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Hurghada International 2005
10-15 May, Hurghada, Egypt, $21k
15-May, Final:

[1] Rachael Grinham bt [2] Omneya Abdel Kawy
      1/9, 2/9, 9/4, 9/3, 10/8 (81m)

Grinham Survives
Hot Hurghada Final
WISPA reports from Hurghada

They may both live in Cairo, but it is a very big city. When you live on opposite sides there is an inordinate amount of traffic to fight through so Rachael Grinham and Omneya Abdel Kawy are not regular practice partners. In fact they are not even irregular ones.

Grinham is based at the Heliopolis Club while Abdel Kawy is at the Gezira Club - when the nineteen year old is not studying accountancy at Misr International University in the city.

There is also a fair distance between them in the WISPA rankings too. The gap between one and ten to be precise.

She had come to the last day after a straight games semi final win over fourth seed Laura Lengthorn; but Alison Waters, the other half of the English double act, had extended Abdel Kawy to five games over 73 minutes before the home star edged home to the voluble relief of her supporters. This win had ensured that the seating would be packed for the final, but would her efforts the night before tip the balance heavily against her?

We Meet Again

The pairing was the same as the Hurghada International last year. Grinham had cruised home then, and had done so 3/0 again when the pair met last September in the quarters of the Bahrain WISPA Classic. But this was nothing like these meetings.

The Red Sea thermostat was again still set on high as dusk fell. Unlike the previous evening a breeze coming in over the backwall seats was keeping the flags flapping and added another factor for the players to deal with. Grinham’s floated balls would undoubtedly hold up on the backhand.

An hour before the start the chanting had begun, and people occupying every seat, standing, hanging from every vantage point or peeking round the edge of the stands.

Kawy's Early Lead

Early rallies were extended as both players became comfortable with the conditions, but it became clear early on that Grinham had no intention of taking on her opponent at the front. She was being totally defensive, forsaking the initiative ……and it was costing her. Lobs occasionally drifted out, Abdel Kawy was able to hone in when the length was not spot on. The Egyptian reached 7/1, then 8/1 when she flowed forward to pick off a Grinham volley boast. A tight drop and it was game.

Omneya, Omneya chanted, rhythmic clapping and Maha Zein fervently giving Grinham instructions in the din.

The pattern persisted, the wait for the Australian to go in short continued. Abdel Kawy was winning a few rallies with audacious but perfectly executed overheads, others with more straightforward shots and benefiting from the few occasions when the fleet Grinham was unable to reach a ball.

Too often when taken forward Grinham would play long only to find her opponent in place to drive it past her. If this was her strategy, it could only be to possibly draw the sting of the world junior champion, but was showing no sign of doing so yet.

On the third game ball for Abdel Kawy go two up Grinham flailed and missed. The crowd erupted. Omneya, Omneya.

Grinham turns the tide

The Egyptian may have had a 73 minute match the night before but her confidence couldn’t have been higher. Surely Grinham would alter her pattern now? If anything rallies were getting longer, but now the local heroine was making errors. Perhaps the Egyptian was tiring; she certainly was not moving as freely. Grinham reached 5/0 but just as she went for a couple of drops – finally – she missed them! The lead was reduced to 5/2. Then 5/3. Now 5/4. Omneya, Omneya. Just as it seemed that she could overtake the Australian, Abdel Kawy seemed to go off the boil again and Grinham moved to game ball. While the first was saved, the second was won without Abdel Kawy even trying to intercept. She had ground to a halt.

It was clear from the frenetic activity in her corner that Abdel Kawy probably had a large burst blister on the ball of her right foot. Her shoe and sock were off, her father Ali applying a dressing, and she was patched up enough to return for the fourth.

The first few rallies were tentative but soon she was covering the court again. However the deficit grew as Grinham flitted, picking up morsels when they arrived. Though Abdel Kawy picked up a run of three points to uplift the crowd, the Australian levelled the match to disappointed, polite applause.

The Decider ...

The Egyptian right shoe stayed on in the break and battle in the decider started – much to the surprise of the great majority of informed observers who had given short shrift to the challenger. Grinham was continuing to spurn almost certain counter drop winners to allow her opponent to stay in so many rallies. Abdel Kawy won a few – Omneya, Omneya, but also offered up errors that enabled Grinham to move ahead. The outcome still remained poised, with the tactical battle that the Australian was assiduously maintaining, somehow mesmerisingly compelling.

Again, superb overhead kills help keep the home player in touch. A dying drive brought her level, another to take her ahead. Omneya, Omneya.

Her stamina was not exhausted and she went ahead 6/5 when a Grinham lob went long. A drive which squeezed out of the front wall nick back at Grinham gave her a stroke to go 7/5 but a weak drop and Grinham was back in. Hand in to the Egyptian again and to match ball with one of her backhand cross court drops. Omneya, Omneya…..Omneya, Omneya.

The shrieks when she tinned the drop chance to close out leapt from all the stands. Another rally ending with Abdel Kawy unable to return and it was 7/8. Breaths were being held all round but a boast that returned towards her meant stroke and eight all. Grinham pulled her forward then lobbed perfectly into the forehand corner to move to match ball. Still nobody was breathing. Again Abdel Kawy was tempted forward and unable to scrape the ball back and the match was lost. Silence for seconds until the outburst of genuine appreciation of a winner as well as a great loser. And for a titanic final.

"I love you Egypt!"

Both players returned and slumped in their seats as a raft of presentations took place to precede the trophy distribution. By now the winner’s head had cleared enough for her to tell the public and TV audience that she had lived in Cairo for four years and exclaim “I love you Egypt”. Since she was sporting the name of her Cairo base, the Heliopolis Club, on the back of her track top it was clearly said with feeling.

With that she left to prepare for her drive back to Cairo in her Peugeot car that featured a make-do wiring system run from the window to the bonnet to get it started. Whether she makes it back without breakdown remains to be seen!

Grinham had been clear favourite, there to be shot down, but it hadn’t happened. She had come away intact, just. Abdel Kawy also ahead, having had a morale boosting win over Waters, her nemesis. All was well in the Al Ahram inspired event at the jewel of the Red Sea.
 







 

“She was only defending and I was moving her round and hitting nicks. But she was moving me around too and my plaster was shifting on my blister. It was hurting and I couldn’t move so well in the third.

“For the fifth I told myself that I must play like the first two games. I have to win as today is my day. At match ball, the dropshot, aarrgghhh! But I am satisfied.”

Omneya Abdel Kawy



 

"I was trying but it wasn’t happening so I went deep. I just pushed to keep her at the back because she was playing well.

“I wasn’t going to give it away. I told myself no mistakes, if she wants it she is going to have to win it.”

