• 10th Qatar Classic Squash Championship  • 04-12 Nov 2010 • Doha •  




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TODAY at the Qatar Classic 2010
Thu 11th, Day SEVEN, Semi-Finals  

Women's Semis:  

[1] Nicol David (Mas) bt Nour El Tayeb (Egy)
           11/7, 11/2, 5/11, 11/6 (47m)
[4] Rachael Grinham (Aus) bt [2] Jenny Duncalf (Eng)
            9/11, 11/5, 12/10, 11/5 (41m)

Men's Semis:

[2] Amr Shabana (Egy) bt [4] Gregory Gaultier (Fra)
            3/11, 11/4, 11/7, 6/11, 12/10 (71m)
[3] Karim Darwish (Egy) bt [1] Nick Matthew (Eng)
            8/11, 5/11, 11/8, 12/10, 11/8 (73m)

Champions dethroned in Semi-Finals

Don't worry if you have a feeling of Deja Vu - two of today's semi-finals were repeats of the 2009 finals, with five Qatar Classic champions still in contention at the start of the day.

Nicol David, champion here in 2006, 7 and 8, took on surprise package Nour El Tayeb, while defending champion Jenny Duncalf met Rachael Grinham in a repeat of last year's women's final.

Champion in 2007, Amr Shabana renewed his rivalry with Gregory Gaultier, and finally Nick Matthew and Karim Darwish, the 2009 and 2008 champions, replayed last year's men's climax.

The crows at the Khalifa Tennis & Squash complex were treated to four quality matches tonight ...





I tried to keep the ball tight, and the rallies long, and to play all the shots I could possibly play, run and make her run. To be honest, I never run as much for a single game than I did in that first one! So after that, I was a bit tired.

But in the 3rd, I decided that I would still play in the back, but also in the front, because if I only played in the back, I would lose, she is so much good there! So I decided to go for my shots too. And as she made a few errors there, I played a few winners, and that gave me confidence.

Yes, I did believe that I could beat her today….

This tournament has been so great, I think I am on the right track, I was in the semi final, but more important, I put Nicol David, world number 1, under pressure!.

[1] Nicol David (Mas) bt Nour El Tayeb (Egy)
           11/7, 11/2, 5/11, 11/6 (45m)

NOUR SOON…                        Fram reports

Boy was I impressed tonight by that little girl, 17, still a baby in so many ways, and yet, so determined and feisty on that glass court she probably have played what, 10 times in her life???

Not to mention that she was so tired, yesterday, after her match against Joelle, I didn’t think she was going to be able to walk, let alone run like a lunatic like she did against the World Best Retriever!!!!

Yes, impressed I was, by her shots, her determination, and her will to win. The first game in particular was superb of technical skills, speed, accuracy from both players.

At 7/7 though, the Egyptian got a bit tired, and we thought, well, well run, good effort, she did well, a feeling reinforced at the 2nd, when she could barely move….

But Gosh! Whatever she had for breakfast, I’ll definitely have some, as her second wind gave her wings in the third, taking a superb start 5/0, finding some stunning shots on the backhand that really took Nicol on the backfoot. And Nour built from there, making so few errors, pushing the Malaysian to some uncharacteristic tins…

Clenched fist and adrenalin pumping, the little girl came back on court in the 4th, ready for action, but the Malaysian Queen had by then assessed her opponent’s game, as a computer would do.

Nour started to make more errors, the tiredness most probably, still found a few drops of energy at the end of the game, coming back from 9/3 to 6/9, but with two feathery drop shots, Nicol made sure she was not going out in the semis like she did last year….

Who will she meet in the final? She doesn’t care really “as long as they run as much as possible tonight”….

I’ve been watching her for a long time now, and she has come up so strong!

Today, I was so expecting her to play like that, I was prepared to run for all the nicks, for the four corners, and did she bring her game up…

I had to keep on working for what’s was coming next… And like all the Egyptian players, when she gets on a roll, she is not going to stop!

She has such a great feel of the ball, she moved very well too, and she is so determined, you can feel she is not there to win just that rally, but the one after that, and the one after that! And that was the confidence in her mind I was trying to push away from her.

