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BBQ Seoul Open 2009  01-07 Jun, Seoul, Korea, $60k

07-Jun, Final:   [1] Nicol David (Mas) bt [4] Jenny Duncalf (Eng)                          Head2Head
                               11/6, 3/11, 11/6, 11/4 (38m)

Two out of Three ain't bad ...
WISPA reports from Seoul

As is said, two out of three ain’t bad. After the final of the BBQ Seoul Women’s Open tonight that is what Malaysian Nicol David can boast in respect of titles.

She had lost in the 2007 final to Natalie Grinham, beat her sister to take it last year, and this time round took out England’s Jenny Duncalf to garner her second Seoul crown.

Fortunately, despite the forecast there was no hint of dampness going into the evening. It was cool on the court outside the I-Park Mall at Yongsan Station, but the court itself was covered, and the packed seating was festooned with umbrellas and probably plastic capes in pockets ready to be unfurled, though not necessary.

After the packed semis last night, with several dozen waiting afterwards in an orderly line for the semi finalists to sign posters and cards, the enthusiasts were in place again, fronted by TV cameras around the glass.

First they were treated by a display of belly dancing by a Korean troupe. Yes, incongruous, but very good.

The prospect of a tight encounter was likely as Duncalf was not going into this match tired from a gruelling semi final. A straight game win over Rachael Grinham was good news for her energy levels. Though the English girl hadn’t a victory to show from eleven previous encounters with David, her form here made for her chances to be discussed seriously.

Into court she came, again favouring the day-glo yellow that accentuates her waspish buzzing around the court. David, whose colours change by the day was favouring a mauve top for this match.

A slow start by the Malaysian was expected, but this time she got straight into her stride, taking chances as they came and staying in front throughout the first game. Though Duncalf did find better width as it unfolded she was not quite at the races and a few compelling drops from the front took the top seed into the lead.

The David ability to turn and reach the back alongside the ball not only brought gasps but quality returns from seeming winners. But Duncalf now seemed to be seeing the ball well and was going in early and with confidence. Caught off guard David was forced into errors that took her opponent to a 7/0 lead, and soon the second game.

With the scores levelled, Rachael Grinham was again prompting the Englishwoman while physio Ronald Fauvel was similarly building up David.

Both were using length and accuracy while seeking out chinks in the defences, and the massed ranks of spectators inside the arena together with hundreds covering the steps were all totally enthralled. They were watching David edge ahead and turn rat-a-tats into points on the board.

The third was won by David despite Duncalf showing more evidence of just how effective she has become in reaching the front to pick up the really short balls.

Then in the fourth the pattern was repeated and despite resistance the momentum was very much with the Malaysian. After 38 minutes the challenger had been subdued and David had retained her BBQ Seoul Open title.

When asked to comment on the match Duncalf confirmed her sluggish start: "I wasn’t really into it in the first," she said.

"I knew I needed to be more confident of my shots in the second & I did start seeing it and timing it well. She was taken a bit by surprise I think, but it is a fine line and you cannot fire the ball like that for a whole match’ she added.

"Actually I feel a bit disappointed as I am not feeling exhausted. I just made a few too many errors at the end."

As for the winner, she told reporters, "Jenny started playing so well that I knew I had to keep working her. It feels really good to have kept the title, especially as everybody is so enthusiastic in Seoul. It is what we play for."

The champion has been described in many ways, but perhaps never likened to a flag - but in the case of the Korean one, called taegueki, it is perhaps appropriate to do so when one looks at the centre circle which is divided into two equal parts. Without getting into the details of the yin & yang of Asian philosophy that they represent, suffice to say that when the red and blue forces come together they embody the concepts of continual movement, balance and harmony.

Now doesn’t that describe David pretty damned well!

Also like a flag, the Malaysian is flying. And the good news for her and the rest of the WISPA Tour is that plans are already being laid by the Seoul Squash Federation for the 4th staging next year.

Seoul Support

"By hosting this major international event, the sponsors and squash fans are expecting the elevation of the image of Seoul city as a global city and that of Korea as one of the global leaders.