Rachael Grinham
Hurghada International 2005
10-15 May, Hurghada, Egypt, $21k
Round One
May 10/11
Quarters
May 12
Semis
May 14
Final
May 15
[1] Rachael Grinham (Aus)
9/5, 9/3, 9/1 (33m)
[Q] Manuela Manetta (Ita)
Rachael Grinham
9/5, 9/3, 9/3 (32m)
 Stephanie Brind
Rachael Grinham

9/6, 9/2, 9/0 (28m)

Laura Lengthorn

Rachael Grinham


1/9, 2/9, 9/4, 9/3, 10/8 (81m)


Omneya Abdel Kawy
 
[6] Stephanie Brind (Eng)
9/7, 9/4, 5/9, 9/7 (33m)
Melissa Martin (Aus)
[4] Laura Lengthorn (Eng)
9/5, 9/3, 9/7 (31m)
[Q] Olga Puidgemont
Laura Lengthorn
9/5, 6/9, 9/6, 9/0 (57m)
Becky Botwright
[8] Engy Kheirallah (Egy)
10/8, 2/9, 9/7, 9/2 (61m)
Becky Botwright (Eng)
[Q] Amnah El Trabolsy (Egy)
9/0, 9/0, 9/3 (17m)
[5] Alison Waters (Eng)
Alison Waters
9/4, 9/3, 2/9, 9/2 (42m)
Shelley Kitchen
Alison Waters

9/7, 9/0, 1/9, 5/9, 9/6 (73m)

Omneya Abdel Kawy
Diane Desira (Aus)
9/3, 9/2, 9/3 (24m)
[3] Shelley Kitchen (Nzl)
[Q] Raneem El Weilily
9/2, 1/9, 2/9, 9/7, 9/7 (51m)
[7] Sharon Wee (Mas)
Sharon Wee
9/2, 9/1, 9/4 (27m)
Omneya Abdel Kawy
Eman El Amir (Egy)
9/2, 9/2, 9/1 (27m)
[2] Omneya Abdel Kawy (Egy)
 


Qualifying Finals:
OLGA PUIGDEMONT SOLA (ESP) bt HEND OSAMA (EGY) 5/9 9/0 9/1 9/3 (43m)
AMNAH EL TRABOLSY (EGY) bt SARAH KIPPAX (ENG) 9/5 9/5 10/8 (38m)
MANUELA MANETTA (ITA) bt  AISLING BLAKE (IRE) 9/4 5/9 9/5 9/7 (53m)
RANEEM EL WELEILY (EGY)  bt MARGRIET HUISMAN (NED) 9/1 8/10 9/2 9/1 (35m)


QUALIFYING ROUND 1:
OLGA PUIGDEMONT SOLA (ESP) (1) beat HEBA EL TORK (EGY) 9/5 9/1 9/0
HEND OSAMA (EGY) (8) beat SALMA NASSER (EGY) 9/2 9/5 9/2
SARAH KIPPAX (ENG) (3) beat NIHAL ALAA BAIOUMY (EGY) 9/0 9/0 9/1
AMNAH EL TRABOLSY (EGY) (7) beat NOUR EL TAYIB (EGY) 9/2 9/4 9/1
MANUELA MANETTA (ITA) (5) beat NOUR BAGHAT (EGY) 9/2 9/2 9/2
AISLING BLAKE (IRL) (4) beat SALMA HANY (EGY) 9/2 9/3 9/0
MARGRIET HUISMAN (NED) (6) beat CARLENE ROSSEL-REED (RSA) 6/9 9/6 9/0 9/1
RANEEM EL WELEILY (EGY) (2) beat SARAH EL NOUMANY (EGY) 9/0 9/0 9/4


14-May, Semi-Finals:

[2] Omneya Abdel Kawy (Egy) bt [5] Alison Waters (Eng)
      9/7, 9/0, 1/9, 5/9, 9/6 (73m)
[1] Rachael Grinham (Aus) bt [4] Laura Lengthorn (Eng)
      9/6, 9/2, 9/0 (28m)

Hurghada Hubbub for Kawy
WISPA Reports from Hurhada

Ali Abdel Kawy congratulates his daughter immediately after her winThe night was still, but the arena was not. VIPs filled the front rows, ranks of Egyptian enthusiasts had commandeered most of the rest of the seating; and only a few of the tourists who had come early enough were able to join them. There was standing, swaying and singing. There was a real hubbub.

Clearly the plan was to will local squash heroine Omneya Abdel Kawy into the final of the Hurghada International.

It had been the hottest day of the week so far, with morning practice akin to exercising in a sauna. But as the sun went down the temperature fell back to merely very warm indeed.


Imprisoned in Hurghada!

The four semi finalists were fresh, having had a rest day to allow the whole town to spill into the main streets to watch aspiring star Ahmed Barada strut and sing on stage. He had added more girth to his already low centre of gravity, but was a popular warm-up before current Egyptian stars took over.

The World Junior champion was playing Alison Waters, the fifth seed who had beaten Kiwi Kitchen in the quarters. Abdel Kawy may not have relished the expectations placed upon her, as she had said earlier in the event, but was comfortable about the setting on a new Hurghada promenade. “Hurghada is growing and we are showing squash to the whole of the people. Squash is getting famous in Egypt” she said after practice.

Despite being seeded three places higher, Abdel Kawy was far from hot favourite for the match. Waters held the results edge having beaten her twice from three encounters; the most recent of which was a 3/2 victory in the World Open last December. Perhaps the adulation would make Abdel Kawy a little too nervous. Perversely, the extra heat could possibly help the English player as the lively ball could work in her favour if she had overall fitness on her side. So many factors at play.

On to the Action ...

Early exchanges saw Waters driving consistently and not having to do much more than wait for an intemperate response. Abdel Kawy was having to do more digging from the corners and was finding it difficult to string rallies together. The audience were itching to cheer her, indeed anticipating more than once so that the interrupted rally needed to be replayed with concentration entirely broken.

Waters was also beginning to slot in some deft short balls, all of which allowed her to open up a 5/1 lead in the first. But in one hand the Egyptian settled down and climbed to reach game ball on a raft of deception and buoyed by chants of Omneya, Omneya between points.

Here she squandered chances with tins and leaked points, but on the fourth opportunity a loose Waters shot in mid court gave the Egyptian the game on a stroke.

As the second unfolded the Londoner gave away too many opportunities for the home player to open up a lead based upon devastating cross court flicked drops and unforced errors. Soon it was 9/0 and the crowd rapturous.

Waters would need to put the bad game behind her and try for the comeback that had brought her victory in the World Open, denting the Egyptian confidence on the way. As the third progressed she was doing exactly that; forcing Abdel Kawy back, picking up strokes when the Egyptian’s line strayed.

 

Abdel Kawy was ecstatic; happily telling the massed ranks that she couldn't have done it without them.

“I am both relieved and pleased” she said. The people were worried that I would lose when I was two nil up like I did at the Worlds. I knew Alison would start in the third but I managed to stay strong this time” she added.

Omneya Abdel Kawy

Again she reached 5/1, just as she had in the first, but this time the flow was not interrupted. Waters had straightened up her line and this was certainly discomforting for her opponent. Abdel Kawy, stretching and losing hit two tins to end the game to almost deafening silence. Her supporters could see the Worlds happening all over again.