After the 3rd, I had to regroup, and pick up my game in the 4th. And you know, it was my first time playing her, so you try and answer the questions she is asking you…


Tayeb tests David                                           Steve's view

"No pressure tomorrow, we'll see how good the world number one is," said 17-year-old Nour El Tayeb after winning her semi-final yesterday.

Well she found out today that Nicol David is pretty good, but she also found out that she can give her a run for her money - David has won everything she's entered since losing here in the semi-finals last year, and she's gone through a good number of those tournaments without dropping a game.

Not tonight though, as the unseeded Egyptian - whose Dad made the trip to come and watch - gave the World Number one more than a few things to think about.

After Nour worryingly fluffed her shot on the first ball deep in the corner, the first game developed into a pretty even contest with both of them playing patient rallies, working the ball around the court nicely. Nicol led 4/2 and 7/5 but Nour levelled after a particularly long rally.

As is so often the case against the top players, and Nicol especially, the game ran away from her at the business end, Nicol helped by a dead nick on the back wall along the way. Eleven minutes, 11/7.

The second was one way traffic, there were still some lengthy rallies but Nicol looked in calm control, 22 minutes elapsed for two-nil, 11/2, and you thought the third might be much the same.

But no, Nour came out attacking from the outset, put Nicol under severe pressure and found some lovely winners to boot. 5/1, 7/2, and although Nicol pulled a few points back, for once her prey escaped her as Nour pulled a game back, finishing with a well worked rally and a simple dropshot.

Would Nicol dominate the third? After a fashion - she led in the early stages but Nour was making her work for everything she got. At 4/3 though a run of five measured rallies took Nicol clear and the writing was on the wall fort the youngster.

She kept working to the end though, pulled three points back, but Nicol made her work in the last two points, finishing them off with dropshots before they engaged in a hug as the crowd, Malaysian and Egyptian alike, applauded a thoroughly entertaining match.

[4] Rachael Grinham (Aus) bt [2] Jenny Duncalf (Eng)
            9/11, 11/5, 12/10, 11/5 (41m)

Rachael dethrones Jenny 
Steve reports, Fram speaks to Rachael

It was a repeat of last year's final, but while the names on the scoresheet were the same, as matches go it couldn't have been much more different.

Then, Jenny Duncalf had just beaten Nicol David for the second tournament in a row, and Rachael Grinham, in her own words, had a nightmare and it was all over in little more than twenty minutes.

Tonight though it was a real match, Rachael utilising her deadly arsenal of shots to great effect, very few errors - compared to last year or last night anyway - and Jenny trying to cope with the onslaught but getting frustrated as she made simple errors.

It went well enough for the Englishwoman in the first, she was in the ascendancy and in the lead, but from 4-all in the second Rachael pulled away with a run of six unanswered points and soon we were level.

A poor start to the third - two easy tins with he opponent nowhere helped Rachael to a 5-2 lead - did nothing to improve Jenny's state of mind, but to her credit she buckled down, worked her way back into it and earned two game balls at 10/8.

Rachael intercepted a drive to save one, Jenny screamed "ASK" as she stretched for and missed a dropshot on the next. A trademark crosscourt drop and a precise volley drop gave Rachael the game, as Jenny vented her frustration on the side wall.

The momentum was with Rachael now, and she kept the pressure on, making Jenny twist and turn. 7/2 always looked a winning lead, 10/5 definitely did. A boast millimetres above the tin sealed the match, and the revenge was complete.

Last year was a shocker really, one of those days, I just couldn’t hit anything. Not to mention that Jenny was chopping everything…. I’m quite looking forward to the rematch actually…

Funny thing with those lucky nicks! She got a lucky bounce out of a drive, I run, got it, and got myself another lucky bounce out of her lucky bounce!

Yes, you are right, I do apply ice to my lower body quite regularly after my matches, as I don’t have any physical trainer with me, I had to take care of my body, ice, stretching… Yesterday actually, I got out and just couldn’t move my left knew, maybe I hit it while playing and didn’t feel it! And the back was not good either… But today, I felt good, and I’m rather happily surprised with the way I pulled up today…

Well, I’m going to try and loosen myself up, to try and get prepared to play Queen Nicol! I used to beat her, I haven’t for a while though, and it’s a nice challenge to look forward to.