"The greatest merit of this Open is that the event penetrates into the daily city-lives of the citizens. We are hoping that Seoul Women’s Squash Open will help Squash succeed in the bid for Olympics in 2016.

"We will put the utmost efforts in hosting another successful event, by increasing the level and quality of the Open and inventing the programs that would promote the image of Seoul city to the further level.

"For the greater joy of the players and the spectators, we will keep up the good work."

Secretary General, Seoul Sports Council

Mr Kim Hak Sin, Vice President of the Seoul Squash Federation & chief organiser of the event Mr Lee Jang Ho


The Referees

BBQ Seoul Open 2009
01-07 Jun, Seoul, Korea, $60k
Round One
03/04 Jun
05 Jun
06 Jun
07 Jun
[1] Nicol David (Mas)
11/4, 4/11, 11/6, 11/7 (43m)
[Q] Annie Au (Hkg)
[1] Nicol David
12/10, 11/5, 12/10 (40m)
[5] Alison Waters
[1] Nicol David

11/4, 11/6, 11/8 (36m)

[3] Natalie Grinham

[1] Nicol

11/6, 3/11, 11/6, 11/4 (38m)

[4] Jenny Duncalf

[5] Alison Waters (Eng)
11/2, 11/8, 11/8 (22m)
Song Sun-Mi (Kor)
[3] Natalie Grinham (Ned)
11/6, 11/6, 11/7 (25m)
[Q] Latasha Khan (Usa)
[3] Natalie Grinham
11/6, 11/6, 11/5 (30m)
[8] Kasey Brown
[8] Kasey Brown (Aus)
11/9, 11/8, 11/8 (34m)
Samantha Teran (Mex)
Jaclyn Hawkes (Nzl)
12/10, 11/5, 11/7
[6] Madeline Perry (Irl)
[6] Madeline Perry
13/11, 12/10, 12/10 (44m)
[4] Jenny Duncalf
[4] Jenny Duncalf

11/6, 11/8, 11/6 (34m)

[2] Rachael Grinham

[Q] Joey Chan (Hkg)
11/6, 11/2, 11/9
[4] Jenny Duncalf (Eng)
Rebecca Chiu (Hkg)
11/3, 11/3, 11/5 (25m)
[7] Shelley Kitchen (Nzl)
[7] Shelley Kitchen
6/11, 11/7, 5/11, 11/8, 14/12 (67m)
[2] Rachael Grinham
[Q] Donna Urquhart (Aus)
12/10, 12/10, 8/11, 11/6 (29m)
[2] Rachael Grinham (Aus)

Qualifying, Seoul State University:

02-Jun, Finals:

Joey Chan & Ahn Eun ChanAnnie Au (Hkg) bt Kylie Lindsay (Nzl)
11/5, 11/4, 11/4 (18m)
Latasha Khan (Usa) bt Emma Beddoes (Eng)
      11/8, 6/11, 11/1, 13/11 (55m)
Donna Urquhart (Aus) bt Sharon Wee (Mas)
      11/6, 6/11, 11/6, 10/12, 11/7 (56m)
Joey Chan (Hkg) bt Line Hansen (Den)
      11/5, 6/11, 11/8, 9/11, 11/7 (48m)

01-Jun, Round One:

Kylie Lindsay (Nzl) bt Miwa Maekawa (Jpn)
        6/11, 12/10, 11/5, 11/8 (36m)
Emma Beddoes (Eng) bt Chinatsu Matsui (Jpn)
       11/8, 6/11, 11/4, 11/1 (39m)

Donna Urquhart (Aus) bt Park Eun Ok (Kor)
       11/8, 11/6, 11/9 (35m)
Joey Chan (Hkg) bt Ahn Eun Chan (Kor)
       11/5, 7/11, 11/7, 11/6 (35m)

06-Jun, Semis:
Duncalf downs Grinham ...

WISPA reports from Seoul

Seoul Squash Federation officials looked anxiously at the leaden skies as the evening drew nearer. Would the semi finals of the BBQ Seoul Open be disrupted by outpourings from above? The court itself has a canopy, but the spectators would not be undercover.