The match was as engrossing now as it had been from the beginning. More compelling perhaps as the finishing straight became closer. Neither player could carve out a lead in the fourth until Waters moved ahead to 7/5 quieting the audience until only the distant sound of an infinite variety of ringtones could be heard.

At this point Waters tried an Abdel Kawy trademark backhand flicked drop and it came off. The Egyptian had been entirely wrongfooted as Waters had been so many times before, and the English girl was at game ball. She took this with a straight drive beyond Abdel Kawy’s despairing lunge and the score was levelled. The home mental momentum had been halted.

“I gave it all but she was just too good at the end. I wasn't thinking that I would win in the fifth, but thinking that I really could.”

Alison Waters

Both players were now having to claw their way towards the finishing tape. Both were still reaching tricky stuff after over an hour, and both were gutsing out points. Waters moved marginally ahead at 5/4, Abdel Kawy levelled and edged ahead with a framed winner. A drive took her to 7/5. The volume outside the court was ratcheted up. A missed forehand gave Waters the initiative. So the exchanges went on.

Now a winner and a no let called against Waters took Abdel Kawy to the brink. The crowd were coiled and one last flick later and jubilation reigned. Their heroine had reached the final for the second year after 73 minutes of excitement that could only be matched by driving in Egyptian cities!

Adopted Egyptian Rachael

The second semi featured the adopted Egyptian, Rachael Grinham, against the quietly effective Laura Lengthorn, who had reached the last four without penetrating the local consciousness too much as she finished proceedings after the bigger buzz earlier each evening.

There was a form line for this match, with Grinham having beaten her 3/0 at the start of the last Qatar Classic, the only time that they had met on the WISPA Tour.

In the last month Cairo resident Grinham has rediscovered winning ways and has looked increasingly confident on court. Bouncing around like a child in a school playground, she is no stranger to warm conditions.

Waspish in yellow top and black skirt she had the measure of Lengthorn’s heavy hitting from the start. Although the first game was characterised by Grinham opening up a 7/1 lead, her English opponent began to settle into the match and started to add confident drops to her long game. Profiting from a couple of tins as well as her own winners, she took the next five points after several exchanges of hand to give the world number one food for thought. However, the next rallies saw Lengthorn injudiciously mixing it at the front and paying the penalty.

Lengthorn was not too disappointed in defeat.

“It was only the second time that I have played her and this time was better.

"The last two weren't as good as I wanted as I lost my length. And if you let her control you she chops you up."

Laura Lengthorn

The second and third games were a comfortable cruise for Grinham, with Lengthorn driving but finding the ball returned from the back recesses with a flick from down the handle or something more orthodox; and when the adopted Egyptian was eventually taken forward she would normally take the point.

It wasn't that the 21 year old was playing badly, simply that while her star continues to rise, Grinham is still out of reach. The Australian was through in straight games and only 28 minutes, so saving so much for the final. She hadn't found it easy though. “Suddenly it was really hot tonight. The ball was very bouncy and I had to concentrate but I got there in the end,” Grinham said.

So, after all the rounds Hurghada will see the same two finalists as last year. For one it was a close shave though.


12-May, Quarters:
Hustle & Bustle in
Hurghada Quarters
WISPA reports from Egypt

A pattern had been developing. Breezy start to the evening, calmer later. The same could be said of the matches. Hustle and bustle early on with Egyptian interest, singing and dancing crowds, live TV; then quieter later as fewer remained.
 

Waters in Egypt ...



"The sun is shining here in Hurghada, a really big holiday resort on the Red Sea. The organizers have set up a glass court in the center. I have reached the semi finals like I did last year so I really like this event!

"I was particularly pleased to beat Shelley last night as she had won in Qatar a few weeks ago. It was a bit windy on the court in the corners so we all have to concentrate hard in the back (though I try to be at the front!).

"Today is a rest day so after a practice some of us went Go-Karting. I wasn’t the fastest! i think I had my foot on the brake the whole way round!! It resulted in Steph crashing into me which was her fault not mine.....!!!!!

"Tomorrow is the semis. I don’t expect much support as the whole crowd will be shouting for Omneya Abdel Kawy my opponent. The atmosphere will be great though. We go on first for TV, so I will be able to support Laura Lengthorn in the other match, but she has an even harder job as she plays Rachael Grinham.

"It's a brilliant setting for a Wispa tournament!! Having a great time so far!!"

Alison Waters

Kawy meets expectations

For quarter finals night of the Hurghada International the trend was maintained. Omneya Abdel Kawy, who had already admitted feeling the weight of public expectation the night before, was being willed to go past seventh seed Sharon Wee who had edged out the exciting burgeoning talent of 16 year old Raneem El Weleily. Would those five games take their toll?

The Malaysian is as solid as they come though. The fervour in the crowd clearly blocked out by the serious competitor who is so lively and smiling away from her place of work. She had lost to Abdel Kawy 3/0 in the British Open last year but the 27 year old who is now based in Antwerp to give the top twenty a shot normally proves difficult to put away.

Here though, the Malaysian was looking slightly sluggish, succumbing to the webs that Abdel Kawy was weaving at the front of the court. Working hard to stay in the rallies, too often she was left floundering having started motoring in the wrong direction

Rolling waves of applause greeted points that took the Egyptian star to the first two games, and all that Wee could hope for was that her opponent would go walkabout at the business end of the match as El Weleily had done the night before. Although a couple of volley boasts did go down the rest of her game was running smoothly as Wee only found a good line and length sporadically.

A final crescendo of noise and she was through.

As Wee commented afterwards, “To play Omneya and not be moving well, you are finished”. She was.

Rachael Cruises On

Rachael Grinham continued her comfortable cruise on the glass court on the promenade. She hasn't lost to a player outside the highest echelon for some years, and though her opponent had snatched a game from her in the first round of the Tournament of Champions in February, got little change tonight. In recent weeks Grinham, the holder of this title, has seemingly regained the confidence that had been slowly draining her as she carried the burden of being chased as world number one rather than one of the pack. Her Qatar Airways Challenge win only weeks ago is indicative of that.

Holding many shots, floating her trademark lobs that hung in the breeze, she won 3/0 despite Brind looking comfortable with her game on the glass court.

Brind has been as high as four in the world – for one heady month during 2001, but has found some of the younger pups passing her by recently.

Kitchen & Waters' Colour Clash

Shelley Kitchen and Alison Waters are two of the emerging stars who have clawed their way past Brind. Both are in the ranking teens, both hoping to get into the single digits. Kitchen, a tall athletic New Zealander who tries to impose herself on her opponents with a hard hitting game. Waters is similar, but with a good line in boasts and drops to break up the rhythm. So far Kitchen has moved ahead in both ranking and results. The pair met in the first round of the Qatar Airways event last month and the Kiwi won 3/0.

Unexpectedly perhaps, Waters was wearing All Black black and Kitchen English white. Also unexpectedly perhaps, it was Waters who controlled the match playing steadily and with purpose, while Kitchen looked at odds with herself. Waters was able to despatch her to the back then neatly apply a coup de grace at the front. Had the English girl not lost her way in the third it would have been a particularly comprehensive victory for the player voted as WISPA’s most improved last year. Having regrouped in the fourth she reached the semi final to repeat he feat from last year.

