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Texas Open 2017
28 Feb - 05 Mar, Dallas, USA, $35k

05-Mar, Final:

[2] Annie Au
(Hkg) 3-2 [3] Donna Urquhart (Aus)
            11/6, 7/11, 11/5, 5/11, 11/8

Texas Open title goes home with Annie Au,
after a five game thriller

Ken Wilhelm reports

The stands were full, and the stairway that wound up to the next floor, behind the court, and over the reserved seating was standing room only. Which made for an intimate experience for everyone, didn't really matter where you sat or stood, the sweat on the brows of these two warriors was in sharp focus for all.

Donna opened the match serving, but it was Annie, who after the first five rallies went on an aggressive rampage. She went up 3-1, from where Donna pegged one back, to close within 2-3. And then it was almost over from there, Annie took six points in a row to go up 9-2.

Annie's high looping, slow serve was working magic, especially on Donna's backhand side, and Annie was gaining immediate rally control from the get go. From the front right corner, Annie's high cross court lobs were sublime, and giving Donna a struggle, even though it was her forehand side.

From that deep forehand corner, Donna was hitting a bit too many boasts, which either didn't stretch Annie enough, or Annie was all over, and slipping in tight drop winners. In the end, a comfortable 11-7, first set win for Annie.

The second game saw a very determined Donna running everything down, reacting a bit better to the drops to front left, which allowed her to be more proactive, and maintain a slight edge in control of the rallies.

The largest lead in the second game didn't happen until Donna went from 7-6 to 9-6, and from there she stood firm, keeping the edge in the rallies to win 11-7. Donna was buoyant leaving the court, and Annie was a bit frustrated that she let her opponent dictate the course of play.

When the third game started, it could be seen, Annie was in no mood to let the match slip further. The game was a lot closer than the final score, 11-5 to Annie. But it was Annie who was positive, and constantly applying pressure on Donna, who was having a difficult time, with a number of errors, going for low shots, that found the tin.

Going into the fourth game, it was Donna who got the first big surge, going from 1-2 down, Donna swept three points, then another two points, and she was up 6-3. At this point, no one in the crowd could be faulted for counting on this becoming a five set match. And so it was. After an incredibly long rally, which took the players to all four corners, often on the diagonal, with numerous rally saving gets from both players, it was Annie who took the point, to close within 5-8.

Donna, even though losing that heroic rally, was to show the famous fortitude of her coach, David Palmer (two-time World Champion), and she closed the door on the comeback, winning the next three rallies, taking the match to a fifth set decider, 11-5.

As the fifth set started, it was pretty obvious that the crowd, who may have adopted Donna as their own, in light of her earlier, gutsy, hard fought wins in the tournament, were expecting to see Donna march through to the title.

But, it was Annie who quieted the crowd, and even elicited appreciative applause after a number of points, where she showed a top-ten lesson in her tactical workup in the rallies.

Annie started out the fifth game using a faster, flatter serve, departing from her usual high slow looping serve. This threw Donna off a bit, as she had started to target in on Annie's preferred slow serve. And that meant Annie started out the rallies with an edge. From 1-1, Annie surged to a 5-1 lead, pressuring Donna into 3 errors along the way.

Then Donna, starting to get into more equal footing in the rallies, pulled Annie back a bit, and closed the gap to 6-8. This final game, up to midway, had a very traditional look to it, as both women were playing straight rallies up and down the walls, with only the occasional hard low, or high slow crosscourt thrown in.

That first half of the fifth set was a great departure from 2nd, 3rd, and 4th sets, where the rallies were very open, going all over the court, in particular side to side in the deep corners. Of particular note was that throughout the game, Annie was totally zeroed-in on her back hand drives. Where she was getting them deep almost every time, keeping Donna on the proverbial 'back foot'.

But around this mid-point, Annie made two tactical changes: she went back to her high slow looping serve, and she started moving Donna side to side in the deep corners, mixed with drops and then long diagonal drives that kept Donna under intense pressure.

From Annie leading 7-6, one error each from both players, took the score to 8-7, Annie still in the lead. The next two rallies, again were split, but each player earned their point, taking the score to 9-8. Then, serving to even the score, the end of a tough rally came when Donna's racket put another ball into the tin, and gave Annie match point 10-8.

At this point, the crowd could see the end, Annie had pushed to a good lead in the beginning of the set, and she had countered each points surge that Donna put together. Thus, in the end, it only needed one match point for Annie to close out the match.

In the end, the crowd showed a wonderful appreciation for the match, and Annie's resolute win, still clapping, well after they made their way off the court.