I can’t play a lot of matches like that anymore. Between yesterday’s against James and this one, I’m not THAT ready…!!!!!

In that rally in the 5th, 6/5, when I threw myself on the floor twice, Greg got a bit edgy about the floor, and he was right, but it was a very fair match, like it’s always the case against Greg.

Greg has got the ability, when he is down and out, under incredible pressure, to com up with some stunning attacking shots. In that 4th, I didn’t feel I did much wrong, but he just found 6 or 7 winners. Normally, under that kind of pressure, you’d be lucky to get two, but he made so many. Really surprised me….

Today, I don’t feel like he lost, I just feel that I’ve played an incredible match against an incredible player, and in the end, it was just a flip of a coin. One minute it was me, then the next minute it was him, next it would be me again…. And we’ve played so many times, like 20… Honestly, it was a flip of a coin…

[2] Amr Shabana (Egy) bt [4] Gregory Gaultier (Fra)
            3/11, 11/4, 11/7, 6/11, 12/10 (71m)

                                                                         Fram reports

Would you believe that out of the six matches those two have played, Greg had to retire three times for injury, the last time, well, a few days ago, in the semis of Kuwait Open. And we were all dreading that Greg’s body wouldn’t hold it today again. But thank God – and his two physios on this one, Caroline and Ronald – that was not too much of a problem it seemed.

Again, sorry Shabs, but you were not the winner I picked. I had you a bit tired from James’ match yesterday, and thought well, no offense, 3/0 Greg. And once again, the first game, it went according to my estimation, 11/3 for the Frenchman, with the Egyptian not exactly moving at his best, a few errors here and there….

But once again, the 31 year old Mighty Shabana started to think that after all, as long as he was there, might as well try it for a while and see what happened. 5/1, 7/2 and 11/4, that’s what happened!!! Level we were, 1/1.

And in the third, it didn’t get too much better for the Frenchman, too many errors, not really grounded, not playing badly, but certainly not playing his best squash, a bit nullified by Shabs' squash. 3/0 and 8/3 in no time. And even if Greg stuck in, scoring four points in a row to catch up 7/9, Shabana did his wizardry, taking a serious option of the victory by leading 2/1.

But if people were expecting Greg to fold, that’s when he got his best shots!!!! He forced Shabana to make error upon error, getting winners in like a knife in warm butter, not making one unforced error the whole game. 11/6. And two all.

Into the fifth we went, the Frenchman looking awfully good, 4/1, solid squash, with flair, and determination, great rallies, intelligent and brilliant squash, what an advert for the game, not a bad word, very few lets, and yet, intense and feisty. A dream match.

At 6/2, it seems that the Marseillaise is going to be sung, but comes the rally of all rallies, with Greg shooting everything in sight, to the front, to the back, and Shabana throwing himself not once, but twice on the floor, retrieving, counterattacking, an IMMENSE rally finally won by the Egyptian.

“He has put sweat everywhere on the court, what am I supposed to do, how am I supposed to play,” asks Greg to the Ref. Good point I guess, but the noisy crowd – that the players themselves have to try and keep quiet themselves, as they are disturbing them – doesn’t care. Their hero is climbing back…

The central ref, under strict instructions not to ask for the crowd to pipe down, is asking them twice “not to make too much noise during the rallies”.


Moving on.

And climbing back, Shabana is. From 2/6 to 7/7. The Frenchman loses a bit of concentration, two tins. 9/7. It’s now Shabana who loses his, 10/9 match ball Greg. A stunning backhand low drive, 10/10. A tin, 11/10 match ball for Shabana.

An immense rally, incredible tension, suspense, ending with a let. I’m getting greyer by the second. Another long rally, that ends with a great backhand drop shot from Greg on the left front corner. “Let” decide the refs. Greg is fuming.

This time round, Shabana goes for a mid court boast, and the French can only return in the tin. Mighty Shabs is in his second final in a row….