Kitchen wandered back to the hotel unsure of why it went awry, saying “Alison played well but I didn't have much confidence tonight. I just don't know why really”. Waters meanwhile was happy to have reversed the last result. “I was trying to get a good length and mix it up at the front, and I am just happy that I got through”.

Lancashire Derby in Egypt

The last game of the evening was a very parochial encounter, a local affair between two players who come from the same English county of Lancashire.
 Internationally, they did play in Ottawa, Canada two years ago, a match won by Laura Lengthorn - who is seeded four here so still has the form edge. They work together on fitness every week, sometimes play each other in local league games and not used to serious combat against each other on the WISPA Tour.

Becky Botwright, imbued with the same distinctive mannerisms as her sister Vicky when jumping away from a drop, is very willing to work her way through difficult rallies, inspecting all areas of the court on the way. This was the story tonight as Lengthorn took control and simply drove her into submission. But this took a while as Botwright gamely battled, and took the second game during a period where she went short less often and reduced her error ratio.


11-May, First Round, bottom half:
Hurghada Hopefuls encouraged by Home Crowd

Four matches, three featuring Egyptian players and one certain home winner. The table was laid for a possible great night for Egyptian squash enthusiasts at the second half of the first round of the Hurghada International being played at the Red Sea resort.

Crowds thronged around the court set up on the promenade, and the locals amongst the tourists were sure to be able to cheer a home winner - either Omneya Abdel Kawy or Eman El Amir, pitted against each other in the second match.

Waters canters home

Initially though, 20 year old Amnah El Trabolsy would try to pull off a major shock by beating fifth seed Alison Waters in the first match.

Waters had been a semi finalist last year and has been steadily rising up the rankings since. Now in the top twenty at eighteen, the 21 year old Londoner was just too far forward in the court and too steady for her marginally younger rival. El Trabolsy, studying industrial engineering in Alexandria alongside event play was caught out too often by tight boasts and drops and so Waters reduced the crowd to virtual silence, punctuated only by a wondrous selection of ringtones.

El Trabolsy’s first point came at the start of the third and brought the watchers to life. Rapturous applause, repeated moments later as she won her second. But this was a short-lived revival as Waters cantered home.

Kawy copes with the pressure

Omneya Abdel Kawy and Eman El Amir (along with Engy Kheirallah) had been the winning team in the World Junior Championship in 1999. Since then Abdel Kawy has moved right along, reaching the top ten, winning the World Junior individual title in 2003, and generally being a force to be reckoned with. El Amir, much like Kheirallah, has found the going tougher, struggling to dent the world top thirty.

Clad in her characteristic black, Abdel Kawy maintained a solid length and combined inducing mistakes from El Amir with an assured touch on her drops. The blend stayed the same throughout the encounter. As an El Amir drive came back to hit herself, her body language spoke volumes for how the night was progressing i.e. life was not treating her well. She couldn't find any answers to the questions posed by her wristy opponent.

It was the sort of comfortable start that Abdel Kawy craved. “ I was really worried. The crowd put me under a lot of pressure as I was in the final last year, saying that I really have to be there this time too”, she said afterwards. “Eman is a really good player and when she is in the mood she really gets her shots” she added.

El Weleily falls just short

The final member of the Egyptian quartet was Raneem El Weleily, the new kid on the block. Only just sixteen she has been tipped for success. Maybe the World Juniors this year, but if not certainly likely to be hard to beat at the next one in two years time. Voted by the WISPA membership as the Young Player of the Year last year, the schoolgirl from Alexandria showed off to the public and national TV audience her mature approach and general tactical awareness – but only after she had shrugged off the cloak of nerves that wrapped her at the start. Once she got going in the second her shotmaking and speed were compelling, as was her willingness to take the ball when a let or stroke might be claimed.

She reached 2/1 in games and 6/2 against seventh seed Sharon Wee before her squash brain switched off. Wee’s didn't and her composure allowed her to get back into the game courtesy of snatched overheads into the tin and other errors besides. She had recovered to 7/6 when the referee called a service footfault to her consternation, but the Malaysian recovered to level the match.

The marker calling down became a feature of the fifth too as El Weleily struggled to gain the win the home crowd were willing her towards. Wee remained focused and benefited from a final El Weleily error to close out the match to polite applause.

Defeats from winning positions are hard to take, but this was a big stage and El Weleily is a mere 16 years of age. As Wee explained, “When I was losing the fourth I thought that if I used my experience and hung in I could make her lose focus and it worked. But she is very, very fast at the front and a really great prospect for her age.”

Kitchen wins Oceania affair

The last match was an all-Oceania affair. Third seed Shelley Kitchen wasted no time in beating Australian Dianne Desira.

Desira had come over from Australia on her way to an Australian doubles camp in England in advance of the World titles and Commonwealth Games early next year. She hadn't expected to get beyond the first round but, “it was a good opportunity and I had heard so much about this event” Desira said. “The court and the whole set up in Hurghada are really great” she said before leaving the arena.

Kitchen now meets Waters in a repeat of a match at the Qatar Airways Challenge last month, where the Kiwi prevailed in three. Wee takes on Abdel Kawy, with the most recent result between the two being a 3/0 to the Egyptian in the British Open last year.

The other quarter final pairings being Rachael Grinham v Stephanie Brind and Laura Lengthorn v Rebecca Botwright.

10-May, First Round, Top Half:
 

New Venue for Hurghada
WISPA reports ...

After several years of play on a Red Sea island adjacent to the Marriott Hotel, the building of a new promenade lined with shops became the exciting new venue for the 2005 Hurghada International Championship.

Becky Beats Vocal Locals
The full stands were treated to local dancing and a parade of all the players before the playing business started with the first match between Rebecca Botwright and eighth seed Engy Kheirallah. No surprise that the Egyptian was receiving the lion’s share of support from the large banks of local spectators who were spread amongst the numerous tourists also viewing.

With a lively breeze and similarly energetic ball, rallies were extended as both players mixed length with boasts while feeling out the glass court. Kheirallah, who had traveled south from the Mediterranean city of Alexandria was shading the early exchanges but her opponent in the battle of the 23 year olds fought back from 8/6 down in the first to level and then disappointed the crowd by finishing from setting.

Eleven minutes later the home supporters were happier when Kheirallah exited having leveled after a game where she constructed winning positions better and nailed the final shots.

Roles were reversed in the third as Botwright moved to 7/3 up, but appeared to baulk at the idea of going further, snatching at chances as they came her way. Kheirallah made up the deficit and it was only then that she gift wrapped two strokes to give her English foe game ball which she took courtesy of another error from the eighth seed.

It got no better for Kheirallah in the fourth as she failed to win any of the last nine rallies and was out.

Since Botwright had lost by the same 3/1 scoreline to her last year at the Malaysian Open she was not surprisingly elated after reversing it this time. “I was really pleased” she purred. “I’m trying to be more patient and not go in too short as I did at the end of the third. But I calmed myself down and pulled it round” she added.

