kawy.

Watched on by father, sister and a very passionate local crowd, the Malaysian number three sneaked through the first two games.

In the third, it was point to point all the way. Towards the end of this game, there were many questionable decisions, many against Kawy, who seem to have run out of steam and was fishing for strokes. Arnold had match ball at 11-10, but tinned two consecutive shots.

In the fourth, she took a healthy 9-3 lead before Kawy clawed back to 9-6. A few more simple mistakes saw Kawy draw level before forcing a decider.

In the fifth, it was one way traffic for the Egyptian. Arnold, who was clearly dejected, wouldíve had her biggest scalp in her career, had she managed to close this out.

David and Massaro eases through

In the last two matches in the ladies, local darling Nicol David eased past Donna Urquhart in straight games.

David was never threatened by her Aussie opponent in this 31-minute match. As it always is, once David gets her momentum, it is very difficult to break her rhythm.

David faces Englandís Laura Massaro, who had a slightly lengthier workout against fellow countrywoman Sarah Kippax. The former won in a much closely contested three games. While the score might be close, it was always Massaro who was in more control in the rallies.


Shorbagy and Pilley advance

Former world junior champion Mohamed El Shorbagy and Australian Cameron Pilley both won in straight games today. With a combined height of 3.7 metres, it could potentially be a very interesting quarter final tomorrow.

Lanky Egyptian Mohamed El Shorbagy, champion of the last tournament here in KL, was in full control in his match against Aaron Frankcomb. He opened up huge leads in the first two games, but still had to work pretty hard for the points.

In the second game, there was a dispute to a call by Frankcomb, prompting him to come out of the court to voice his displeasure, earning himself a conduct warning. Once back in court, the discussion continued, now between the players and the Egyptian too got a conduct warning this time. In the third, Shorbagy got a little impatient, tinning some returns of serve. He managed to recompose to close out eventually.

Cameron Pilley, who last year was upset in the first round as a second seed, made sure history did not repeat this time. The tall Aussie played a very disciplined game to defeat last yearís finalist Tarek Momen of Egypt. Though it was a straight games victory, it took Pilley 65 minutes. Momen, best remembered for his unorthodox swings and boasts, found the reach and pickup of Pilley too much to handle in the end.

Top two local men through

Malaysiaís top two menís players both advanced to the quarter finals with convincing wins over their lower ranked opponents. However, qualifier Nafiizwan Adnan was given a squash lesson by former world number one Gregory Gaultier.

National champion Azlan Iskandar defeated local wildcard Kamran Khan, in a repeat of the Malaysian Nationals semi finals.

While Iskandar won that encounter very comfortably, he had to work slightly harder today. The younger of the pair, Khan was unable to do much in the first as Iskandar dominated with precise lengths and pace. However, in the next game, Khan seem to have settled more and was matching the pace. Play was at a very fast pace with some great pickups by both players, delighting a pretty packed audience. Iskandar played the more important points better to grab the second and it was pretty much the same story in the third.

Ong Beng Hee had a shorter match, ousting Ryan Cuskelly of Australia in just 31 minutes. The former world junior champion was never really troubled apart from a spell of points late in the second game by the Australian.

Ong plays top seed Gregory Gaultier tomorrow, who had an easy time against Asian champion Nafiizwan Adnan. The Frenchmanís depth and precision was too much to handle for the young Malaysian. Though totally outplayed, the ever hardworking Adnan gave his all and chased everything thrown to him.

Khan and Gawad win 5-game thrillers

There were three 5-game matches today, with 2 of them being won by qualifiers who would face each other tomorrow. The other was the match between Aamir Atlas Khan, the top ranked Pakistani who was recently dropped from the national team, against Englishman Chris Ryder. With 10 places separating them in the PSA ranking, it was the higher ranked Khan who was victorious in the end.

Egyptian qualifier Karim Abdel Gawad won the longest match of the day, beating Farhan Mehboob in 100 minutes. The Pakistani drew first blood with a closely contested first game, winning 11-9. The next two went to the Egyptian, with the third going the distance up to 18-16. The last 2 games were split one each with the identical score of 11-9. Both players loved to play the front corners and there was too much interference from both players.

Clyne has the biggest scalp

Match of the day for me has to be the upset of Hisham Ashour by Scotlandís Alan Clyne.

Both players have very contrasting styles, with Ashour being a ďtypicalĒ Egyptian shotmaker while Clyne plays a more traditional game in a rather unorthodox way.

There were many times throughout the match where Ashour had hit a winner, but somehow the Scot manages to get there. The match had a splendid moment in the end, where at 12-13 down,
Ashour hit a crosscourt forehand into the nick from the back of the court, after a long punishing rally. Clyne however, responded with a similar shot in the next to hold match ball once again. This time, he finished it to book his place against another Egyptian tomorrow.


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