[3] Karim Darwish (Egy) bt [1] Nick Matthew (Eng)
            8/11, 5/11, 11/8, 12/10, 11/8 (73m)

WAKES UP….    
                                Fram reports

Yes, a new nickname for Karim. For years I’ve been trying to describe the way this Egyptian plays. Not easy, as he's just good everywhere, no real weakness anywhere, maybe less fancy shots than other boys, but a soft approach to the front, feather drop shots, delicate counterdrop, great width… Yes, I think the ‘Ball Whisperer” suits him fine…

As he said in his aftermatch interview, we had two matches . The first one, with a Karim avoiding any stress on the left ankle – heavily strapped – not putting any weight on that side, hardly moving to the right left corner, and not having much impact on the match to be honest, letting Nick have his shots wherever and whenever he wanted…

And suddenly, a complete change of scenery. An offensive Karim, taking the game back and forth, forcing Nick to make a few errors, establishing a good lead, 7/3 then 9/5, to take that third 11/8 after 40m of match.

“Well, Nick’d better take that fourth, otherwise the Selby thing might pop back in his mind,” said Geoff Hunt, sitting next to me. To be honest, at the time, I didn’t think that Nick could lose the match…. Listen and Learn from the Greatest, I say, last week JK, this week, Geoff, it doesn't get better than this...

And that’s exactly what happened. Doubt started to crawl in Nick’s brain, he took an awful bad start in the 4th, 4/0 and 7/1 down. Smelling the burning pot of coffee on the stove, he slowing came back, point by point, to 8/9. A tin from Karim allowed him to save a first game ball, 10/9. No let, 10/10. But a backhand dropshot from Dreamland and a tin gave Karim the right to a decider.

The crowd, as you may expect in majority Egyptian is chanting in the stands. It was a great atmosphere….

And it seemed in that fifth that Nick had found his composure again, well at last! 4/2. 5/3. Suddenly, Karim gets in a zone, and scores 4 points in a row, 7/5 then 9/6. Nick, still alive and kicking, saves a match ball, but tins the last ball, 11/8. The crowd, along with Karim, goes absolutely wild….

Yes, you really have two different Karims tonight! The Karim of the first two games, and the other Karim, for the next three games!

I was really thinking about my foot for the first two games, I was being careful, thinking too much and a bit flat, but then I told myself to start enjoying it. And I decided to change my game, and forget everything…

Why? Well, I just didn’t want to lose to Nick 3/0. It wouldn’t have been good either for the rest of my season, or for the mental side of things.

I played tight especially on the backhand because he volleys particularly well from there. Anything loose and he would have killed me. And my forehand drop shots worked pretty well today, that’s my area of predilection.

Nick has been winning pretty much everything last year, he was world number one still a few months back, so beating him tonight is very special to me.

When I can play like that, I’m alright…

Against Shabana tomorrow, I won’t be able to afford to wait the third game to play, I’ll have to start from the first rally!!!!

It was not a physical match as such, even if the pace was fast, the rallies were not gruelling, it was more mental I think.

No, really disappointed to lose from 2/0 up, that didn’t happen many times in my career, and now, it happened twice in two weeks, and I’ve got to look into why it has happen, especially as I was each time a few rallies away from breaking their spirit down.

Maybe I was expecting him to give it a big push, and didn’t react enough to it, and when I actually reacted in the 5th, it was already too late? I’m not sure really.

I’m also disappointed because I got the hunger back, physically, I was fine, I am playing well. I got found out in Kuwait because I didn’t have the motivation, etc, but here I came a week earlier, I stayed with Geoff Hunt and then Debbie Algosaibi – Tournament Director’s home, I had a good week of training, which I didn’t expect to get, so it was a bonus for me.

Karim did well, to come back from 2/0 down, it’s really a good effort, well done to him.

You are never too old to learn!!!!! Oh well, now, a few weeks of hard work for the Worlds, whatever the result here, that’s always been my target…

Karim has accomplished what only three people have done before. Wining from 2/0 against Nick Matthew. First one, in 2002, Shabana, and James in 2007, in the SS Finals. And of course, Daryl last week in Kuwait. (source, SquashInfo)

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