Manetta defies class gap
As might be expected, the second match of the evening was more clear cut. Forty seven ranking slots separate Rachael Grinham and Manuela Manetta, but the gulf was not so obvious in the quality of the encounter. The 21 year old Italian may have tinned a little too often, but played well as she went down in straight games.

It was only when she allowed Grinham control of the front that she was left floundering at times with the disguise of the world number one. “I was happy with my performance” she told a reporter afterwards. “I was nervous in the qualifying but getting here has given me a great experience”.

During the first two matches the breeze had hardened into a genuine wind. Flags around the arena were noisily flapping, and though the glass of the court acted like a windbreak there was movement inside too, especially on the backhand wall of the right handed group. The ball would hold up a little when lifted and occasional mistimed ripostes left the court open.

Brind uses the wind
Stephanie Brind, seeded six, was using the lob to effect against Melissa Martin until the Australian began to deal with the drifting ball more comfortably with a range of counters and cross court drops. She had recently moved back to Australia from the coaching role in USA that she shared with husband Brett, but had traveled to Egypt to try her luck in the event.

After a match in which both players went for their shots it ran out for her at the end of the fourth with a clutch of errors. But the Australian had played well, chasing down the ball and counter dropping well, having taken advantage of a spell when Brind’s length had gone a little awry.

As Brind said afterwards, “I was doing okay whenever I hit a good length”. She will need to in the quarters where Grinham lies in wait.

Lengthorn last into quarters
The wind had began to die, the microphones had ceased growling like rumbles of thunder as the last match began. Fourth seed Laura Lengthorn was up gainst 27 year old Spanish number one Olga Puigdemont Sola. A student in Aix en Provence in France, Sola is never easy to put away, and indeed started the stronger, going into a 5/1 lead in the first as Lengthorn started a little nervously.

But she grew in confidence as she reeled off the game in one hand as she started to volley more. The second was taken comfortably, and it was only when Lengthorn tried to finish the contest without properly developing the rallies during the third that the Spaniard was given a glimmer of hope; only for it to be dashed as she found Lengthorn stepping forward again.

As the holidaymakers departed with thoughts of another day gently simmering under the glorious Red Sea sun, the bottom half of the draw will be preparing for their chance to join the four players through to the quarters.

Raneem El Welily, WISPA's young player of the year, receives her award from her peers ...


09-May, Qualifying Finals:

Qualifiers Flying to Hurghada
After the qualifying was complete in Cairo, the four winners boarded a plane to the Red Sea resort of Hurghada for their date on the spectacular glass court ...


Olga Puigdemont Sola, top seed and a favourite to get on the evening flight to Hurghada to join the main draw of the Hurghada International, made a slow start against Hend Osama. The nineteen year old Egyptian was boosted by an extraordinary succession of two side wall nicks followed by a backwall one to move from five all to game ball in the first game. But having dropped the first the Spaniard’s greater precision amongst play that varied between tidy and messy began to pay dividends as Osama was left scuttling and flailing. Words from Magdi Saad who had experienced great success on the Stadium centre court could do nothing to stem the tide for his young charge now competing there. Sola was through.

The third seed, Sarah Kippax, would be left behind though. Up against 20 year old Amnah El Trabolsy she regularly struggled to get enough depth and then found herself being denied lets as her opponent drove to the back. There was a certain level of obstruction but in the parlance of refereeing, she had created her own interference. Trabolsy, from Alexandria held her nerve saved a game ball at 7/8 in the third and took the match with a loud whoop of joy at the first time of asking when a backhand drop fell neatly into the sidewall nick and stayed put.

The all European battle for the third seat on the plane saw Irish challenger Aisling Blake level the game after failing to settle in the first. She was celebrating gaining a place in the Dutch Open – she is based in Netherlands, but couldn’t make it a happy double despite putting up dogged resistance. It always seemed that Italian number one Manuela Manetta would prevail if she didn’t drop a notch, and this she did having clawed her way back from 7/3 down in the fourth game.

Raneem El Weleily made it an Egyptian pair through, beating Dutch national squad member Margriet Huisman in four. Huisman had been struggling with a cold but the Rising Star of Egyptian Junior squash moved her so relentlessly that she could not respond after snatching the second.

 

Hurghada International 2004
06-12 Jul, Hurghada, Egypt, $21k 
Mon 12th Jul:
FINAL


[1] Rachael Grinham (Aus) bt [3] Omneya Abdel Kawy
      (Egy) 9/5, 9/1, 9/4 (41m)


 

GRINHAM DENIES
HURGHADA HOPEFULS
Photos & reports from WISPA


Rachael Grinham had only suffered two WISPA Tour defeats all year, but would Omneya Abdel Kawy be able to add to that tally in the Hurghada International final?

The Cairo based Australian hadn’t come close to dropping a game before the final, but did admit that the extreme heat, even in the cooler evenings, might present problems in an extended match. Her Egyptian opponent knew all about long matches, having played for 80 and 77 minutes in the quarters and semis, but said she was ready.

Also ready were the great sea of supporters who came over to the island and more than filled the seating. Watching on live TV wouldn’t do it for them; waving national flags, portraits of the President, chanting and generally trying to propel their girl to victory on a tide of support was the order of the day.

Unfortunately for them, and indeed President Mubarak, whom the crowd were told was watching the match in Cairo, willpower can help but the business has to be done on court, and Abdel Kawy was unable to do more than dent the Australian defences.

The world number two had played quite defensively in earlier rounds, working the hot lively ball and awaiting impatient or lax strokes from her opponents. As the final unfolded she showed no more willingness to trade punches at the front as well as the back of the court.

The Egyptian was given limited chances to flaunt her "hold" shot at the front, and red topped Grinham's sheer nimbleness was enough to get her off most hooks when her opponent got forward. Deceptively fast herself, Abdel Kawy was forced to turn and chase as the Grinham wrist and length combined to good effect

Still short of her nineteenth birthday, and sporting a white bandanna for the final, the pretender was playing with assuredness despite the pressure of the occasion, and even spurted three points ahead in the first. But that was the high point as soon Grinham's tight control began to tempt her into indiscreet attempts to win rallies.

Intense talking from coach Ahmed El Batrany between games couldn't change the flow and this became the continuing story of the whole match - competitive but not close; and ending with a final attempt at a nick that would end up careering into the top of the tin.

Grinham clearly regarded the whole event as a difficult mission, despite not dropping a game. "Omneya is just too dangerous at the front so I played it longer and waited for mistakes," Grinham said. "She is improving all the time and is becoming a bigger threat," she added.

As for the loser, she told the crowd: "I am sorry I didn't win. I tried very hard and I promise I will do better next time."

But Abdel Kawy had nothing to be upset about, having yet again proved her credentials as a real burgeoning force at the very highest level.

Now, having sandwiched a trip to compete in the Brunei International at the end of the month Grinham will try to complete an Egyptian "home" double at her base club staged at the Heliopolis Open in four weeks time.

"I am really looking forward to playing in front of the Heliopolis members who have been so good to me," she concluded before contemplating driving back there across the desert in the morning.