However close to starting time the cloud colour became lighter before darkening in the dusk. Problem averted, though the forecast for the final tomorrow is less than encouraging.

Of the semi finalists, oddly it was the lower seeds who had reached the last four without dropping a game. Natalie Grinham had sailed serenely into Semis Saturday, and Jenny Duncalf had not found it easy against Madeline Perry in the quarters, but constructed a straight games win too.

Though defending champion Nicol David didn’t drop a game against Alison Waters in the quarters, she had saved five game balls to avoid doing so. Rachael Grinham had to survive a match ball against Shelley Kitchen. But a new round, a new evening, new permutations.

Grinham senior, ankle strapping evident would have to deal with a maturing opponent in Duncalf. If the later twenties are the woman squash player's prime age, then she, at 26 is following the code. Grinham, at six years older, proved the point by taking the World Open title only a couple of years ago.

Duncalf continued her week playing tight and efficient squash. Grinham carried on too, being just fractionally ragged.

The rallies were spirited, the variety from Grinham as fascinating as ever, but she sprinkled the mix with a few errors and loose ones; enough to allow Duncalf to get ahead in each game and close out her fourth win in a row against the Australian.

Grinham summed up what could be seen, saying, "My accuracy just wasn’t there. The ball didn’t go where I wanted it to go."

Of course these are just margins, but the difference was, as she added, "This court punishes you if your opponent can put the ball away, and I gave her too many chances."

While she may have been a little jaded following the narrow squeak the preceding evening against Kitchen, Grinham was beaten by a player in form. "I am really happy. I needed to stay concentrated and focussed and I did. I was putting the ball in good places and trying to keep her on her toes," explained Duncalf.

"I am really pleased to be in the final, and no long matches means I will be as fresh as possible – and I will need to be if Nicol gets through! But I don’t mind who I play, I just want to enjoy it. The crowd and the court have been great, the organisers have done a great job on the setting and I like to play outside."

So, one happy finalist then!

In what turned out to be a double dose of defeat for the Grinhams, Nicol David beat the junior sister to reach her 52nd WISPA Tour final. Significant this, as it meant overhauling Rachael Grinham’s 51 appearances.

When the ‘N’s play each other you can be sure of superlative scurrying. The remarkable retrieving was certainly on show tonight, but it was Nicol who was tending to control proceedings. She was regularly keeping Natalie behind her, and when the opportunity arose the ball was slotted away with an early taken drop.

Interestingly, after the match Grinham explained, "I haven’t played Nicol for a while so I was getting used to playing her again. I was trying to find the right game plan but in the end I took her too short too much."

The last time that Grinham had beaten David had been in the Seoul final two years ago, and now the Malaysian has taken eight on the reel.

If statistics are your bag, then the fact that David has an unblemished record of eleven wins against Duncalf means that the English girl has an uphill task ahead of her in the final. She is playing well enough to have a chance of ending the run though.

Hopefully the showers will hold off so that the steps and seating will be packed as they were tonight for the BBQ Seoul Open denouement.



05-Jun, Quarters:
Down to the semis ...

WISPA reports from Seoul

The seeds in the BBQ Seoul Open had broken through. The last eight were the top eight. But whether the top four could continue to grow into the event would unfold on a warm Seoul evening.

The air seemed more festive than earlier in the week, perhaps office workers warming up to their weekend, possibly sniffing the scent of battle.

Whatever the reason, the players were competing in front of large crowds. Many with the spoils of shopping victories in bags, all dropped to the ground so that clapping could continue.

But even before the oohs & aahs at the player ‘gets’ there were a great many as two bodybuilders gave an exhibition of how intense exercise and healthy eating can be so damaging. A few weeks of junk food in front of the TV would see them straight!

Proceedings opened with the intriguing prospect of Rachael Grinham trying to see off what inevitably would be a strong challenge from seventh seed Shelley Kitchen. Indeed, Kitchen had defeated her when they met in New York last November. The contrast between the wispy second seed with a light touch and the taller, hard hitting seventh was stark.