Donna, should take a lot of confidence from this match and tournament, as she had a very good run to the final, and an excellent fight she put up in stretching Annie to five games.

Annie, well played, well fought, she showed her worth in seeding and she used her years of experience in the world's top echelon to calmly take the title.

To Annie: 'Hao Bang!!'
 

Texas Open 2017
28 Feb - 05 Mar, Dallas, USA, $35k
Round One
02 Mar
Quarters
03 Mar
Semis
04 Mar
Final
05 Mar
[1] Joelle King (Nzl)
11/9, 13/11, 11/4
Nele Gilis (Bel)
[1] Joelle King

11/6, 11/8, 11/9

[7] Coline Aumard
[1] Joelle King

9/11, 11/8, 11/7, 11/8

[3] Donna Urquhart

 

[3] Donna Urquhart

 

11/6, 7/11, 11/5, 5/11, 11/8

 

[2] Annie Au

13th PSA title for Annie

 

[7] Coline Aumard (Fra)
11/2, 11/7, 11/7
Samantha Teran (Mex)
[8] Rachael Grinham (Aus)
11/6, 11/7, 12/10
Kanzy El Dafrawy (Egy)
Kanzy El Dafrawy

6/11, 11/3, 7/11, 11/3, 11/8

[3] Donna Urquhart
[3] Donna Urquhart (Aus)
11/5, 11/6, 11/6
[Q] Milou van der Heijden (Ned)
Millie Tomlinson (Eng)
11/9, 8/11, 11/7, 9/11, 11/5
[4] Heba El Torky (Egy)
Millie Tomlinson

8/11, 5/11, 11/6 rtd

[6] Jenny Duncalf
Millie Tomlinson

11/5, 11/6, 11/3

[2] Annie Au

[Q] Misaki Kobayashi (Jpn)
11/4, 6/11, 11/8, 11/8
[6] Jenny Duncalf (Eng)
[Q] Danielle Letourneau (Can)
11/8, 13/11, 6/11, 11/3
[5] Line Hansen (Den)
[Q] Danielle Letourneau

11/6, 9/11, 11/5, 11/3

[2] Annie Au
[Q] Rowan Elaraby (Egy)
11/9, 11/4, 11/2
[2] Annie Au (Hkg)
Qualifying:

Finals:
Misaki Kobayashi (Jpn) 3-0 Rachel Arnold (Mas)                  12/10, 11/9, 11/5
Rowan Elaraby (Egy) 3-2 Nouran El Torky (Egy)  11/8, 4/11, 11/3, 7/11, 14/12
Danielle Letourneau (Can) 3-1 Tamika Saxby (Aus)      9/11, 12/10, 11/5, 11/6
Milou van der Heijden (Ned) 3-1 Alison Thomson (Sco) 11/9, 12/10, 7/11, 11/9

Round One:
Rachel Arnold (Mas) 3-0 Reyna Pacheco (Usa)                    11/2, 11/5, 11/1
Nouran El Torky (Egy) 3-0 Catalina Pelaez (Col)              12/10, 12/10, 12/10
Rowan Elaraby (Egy) 3-0 Sivasangari Subramaniam (Mas)    11/9, 12/10, 11/9
Tamika Saxby (Aus) 3-0 Janet Vidhi (Ind)                           11/1, 11/4, 11/5
Danielle Letourneau (Can) 3-0 Sachika Ingale (Ind)              11/3, 11/3, 11/9
Alison Thomson (Sco) 3-1 Nicole Bunyan (Can)          11/4, 14/12, 5/11, 11/8
04-Mar, Semis:
Au and Urquhart through to final in Dallas
Ken Wilhelm reports

It's going to be a final for the LEFTYs tomorrow. Yup, one semi went according to seeding and the other ended with a solidly performed upset.

The first semi-final was between Annie Au and Millie Tomlinson. Only Annie would have been expected to be on court for this one, but Millie started off her tournament with an awesome five game upset win over the #4 seed Heba El Torky.

Then Millie followed that up with a win over #6 seed Jenny Duncalf. Jenny had won the first two games, with Millie taking the third. I didn't see the match, but one would have to assume that Jenny suffered an injury during the third game, as she retired from the match prior to the fourth game. So that sent Millie into the semi-final.

Annie on the other hand, had a relatively stress free path to the semi. Except for going walkabout during the second game of the quarterfinal, Annie has been pretty much in control throughout her matches.

So first game up Millie won the toss and served first, but it was Annie to open the scoring. And through the first game Annie demonstrated why she's been ranked as high as sixth in the world.