The win brings Grinham's tally of WISPA titles to 15.


Kawy receives the runners-up trophy
 

2003 Event Owens tames Grinham
2002 Event Campion blown away


 


WISPA GIRLS FACE
A 75,000 CROWD!

Friday night saw no play in the Hurghada International as it was Hurghada Festival night.

A large stage was erected in the centre of the city for a major pop concert. According to the Al Ahram newspaper on Saturday morning the number of people in the square, adjoining streets and watching on big screen erected elsewhere was around 75,000 ... and the WISPA players were presented to them all on stage.

To rousing cheers Rachael Grinham took the microphone to greet the people of Hurghada ... in Arabic as well as English! The show was also broadcast to the whole nation on TV.

As Tegwen Malik, said: "It was spectacular but daunting. Standing in front of such a sea of people is not normal for us!!"


Rachael meets her twin ...

Hurghada International 2004
06-12 Jul, Hurghada, Egypt, $21k  
First Round,
Top Tue 6th, Bot Wed 7th
Quarters,
Thu 8th
Semis,
Sat 10th
Final,
Mon 12th
[1] Rachael Grinham (Aus)
9/2, 9/1, 9/1 (21m)
[Q] Salma Shabana (Egy)
 Rachael Grinham
9/3, 9/3, 9/2 (38m)
Engy Kheirallah
 Rachael Grinham

9/4, 9/2, 9/4 (25m)

Alison Waters

 Rachael Grinham



9/5, 9/1, 9/4 (41m)

Omneya Abdel Kawy

[8] Engy Kheirallah (Egy)
9/3, 9/4, 9/0 (26m)
[Q] Kate Roe (Eng)
[4] Pamela Nimmo (Sco)
9/4, 9/6, 9/0 (25m)
Eman El Amir (Egy)
Pamela Nimmo
1/9, 7/9, 9/4, 10/8, 9/6 (68m)
Alison Waters
[7] Alison Waters (Eng)
9/1, 9/1, 9/2 (32m)
Runa Reta (Can)
[Q] Raneem El Weleily (Egy)
9/2, 9/1, 9/0 (22m)
[6] Tegwen Malik (Wal)
Tegwen Malik
3/9, 9/6, 9/4, 8/10, 9/7 (80m)
Omneya Abdel Kawy
Omneya Abdel Kawy

9/5, 6/9, 9/0, 10/8  (77m)

Rebecca Macree

Dominique Lloyd-Walter (Eng)
9/2, 9/2, 9/6 (35m)
[3] Omneya Abdel Kawy (Egy)
Sharon Wee (Mas)
0/9, 9/4, 9/6, 9/0 (42m)
[5] Carla Khan (Pak)
Carla Khan
9/2, 9/7, 9/3 (45m)
Rebecca Macree
[Q] Becky Botwright (Eng)
9/3, 9/0, 9/6 (26m)
[2] Rebecca Macree (Eng)


Qualifying, Cairo:

Finals, Mon 5th:
Becky Botwright (Eng) bt Nadine Baghat (Egy)  9/2, 9/0, 9/0
Salma Shabana (Egy) bt Amnah El Trabolsy (Egy)  9/5, 9/5, 3/9, 8/10, 9/2
Kate Roe (Eng) bt Hend Osama (Egy)  9/5, 9/1, 9/4
Raneem El Weleily (Egy) bt Lina El Tanir (Egy)  9/3, 9/7, 9/6

First Round, Sun 4th:
Becky Botwright (Eng) bt Shahenda Osama (Egy)  9/3, 9/6, 9/4 (23m)
Nadine Baghat (Egy) bt Nour El Tayeb (Egy)  9/0, 9/0, 9/0  (15m)
Amnah El Trabolsy (Egy) bt Aliaa Balbaa (Egy)  9/2, 9/3, 9/0 (20m)
Salma Shabana (Egy) bt Israa Sami (Egy)  9/1, 9/1, 9/3 (16m)
Hend Osama (Egy) bt Heba Tork (Egy)  9/0, 9/7, 9/6 (24m)
Kate Roe (Eng) bt Engi El Sherif (Egy)  walkover
Lina El Tanir (Egy) bt Nour Baghat (Egy)  9/0 rtd
Raneem El Weleily (Egy) bt Merihan Amr (Egy)  9/0, 9/5, 9/0 (17m)


Qualifiers move on to Hurghada

Reports


Semi-finalists in Hurghada

Sat 10th July, SEMI-FINALS:
[1] Rachael Grinham (Aus) bt [7] Alison Waters (Eng)   9/4, 9/2, 9/4 (25m)
[3] Omneya Abdel Kawy (Egy) bt [2] Rebecca Macree (Eng)  9/5, 6/9, 9/0, 10/8  (77m)

KAWY KEEPS
HOME CROWD HAPPY
Photos & reports from WISPA


After the quarter finals Omneya Abdel Kawy admitted to the special pressure of competing in front of her home supporters. She had squeezed through in that match against Tegwen Malik, but a semi final against Rebecca Macree promised to ratchet up the degree of difficulty even more.

The island was bathed in a warm blanket, with a swirling breeze that pulled up corners of carpeting around the court but had little effect on the two players enclosed within the glass box. The crowd was voluble in support of Abdel Kawy, but this was sensed rather than heard by deaf Macree, and so only having an impact on the focus of the Egyptian world junior champion.

On form, Macree had the edge, having recorded a 3/0 win in March when they met at the Washington Summit, but Abdel Kawy, still a month short of her nineteenth birthday has been maturing. Her maturity on court has always been beyond her years, and off court her assuredness has grown too. All in all, the experienced Macree would be facing tough package.

The result was a four act play, a drama … and at 77 minutes a full length  production.

As the first act unfolded we began to learn more about the two main characters. Abdel Kawy being focussed, going about her business unfussily. Macree, meanwhile was more extravagant in play and reaction to decisions. The Egyptian occasionally looked fearful as Macree sometimes motored towards her.

But Abdel Kawy had settled into a better length, teased more winning boasts, and as the sound of evening prayers wafted across the water she took the first game.

During the second act Abdel Kawy lost a little composure as the gaps between her opponent getting hand in and serving became longer than she would have wished, but the English player was also getting more serves as the quality of her game improved.  Meanwhile, the home player was giving away too many easy strokes in the middle of the court.

As Macree played game point she caught her opponent on the side of the face. Enter the supporting actor, referee Hatim Hassan, who adjudged the swing excessive and awarded a conduct stroke against Macree.

He continued to have to deal with traffic and other problems and received rave reviews from all informed observers. After a two minute gap for attention Abdel Kawy came back, only to lose the game after 25 minutes to little audience reaction.

But when she played the next with a freedom and exuberance, going forward and driving and dropping, the watchers really began to loudly enjoy the show again. Macree, meanwhile was indulging in the sort of exaggerated responses that characterise amateur dramatics, but could find no effective responses.

To a great cheer and the sort of singing and dancing that is so definitely Egyptian, Abdel Kawy walked back to her bench two games to one ahead.