It was a roller coaster. Kitchen not only returning some of Grinham’s really audacious offerings, but dominating many rallies too. The Australian was perhaps a little tentative, not always slotting home when might have been expected, but Kitchen was nothing if not athletic and effective. Grinham had rolled her right ankle in February and again in April when she had assumed all was well and had dispensed with strapping. The blue binding was in evidence here as the carelessness would not be repeated.

All the sparring led to a deciding game which the New Zealander led 9/7 before reaching matchball at 10/9. Here, Grinham looking as if she was in casual knock-up mode, flicked the serve from close to the back wall towards the tin. It was never destined to make the front but by a millimetre it did, and out of the Kiwi’s reach too. Match ball saved, and another gut wrenching boast took the former world champion to her own match ball. A rasping cross-court voided that. But at twelve all a snatched Kitchen drive into the tin. The final act was another feathered backhand drop from Grinham and she had squeezed through.

"I was lucky to get out of that. When I hit the return on match ball I was sure it was down. The moment I struck it I called myself so many names and then it went up!" said the relieved winner.

Her semi final opponent will be Jenny Duncalf who won a high quality match against Madeline Perry, featuring classical all court squash. Perry has held steady at number nine in the world all this year, but a last 16 loss in the Texas Open had threatened to knock her back.

But a difficult first round hurdle here against Jaclyn Hawkes had been cleared. While a semi final berth was the intention, Jenny Duncalf was vibrant around the court, and got the breaks too. Perry could conceivably have been aspiring towards the possibility of a three nil win had she converted the game points she held in the almost identical first two games. The Irish number one had been putting away anything loose from the fourth seed but could do nothing about the nicked returns at game ball. A look to the heavens on the second one summed up her feelings.

That said, Duncalf was playing well. As she said afterwards, "I felt good, though Madders is very strong on the ball. Especially when she is balanced and punishing you with low hard shots. I tried to mix it up better, and I did play the big points well and not give too much away."

In the top half it was business as usual for Nicol David. The Penang powerhouse did her usual shtick of a slow start, but when she picked up the momentum during the second half of each game she became more of a potent force and difficult to stay with. Alison Waters, who has regained the number five slot this month is not only steady but an accomplished hard hitting and tight performer, but there is still daylight between David and the rest of the group.

Waters had some positives to take away from the straight games defeat though. Having been 10/8 ahead in the first and 10/7 up in the third, she was showing that living with the top dog is possible, even though winning must be placed on hold.

"I'm disappointed. I think that I missed a good chance to do well against Nicol, but she makes every rally so hard when she is down. She puts in the big rallies then.

"At least I felt I gave her a good challenge and didn't make it easy for her. Something to build upon," said the Londoner afterwards.

The final encounter would have been billed as an all Australian affair until Natalie Grinham completed her Dutch move. Kasey Brown still has AUS after her name, and after this match a zero too, while Grinham has a three.

Grinham has been quietly moving through the field and clearly has her eyes set on winning the title that she won in 2007. She beat Nicol David in the final that year, and this time will have to beat her in the semis if she is to get a hand on the BBQ Seoul Open trophy.

04-Jun, Round One, Top Half:
Down to the quarters ...

The remaining four places in the quarter finals of the BBQ Seoul Women’s Open were decided on the glass court placed outside the I-Park Mall, a shoppers delight which incorporates the bustling Yongsan train and subway station.

The court set up by Seoul Squash Federation is at the base of a wide stairway that features 68 steps and a waterfall running down one section all the way to close to the side of the glass where it disappears into the paving stones. The relaxing noise of the water spilling down is one of the more unusual backdrops to squash.

But before the play an opening ceremony featuring speeches and the event dedication. It was also a case of bring on the girls, as the players and spectators were treated to a delightful display of dancing by troupes of young girls, with some little fellas added for good measure. Cute to the nth degree!

With that concluded the guests were able to watch the arrival into court of the Korean wild card Song Sun-Mi.

Aged 19 and the youngest in the main draw field the hopes of the VIPS were with her – perhaps not fully appreciating the toughness of the task she faced against world number five Alison Waters. The Englishwoman is well used to playing on glass, has done so outside as well as inside and has played against home support too.

