TODAY 2010

Cathay Pacific   Sun Hung Kai Financial   Hong Kong Open  23-29 Aug 2010  

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TODAY in Hong Kong:  Sun 27th, Day Seven:       Steve Cubbins in HK

Head 2 Heads

The Finals                  finals preview

[1] Nicol David (Mas) bt [2] Jenny Duncalf (Eng)
                11/6, 12/10, 12/10 (40m)

[2] Ramy Ashour (Egy) bt [5] Gregory Gaultier (Fra)
                10/12, 11/9, 11/9, 9/11, 11/9 (90m)

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

It's Six for Nicol

Nicol David captured her sixth successive Hong Kong title here today, with a straight game win over world number two Jenny Duncalf that will leave the Englishwoman feeling desperately shortchanged.

Duncalf was in contention in all three games. David pulled away from 5-all in the first, but from positions of 9-all in the second and 10-7 in the third Duncalf will feel she deserved a game, at least.

But, as she does, it was the Malaysian who was stronger at the business end, taking the second 11/9 and reeling off five points in a row - aided by some Duncalf errors - to clinch the title.

Malcolm reports

The crowds at the Hong Kong Squash Centre were capacity and the sellout crowd, backed by the tiered, in some places three deep shoppers, at Plaza Hollywood provided a spectacular backdrop for the finals.

Nicol David is establishing herself as one of the greats of the game, but Jenny Duncalf went iinto the final at least knowing that she had wins over her within the last year.

Rapturous applause greeted the two girls onto court, and even the referees were politely applauded, which probably doesn't happen in many places!

Duncalf was quickly out of the blocks 3-0 and settling the better and looking sharp, led 5-2. David now began to find her stride and, moving well as she does, took the lead 6-5 for the first time and asserted to 8-5. A delicate backhand drop gave the champion a game ball at 10-6, which she took to lead one-nil - the ease of which was a little surprising, considering Duncalf's start.

There was nothing in it in the early stages of the second, but another backhand drop, from deeper this time, gave David a 5-4 lead. A brilliant winner took David to 9-7, but Duncalf was level again at 9-all when a ball died in the back to give David game ball.

A fine rally ended with a Duncalf crosscourt into the corner and a tiebreak. Another game ball to David, and a backhand drop from Duncalf which clipped the tin for two-nil. At this point Duncalf had done enough to be at one-all, but it was all uphill from now on.

The match continued at a high level, Duncalf matching David's outstanding movement and leading 3-1. A top class rally took David to 4-3, an error by Duncalf induced by sustained pressure. A disputed ball took Duncalf to 4-5, then 5-all, and an exceptional backhand crosscourt winner put Duncalf in front 6-5.

At 8-5 she was sensing the game her efforts deserved, at 9-5 even more so. David pulled two back but a fluke gave Duncalf three game balls at 10-7. David again pulled two back then an error from Duncalf for another tiebreak. The crowd groaned, they wanted the match to be extended.

David moved ahead to match ball, and another error from Duncalf saw David home after an excellent, clean match with scarcely a let.

David deserved the win, but Duncalf wasn't far off and three-nil does her no justice at all.

"I knew that Jenny would come out fighting," said a delighted winner, "all the other girls raise their game against me so I know I have to raise mine.

"I had to keep my focus, keep on playing my game whatever. Even at 10-7 down I know it wasn't over, that if I kept going she might make an error or two, and that's what happened.

"As the tournament went on my game got stronger and stronger. Being here on the glass court always inspires me, and since I won my first world title here in Hong Kong I always want to do well here.

"It's so great to win here again, especially with the worlds coming up so soon ..."

[2] Ramy Ashour (Egy) bt [5] Gregory Gaultier (Fra)
                10/12, 11/9, 11/9, 9/11, 11/9 (90m)

Ramy denies Greg to claim top prize

If yesterday's semi-finals had been a little flat, today's finals certainly made up for it.

Ramy Ashour, who burst onto the junior scene here four years ago to make the final, hadn't been there since, while Gregory Gaultier had lost the last three finals, all to Egypt's Amr Shabana.