The pattern continued as she sailed to 8/2 match ball in the fourth, but that reckoned without a dramatic finish to the fourth act. As so often happens, an elbowed shot into the tin can signal a recovery, and Macree took her cue. Shouts of encouragement were beginning to get more desperate as Macree moved towards parity, and having saved two match balls at 2/8 and a further pair at 7/8 she levelled at eight all when Abdel Kawy was refused a let for a Macree forehand drive that she couldn't reach.

Hands changed, the crowd was mesmerised, but after a further two match balls the Egyptian brought the curtain down with a crunching volleyed forehand drive. What a drama!

Beaming broadly, the heroine told the crowd that she couldn't have done it without them. In terms of detail she explained: "I wanted to let nothing get into my head and just keep thinking about my squash. Now I am just so pleased to have won for everybody who supported me".    

GRINHAM BEATS GRITTY WATERS
The second semi seemed much easier to call, pitting as it did the world number two with a player ranked twenty five places below her. To her credit, Alison Waters was unfazed by the gulf, and though Rachael Grinham was able to win comprehensively, she found herself up against a resourceful and dogged opponent.

Perhaps Waters was helped by the fact that this was not the first time she had faced such elevated opposition; indeed she had played the Australian in the first round of the World Open last December – though managing a haul of only six points.

The twenty year old from North London had a height and reach advantage over the elfin-like Grinham; both have deceptive wrists, but Grinham's speed, general ball placement and simple experience was more than enough to bring the curtain down on the Waters campaign.

Very few people watched, little was memorable, but after the efficient performance Grinham was clear that: "The final will be tough as Omneya is playing very well, and especially hard with the crowd helping too."


Sunday is another rest day, caused by TV scheduling issues, so the finalists have time to recover before the final island battle on Monday.

Abdel Kawy can certainly use it, and bearing mind that national TV have shown every round live, even including qualification, it never seemed unreasonable to create a schedule that worked for them.    
  


WATERS WALTZES INTO
HURGHADA SEMIS ...

Photos & reports from WISPA

All of the top eight seeds had secured semi final berths, and as so often when an event reaches the quarters stage, some interesting match ups were on offer to squash enthusiasts, holidaymakers and local people who came across the wooden footbridge to the island sited glass court.

08-Jul, Quarter-finals:
[1] Rachael Grinham (Aus) bt [8] Engy Kheirallah (Egy)  9/3, 9/3, 9/2  (38m)
[7] Alison Waters (Eng) bt [4] Pamela Nimmo (Sco)  1/9, 7/9, 9/4, 10/8, 9/6  (68m)
[3] Omneya Abdel Kawy (Egy) bt [6] Tegwen Malik (Wal) 3/9, 9/6, 9/4, 8/10, 9/7 (80m)
[2] Rebecca Macree (Eng) bt [5] Carla Khan (Pak)  9/2, 9/7, 9/3  (45m)



GRINHAM DRIVES INTO SEMIS
Rachael Grinham
was not only strong favourite, but afforded the luxury of playing close to her long term Cairo base. She had driven across the desert to reach the Red Sea, her only concern being that she could make out the road signs to Hurghada in Arabic.

Her opponent Engy Kheirallah, being Egyptian, would have had no such trouble, but the world ranked 26 from Alexandria did have more than a little difficulty as far as the match was concerned. She had taken a game off the Australian in their last meeting, but that was in 2001 since when the Grinham star has shone still brighter.

Grinham was relishing the court time and didn't attack her opponent, simply rallied until an error was induced from Kheirallah. Crowd support was welcomed but could have little influence as Kheirallah found herself being pulled around the court and eventual defeat.

WALTERS WINS CLASSIC
She would play the winner of fourth seed Pamela Nimmo and seventh placed Alison Waters. This was a tie that had the makings of being close, because although Nimmo has an extra six years of experience, Waters, a member of the World Junior winning team from 2001, had the boost of a win in their encounter previous last October in Atlanta.

It turned out to be a minor classic. Both players started by abstaining from going short, but the extended rallies were more often eventually taken with a tight drive by the Scot, and it was already proving to be hard work.

Nimmo was supported by her holidaying mother Elizabeth who was to be found on the bench in conversation with her daughter between games; but perhaps the ministrations of Middlesex teammate Dominique Lloyd-Walter were more effective as after the lost first Waters started to attack the ball. She went further forward and began to influence the shape of rallies more. While the 20 year old was punishing the ball Nimmo was trying to maintain enough tightness to minimise the damage, her durability keeping her in front.

The ball was lively in the heat, but even as the match became a fascinatingly extended affair both players showed little sign of slowing. Waters was coming back and pulled away in the third to bring the score back to 1 / 2 after just shy of 40 minutes. As the fourth unfolded Nimmo regained the initiative with a series of short winners and stood at match ball at 8/3. Here she tinned and the dynamic slowly altered. As Waters commented afterwards "At match ball I said to myself let's get going, picked up a few points and she got a little tense". The eventual outcome was a climb back to eight all and the game taken snatched on the second time of asking with a flicked cross court drop.

Waters then moved on to 5/3 in the fifth before Nimmo, now berating herself, clawed back to parity. But in the end, Waters was not to be denied and having been all but beaten, had now definitely won – after 68 minutes of compelling action.

KAWY DOESN'T DISAPPOINT
The third match featured the darling of the home crowd, Omneya Abdel Kawy. Before the match she had told journalists "People are expecting me to do well. Playing in Egypt can make it more difficult". Pitched against Tegwen Malik, a dangerous but relatively unknown quantity, only added to the pressure. They hadn't met on court before, yet are similar in that their games are both based on touch, variety and use of the whole court.

This mirrored the Nimmo / Waters match after Malik made a strong start before the Egyptian settled into a rhythm. She then found herself similarly down and nearly out in the fourth. This time Abdel Kawy was 8/5 ahead and already two games to one in front. But Malik was still moving wonderfully freely, weaving patterns with the ball and causing Abdel Kawy concerns. The Egyptian, like Nimmo, tensed enough to offer an escape route, and much to the chagrin of the large voluble crowd Malik levelled.

Both players continued to find great width and telling boasts, but Abdel Kawy was up 7/3 in the decider before the pendulum swung again. An exquisite Welshwoman drop levelled matters at seven all, but there was to be no sting in the tail for the third seed as an overhead backhand straight drop took Abdel Kawy to match ball and victory when a desperate Malik lunge onto the back wall fell short of the front. The players hugged, had played the second great match of the evening and the local crowd and national TV audience went away happy. Indeed, the winner was informed that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had watched the action on television.

"I knew that it would be difficult. She plays really well and runs so I was worried" said Abdel Kawy. "I wanted to win to please the crowd", she added.

MACREE'S LATE NIGHT
She now plays Rebecca Macree, the second seed winning the battle of training partners by beating athletic Carla Khan, just as she had done when they had met in the British Open. Since then Macree had overcome a serious looking ankle injury and having just turned 33 is playing as well as she has ever done.