Here a tiny sprinkling of non-Korean faces were wishing her well, Song’s support was strong, and she didn’t disappoint. Rallying well, retrieving athletically and hitting some winners; but without the steady stream that Waters was able to muster and so a win to the seed.

The guests had been well briefed and knew that the world champion was on the bill next. Seats remained fully occupied, the steps thronged and the areas outside the barriers filled as Nicol David took on vibrant young talent Annie Au, the remaining member of the Honkers Musketeers in the draw.

While Au smiles all the time off court, in her work box she gives little away, either in emotion or unforced errors. David had to work for her win. In what has become a regular feature of June to September when Au is not studying, her game gets worked upon and she goes up several performance notches.

When Au settled into the match there were times when David was unable to dictate. Playing with abandon the young left hander took the second game and reached six all in the next before David started to deny her opportunities.

Indeed, the world number one who had never played Au before was lavish with her praise about Au afterwards: "She has so much potential. She has already matured so much, improving in leaps and bounds. She knows how to work the ball and her feel of the game is very good too," said David.

Au herself commented. "I am very happy; to get one game is a bonus as I thought I would lose 3/0." Another few months of training and she could be picking up many more games.

The third encounter featured friends. Third seed Natalie Grinham was taking on successful qualifier Latasha Khan. The American is like a moth drawn to the light of Tour events this year, Seoul being her tenth, and she did give the 2007 Seoul champion a good workout in defeat.

Grinham will play Kasey Brown in the quarter finals after the eighth seed came through what looked like a difficult match on paper. Mexican Samantha Teran is always an obdurate opponent, and with the two players both bustling around, the rallying was energetic. But Brown had better placement under the lights.

Tomorrow evening sees some interesting-looking BBQ Seoul Open quarter finals to enjoy.

Mr Yoon Hong-Geun had remarked in his event opening speech about how suited squash is for a place at the Olympics, and with the TV cameras rolling and the public enjoying the spectacle of top class sport the sport can point to spectacular settings and great coverage in yet another country – his own.

Sun-Mi & Waters

Grinham & Khan

Teran & Waters

03-Jun, Round One, Bottom Half:
Seeds safe in new Seoul venue

For the third time the WISPA Tour has come to the capital of Korea for the BBQ Seoul Women’s Open, and this time with a change of main draw venue.

Seoul Plaza, the central square in the city became unavailable as it was set to be the focus of demonstrations. No, not related to the animosity with the northern neighbours above the 38th parallel where here the leader is not considered ‘Dear’ as he flexes nuclear muscles. Instead, the recent death of former South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyum was leading to demonstrations which caused the Metropolitan Police Agency to disallow public access to the square. Earlier this week they surrounded the square with buses to maintain the exclusion zone.

So a hasty change was needed, and with great efficiency at a little over a week’s notice the Seoul Squash Federation relocated their ASB All Glass Court to a position in front of the I-Park Mall at Yongsan Plaza – a busy central area which is sparking great interest from shoppers in their thousands.

The location was succinctly described by Irish number one Madeline Perry who said, "I really like the setting. It is very different to last year but still pretty impressive."

Perry had good reason to be in expansive mood as she had just beaten New Zealander Jaclyn Hawkes in the first match of the evening. She had squeezed through in the quarters of the last World Open against the Kiwi, took her again in the Cannon Kirk Irish Open in April and did so in Seoul in the most convincing of the trio. Yet Hawkes had been in a rich vein of form for a while. Here though she was not allowed to settle as Perry was taking the ball early along with employing her customary nagging accuracy.

"I didn’t play well in Texas so wanted to make up for that performance," said the Irishwoman. She certainly did.

Awaiting her in the quarters will be fourth seed Jenny Duncalf, who comfortably extinguished the challenge of qualifier Joey Chan. The 21 year old from Hong Kong found it difficult to cope with the vagaries of the all glass court that her ranking has meant she has little experience of.

Indeed, the number one from Hong Kong, Rebecca Chiu, fared little better against an on song Shelley Kitchen. The New Zealander was not only hitting hard and low, but holding well too. It was all too much for Chui who found herself floundering. As she said afterwards, chewing over it, Chui explained, "I haven’t played her for a while and she has definitely got sharper."