Millie was fighting tooth and nail, and she got to 3-4 after being down 1-4, but then Annie went on a five point stretch, and basically put the game out of reach 9-3. Game score 11-5 to Annie.

Basically Annie kept things simple, and moved Millie around, until Millie made an error, or gave up a loose ball that Annie would quickly slot away.

In between the first and second game, Millie likely got some coaching ;-), because she came out attacking Annie's backhand. That tactic and probably the ball being a bit dead on the cold court, caught Annie off, and Millie raced to a 4-0 lead.

At that point, Annie changed her own tactics, and with the ball warming, she took the next two points. A couple of errors later, Millie saw her lead stretch to 6-2. And everyone is starting to think, that this could be a storming match.

But it wasn't to be, Annie added more pressure, started changing up her serve, and she changed her shot selection on the backhand side (remembering that Annie is a lefty ;-). From being down 2-6, Annie went on a crushing tear of nine points in a row, to take the second game 11-6.

Going into the third game, we pretty much knew that it was Annie's match. And once the ball warmed up, that was pretty much it. From 3-3, Annie went on an eight point run, taking the final game 11-3.

So Annie takes her expected place in the final. As the #2 seed, she's weathered well, the challenges thrown at her way, and that's got to be a boost, to one's walk, and now, she's into a final, that can be expected to be a contrast of tactical approaches.

Only this time, spectators need to get there early, to take up their seats on the right hand wall ;-)

Second up were the two expected seeds, albeit with slightly different paths. Joelle King as the top seed has passed through her first two matches relatively unscathed, one might say she was challenged, but not stressed.

Whereas Donna Urquhart, the third seed, had a tough tough nail-biter of a match in the quarterfinals. Winning 11-8 in the fifth, over Egyptian Kanzy El Dafrawy. Kanzy is only 22, and has recently completed her stellar collegiate career in the USA, and now is playing more regularly on the professional tour.

But it was Donna's experience, toughness, and calm that took her to the win, and a date with Joelle in the semi-final.

The first game between Joelle and Donna, was pretty much a back and forth struggle, there were never more than two points between them. Both players looking fairly similar, tactically, and with errors almost evenly split. Joelle took the game at the end, moving from 9-all to an 11-9 win, and what most of us thought, the momentum.

But while Joelle in the first game had been having success attacking Donna's backhand, in the second game Donna was doing very well to blunt that attack. From 3-all, Donna went moved through four points to take a 7-3 lead, and then further to a 9-4 lead.

At that point, there was a yes-let call in favour of Joelle, which had an affect on Donna's focus, and Joelle pushed to close the gap to 8-9. At that point the rallies were getting tougher, but each ended in Joelle's column.

Then, a HUGE rally at 8-9, with Joelle serving, and Donna took the point to go up 10-8, and then she hammered the last point with a near untouchable drive. Now we had a match, tied one game apiece.

In the third game Joelle, picked up her attack again, going after Donna's backhand, but Donna had changed her tactics as well. Donna was starting to twist Joelle from side to side in the back, and when a ball came up short, whether high or low, Donna was on top of it.

Both players from the mid-court area, started to throw in cross court drops, and soft cross court drives. These shots were effective, although Donna was using them a little bit more.

What probably made the major difference in game three, is that Donna didn't allow the rallies to stay on her backhand wing. At every solid opportunity, she sent the ball to Joelle's backhand side, from there Donna was having more opportunities to pressure her opponent. Game three to Donna 11-7.

Game four, again, the ball probably a bit dead to start, on the cold court, and the ladies played up to 3-all. At this point each player had a run of points, Donna first to go up 6-3, and then Joelle responded to go up 7-6. To that point, it was looking to be a toss-up. It could have gone either way.

But Donna had implemented another tactical twist, that started to pay dividends. She had begun to judiciously, use the boast from the mid-court area. This was catching Joelle off-guard, and was enabling Donna to stop Joelle's momentum at times, as well as scoring her own point runs.

Joelle went on a four point run, to take a 7-6 lead. And that vanished as Donna went on her own four point run, up to 10-7. From there, the last two points were split, as Donna took the fourth game 11-8, and her booked her place in the final.

Joelle, just three years ago, reached #4 in the world, and has been on the rise back to her current #11, after suffering an injury that could have ended her career. So for Donna, this is an especially important win for her confidence, as for so long, she's been on Joelle's coat-tails.

For Donna, playing tough, with a few tactical twists thrown in, sees her through to a mouthwatering final tomorrow against the 'other' lefty, Annie Au.

story by Ken Wilhelm

 TAGS :   Previous Texas Opens | Women's Open 2015 | Search |

 

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