The four semi finalists have the luxury of a rest day before Saturday semis as the Hurghada Festival concludes in the evening with a major pop concert at which the players will be presented to the tens of thousands of revellers who are attending.

However, bearing in mind that Khan and Macree came off court at 12.30am, half an hour into Friday, perhaps technically there is no rest day!
 


07-Jul, Day TWO:

First round, bottom half:
[2] Rebecca Macree (Eng) bt Rebecca Botwright (Eng)    9/3, 9/0, 9/6 (26m)
[3] Omneya Abdel Kawy (Egy) bt Dominique Lloyd-Walter (Eng)  9/2, 9/2, 9/6 (35m)
[5] Carla Khan (Pak) bt Sharon Wee (Mas)  0/9, 9/4, 9/6, 9/0 (42m)
[6] Tegwen Malik (Wal) bt Raneem El Weliely (Egy)   9/2, 9/1, 9/0 (22m)
 

HURGHADA THERMOSTAT
STUCK ON HIGH ...
Photos & reports from WISPA


As ever, the Hurghada heating thermostat was stuck on high for the bottom half of the draw at the Red Sea resort.

Light daytime practice in the outdoor court oven was supplemented by routines on the indoor courts at the Marriott Beach Resort Hotel before the evening programme of matches.

The first match featured the English Rebecca's. Botwright (R) had come through the qualification in Cairo to be drawn to face the second seed Macree (R), a Hurghada veteran.

Macree, after a couple of months enforced absence after sustaining ligament damage at the last World Open has returned in fine fettle and was in no mood to let her guard slip against the willing outsider. She started the match hitting low and hard, and it was only when she started to employ boasts and drops on a more regular basis that Botwright was able to buy into the match, trading rallies more regularly. She got to 6/7 in the third before being wrongfooted twice with wristy cross court drops and the chance of securing a game was gone.

The Egyptian TV audience watching the live transmission at home had their best hope playing in the second match. World junior champion Omneya Abdel Kawy, an experienced campaigner of all of 18 years, was not about to disappoint them. Opponent Dominique Lloyd Walter, like Botwright a Hurghada debutant, tugged hard at the cord of tee control but was never able to prise it away from Abdel Kawy for sustained periods. Rallies were extended but Lloyd-Walter had little to show for her 35 minutes on court. As she said ruefully afterwards, "The court was really good, certainly not dead; but Omneya had too many shots and anything I hit short left me in trouble"

The players themselves judged the third match to be the most likely to be close during the evening, and so it was. Fifth seed Carla Khan, sporting braided a hairstyle concocted by the hotel hairdresser, was up against resurgent Sharon Wee. Tee Malaysian had last month beaten Chiu (R!) to take the silver in the Asian championships and so Khan was likely to be stretched. Wee snaffled the first game with Khan looking uncomfortable as she got used to the court, but from that point the Pakistani began to take control with her high octane athleticism. Her opponent was trading punches until she began to slowly unravel at the end of the third.

Khan's win set up a quarter final against training partner Macree.

Finally, the unarguably superb Egyptian prospect would take her turn. Fifteen year old Raneem El Weliely has all the pieces of the jigsaw ready to fall into place for a hugely successful career and demonstrated them to the full in her match against Tegwen Malik. The Welsh player had the experience and control to deal with the threat now and won 3/0, but Malik was quick to praise her young foe . "She has fantastic potential. She already has a great all round game and only needs to develop the patience which will come with match practice".

Malik, a deceptively fast mover with a languid all court game, will be the next challenge for Abdel Kawy in the quarters. "I haven't played Omneya before and I am looking forward to it. It should be interesting", she concluded before returning across the wooden bridge to the mainland.

With the weather forecast indicating warmth, as it does every day, it is likely to be mirrored by the heat of last eight battle.

06-Jul, Day ONE:
HURGHADA DEBUTANTS
SPILL SUPERLATIVES ...
Photos & reports from WISPA


The summer Egyptian sun shone strongly on several debutants in the Hurghada International 2004; all of whom were liberally spilling superlatives about the glass court set on a tiny Red Sea island reached by a wooden footbridge from the Marriott Beach Resort Hotel.

As Canadian Runa Reta told a local journalist "This is the most beautiful venue I've ever seen. The yachts, Red Sea and resort are awesome".

As darkness fell the lights from boats bobbing nearby provided a twinkling backdrop to an opening ceremony featuring energetic local dancing - with the WISPA players joining in before their own televised parade preceded the action.

The sun finished its unbroken tour of duty for the day but the temperature was still in the mid twenties Celsius, though tempered by a sea breeze.

The five Egyptian players in the main draw were led off by Engy Kheirallah, with all the matches covered by live television throughout the evening. She was up against England's Kate Roe, aged 25, who had come through the qualification to fetch up against the eighth seed from Alexandria.

Kheirallah, who had beaten the current world number 10 Jenny Duncalf in Washington in March was simply too steady for her opponent. The reason became clearer afterwards when Roe explained that not only had she not played outside before, but had never competed on an all glass court at all! "It was just so different I felt it wasn't me playing out there. I could see the ball well but my length was terrible" she said.

Kheirallah's 1999 World junior championship winning teammate Eman El Amir was next up against fourth seed Pamela Nimmo. The Scot had seen a recent resurgence and this continued despite local support fervently trying to carry forward the Egyptian Nimmo was too efficient and induced too many errors from El Amir.

Her quarter final opponent would be the victor in the battle between Runa Reta and Alison Waters, the seventh seed. In what promised to be a tight match. However, Waters settled to the task immediately and although the rallies were competitive with hands changing to and fro, it was the English girl whose tally slowly rose in each game. After 32 minutes she was able to return to the mainland having secured a berth in the last eight.

The final bout of the evening saw one and a half Egyptians on court! Salma Shabana counted as full, with long term Cairo resident Rachael Grinham forming the partial. Shabana, watched by two year old son Marawen found the world number two too sharp and mobile, but Shabana showed that motherhood and the demands of her coaching position at the Maadi Club in Cairo have not diminished either her appetite as she tried to match the Australian. That said, she was pleased to qualify after a tough match with Egyptian rising star Amnah El Trabolsy to take a main draw slot. Grinham, the favourite for the title cruised into the quarters where Kheirallah awaits her.


05-Jul, Final Qualifying:
WISPA Returns to the Red Sea

The WISPA tour kicks off the Summer with a return to the spectacular setting of Egypt's Red Sea resort of Hurghada.

Cairo-based Australian Rachael Grinham, who lost out to Carol Owens in last year's final, is top seed, and will be hoping to add a 'home' title to her rapidly-growing collection. England's Rebecca Macree is seeded two, and Egyptian fans will be able to cheer on world junior champion Omneya Abdel Kawy, who is seeded three.

Qualifying in Cairo saw two Egyptians, Salma Shabana and Raneem El Weleily, and two Englishwomen, Becky Botwright and Kate Roe, reach the main draw.

The main round action takes place in Hurghada, where the temperature today was reported to be 42°C (108°F). Fortunately the matches take place from 7.30 in the evening, when it should be somewhat cooler!

Qualifying Results

 
 

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