This may not be such good news for second seed Rachael Grinham, who had lost to Kitchen in their last encounter at the Carol Weymuller Open last November.

Here, Grinham was pitted against fellow Aussie Donna Urquhart, whose legs and arms seem to elongate as the left hander flies around court Not only does Grinham give away a number of inches to her opponent, but nearly the first two games of their match too. Game balls needed to be saved in the first two, then switching off when the match seemed won cost her the third before taking the match.

"With a swing like hers you are never sure where the ball is going so I was just glad to have got through," she said.

As shoppers left for home, so did the four winners who have a rest day while the top half of the BBQ Seoul Women’s Open unfolds tomorrow ...


02-Jun, Qualifying Finals:
Three up in Seoul

The first qualification round of the BBQ Seoul Women’s Open had seen the Korean and Japanese pairs dispatched. Now in the final round at the Seoul State University Sports Centre places in the main draw of the WISPA Gold event would be the tantalising target.

Another brace, the Hong Kong duo of top seed Annie Au and seventh rated Joey Chan, were trying to join Rebecca Chiu in the main draw. Left-handed Au had little trouble against Kiwi Kylie; Lindsay downed in three.

Chan had a tougher task ahead of her against second seed Line Hansen, but in the last match of the day she became the third left hander through. She kept her shape, wasn't phased by not taking her fourth game chance she avoided snatching against the Dane in the decider.

Though the options were less than enticing with the WISPA computer having scattered all the qualification spots only amongst the top four seeds, they would both be in the mix.

Emma Beddoes, the only English representative, found the court warm and her opponent hot. Latasha Khan carries the joint distinctions of being one of the oldest, yet most prolific players on the Tour. And it was her experience which enabled her to deal with the rallying of her opponent and slot away the loose balls when the opportunities arose. But it took just short of an hour for her to claim her main draw place having to save a game ball in the fourth after squandering a 6/1 lead.

Beddoes explained her predicament, "It is a difficult court. It was hard to find winners on the warm court, and she found more than I did!"

Both Malaysian Sharon Wee and her Australian opponent Donna Urquhart bustle round the court. Both took two games, but the tight encounter featuring punch and counter punch saw a seeding upset when Urquhart took the decider.

‘I was really pleased to win that and give myself a bit of a confidence boost’ said the victor. ‘I felt relaxed going into it as I had nothing to lose, and when I got to the fifth I knew I needed a good start. Once I did I kept going trying not to give away easy points. As I say, a good boost’

Play now move to the all glass court set outside the Hyundai I-Park Yongsan Plaza in the city centre, with the final four names added to the main draw of the third staging of the BBQ Seoul Women’s Open.

The 2009 Seoul Open, only the fourth Tour event to be staged in South Korea, is helping to raise the profile of Squash in the country.

Mr Yoon Hong-Geun, Chairman of sponsors Genesis-BBQ, explained: "The Seoul Women's Open will again help us to promote squash in Seoul and we hope that the all-glass court and television programmes will help us see squash become an official Olympic sport."

David aims for finals record

Malaysia's world number one Nicol David is seeded to reach her 52nd WISPA final in this week's Seoul Open, thus moving ahead of her long-time rival Rachael Grinham to boast more Tour finals than any other current player.

But it is the second-seeded Australian whom David is expected to line up against in Sunday's climax on the all-glass court at Hyundai I-Park Yongsan Plaza in Seoul.

The 2009 Seoul Open, the third WISPA Gold event of the year, is in its third year in the Korean capital. The championship has attracted a star-studded field, including seven players from the world top ten. David, runner-up in 2007 and champion last year, is looking to record a hat-trick of final appearances.

The 25-year-old from Penang faces a qualifier in Wednesday's opening round and is expected to meet 2007 champion Natalie Grinham, the third seed, in the semi-finals. The world No4 - Rachael Grinham's younger sister - arrives in Seoul fresh from victory in the European Individual Championships, the 31-year-old's first title success since becoming a Dutch national last year.

Grinham senior also takes on a qualifier in the first round - with the draw predicting a semi-final clash with England's No4 seed Jenny Duncalf.

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