So both had good reason for wanting to win here today, but Ashour had one more, knowing that victory would take him back to the top of the world rankings.

Perhaps that made the difference, who knows ... but in five desperately close games it was Ashour who won three of them to claim both prizes.

Malcolm Reports

A repeat of their Australian Open semi-final which brought the crowd to its feet would do, and what was what this wonderful championship and all those responsible deserved.

Greyhounds do not leave the traps quicker than Ashour normally starts his matches, but if anyone can match him in the early stages then it is Gaultier, and at 7-3 he was doing just that, as the score indicates.

At 5-7 Gaultier began arguing with the referee - not a good sign - and at 8-all Ashour was level. An early error gifted Gaultier a 9-8 lead, then more verbal dissent after a let but the referee told the Frenchman to get on with it in no uncertain terms.

10-9 to Gaultier but a backhand errors meant a tiebreak. 11-10 brought a second game ball and though Ashour was not happy about the winning shot, it was 12-10 to Gaultier. Unusual for Ashour to find himself a game down.

Encouraged, Gaultier led 5-1 in the second, looking confident as the rallies lengthened out. At 3-6 Ashour had it all to do, but, relaxing a little, he went to 6-all with his trademank backhand crosscourt volley nick, and suddenly it was he looking the more confident.

He led 7-6, 8-7 after an error from Gaultier, 9-7, 10-7 after another error. At 9-10 more dissent from Gaultier as Ashour was granted a let, and on the next rally it was one-all.

A wonderfully subtle rally early in the third took Ashour to 2-0, a stroke to 4-0. By now Ashour had become dominant and the Frenchman's resistance decreased. Gaultier won his first point of the game to go 1-6, but he was looking dispirited now. He hung on though, and won a heavy rally to go 4-7.

A bad decision this time took Gaultier to 5-8, then 6-8 and he was back in contention again at 8-9. At 9-all Gaultier fell, got up, and still earned a let, wrapping himself around Ashour. A no let at 9-all, not to Gaultier's liking, and Ashour took a game he always seemed likely to win 11-9 with a backhand drop.

The Frenchman started the fourth a point down, a conduct stroke for throwing his racket at the end of the previous game. Ashour led 3-0. A fiercely struck forehand winner and Gaultier was levelat 4-all. Longer rallies earned Gaultier a gradual 10-4 lead, but Ashour worked his way back to 8-10.

An incredible rally got the Egyptian back to 9-10, but a fall on the next point left him stranded and it was what the crowd wanted - two games all.

Neither player had converted what seemed like dominant phases with any conviction, so the fifth was anyone's guess.

The early rallies were short and sharp - 2-all, 3-all, 4-all, anyone's guess still. A lovely drop from Gaultier and a forehand crosscourt took him to 6-4, but then 6-all, excruciating for both players' close supporters.

A forehand volley nick saw Gaultier to 7-6, taking more time. Ashour was restless, eager to get on with it. 7-all. A wondrous rally, the rally of the match, maybe of the year, at the end of which Gaultier lobs out, 8-7 Ashour.

No let, 9-7 Ashour, 9-8 as Ashour cannot reach a forehand drop, 9-all, anyone's guess.

10-9 match ball Ashour, Ashour not hurrying now. Gaultier gives him a chance on his favourite backhand crosscourt volley, Ashour doesn't hesitate - the whole world knows he won't.

It's dead in the nick and the victory is Ashour's. The crowd rise, as in Canberra, and the tournament finishes, deservedly, on a standing ovation.

"Greg is a great player, he's such a great attacker you never know what he's going to do. He sometimes plays in patches but he always comes back so you have to be alert and that's what I tried to do.

"That was a quality match, I'll watch it over and over again to see what I did right, what I did wrong, and learn from it.

"I had my brother in my corner giving me advice, thanks to him, to my physio who helped withn my little ankle problem from yesterday, to Ziad and the ATCO company, to Dunlop my racket sponsor, and Mick Todd, mine and Hisham's manager.

"Now I'm world number one it's great, but we've still got lots of big tournaments coming up and my aim is to keep playing well and keep winning.

"But it's a great feeling to win here at last!"


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TODAY 2010

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