David tested as Perry, Gaultier and
Willstrop find three ways to win 3-0
The semi-finals of the XIth Qatar Classic at the Khalifa
International Tennis and Squash Complex in Doha saw a
contrasting set of semi-finals in which one defending
champion stayed on course while one was dethroned, and three
very different three-nil wins.
The women's semi-finals featured the same four players as
last year, although they were playing different opponents.
Nicol David met Rachael Grinham in a repeat of
the 2010 final, and just as then it was the Malaysian world
number one who triumphed. She was tested though, sorely
tested by an Australian who seemed not to know that she was
on the wrong end of a run of 14 consecutive defeats to
David, and so very nearly forced a deciding game.
David it was though who won a seesaw encounter 11/6, 4/11,
11/6, 11/8 to advance to her fifth final in six years where
she will be looking to take a record fifth crown.
"Our matches are nearly always five setters or/and 1h30m, so
needless to say I’m happy with this 3/1 victory in 50
minutes," said a relieved Nicol.
opponent will be Northern Ireland's Madeline Perry
who beat Egypt's World Junior Champion Nour El Tayeb
in straight games.
Both were playing their second successive Qatar Classic
semi-final, but they had never played each other before. Not
that you would have known as they traded blows for just over
an hour with never more than two points separating them.
It was a dramatic encounter, with long rallies, fast action,
dives and numerous interventions from the video appeals
referee. In the end it was a relieved Irishwoman who won
11/9, 19/17, 11/9, but as she said afterwards,
"It was a three-love but it was never a three-love, was it.
I was just able to play the big points at the end of the
games better, but I was very happy to win that last point!"
The first men's semi-final was the third meeting in Doha
between Karim Darwish, Egypt's defending champion and
third seed, and Gregory Gaultier, the Frenchman who
reached the final in 2007 and is seeded sixth this time
meetings had been shared, but today Gaultier turned in one
of his best performances, taking a close first game,
increasing his control in the second and totally dominating
"I was so comfortable on there," said a delighted Gaultier.
"I was happy to play, so happy to play, and I hope I can
keep on playing like that."
The final match of the day demonstrated a third way of
winning three-nil as James Willstrop, champion here
back in 2005, recovered from early deficits against unseeded
Aussie Stewart Boswell in the first and third games,
in between cruising through the second to win 11/8, 11/3,
11/9 in just short of an hour.
"He's such a smooth operator, I has to be really dogged to
get through tonight," said Willstrop. "The scoreline doesn't
really do him justice, but I'm so pleased to get through to
really enjoyed this match, I think I played well, although
there was space for improvement I thought, in particular on
my straight drops, but overall, I’m not too unhappy, as I
obviously didn’t play too badly
Thing is, when I feel fine physically, I can still play
well. Here, having the physio available made a huge
difference, even this morning, I had some pain, the back, I
feel stiff and all, but after the treatment, you feel fine,
your movement improves, even your accuracy. Completely
A bit disappointed with the way I lost that last point, I
shouldn’t have lost like that, but hey, when I start to have
people writing me off, nice to feel like I can still match
It's Nicol again ...
but what a test Rachael gives her
They'd played here twice before, in the 2007 semis and the
2010 final. Nicol David won both of those, 3-2 and
3-0, taking two of her four Qatar Classic titles in the
process. Coincidentally, 2007 was the last time that
Rachael Grinham had beaten the Malaysian, in a dramatic
British Open final, but David had won 14 in a row after
when David took a 3-0 lead in the first, albeit after a
couple of long rallies and a couple of lets, the omens
didn't look good for the Australian. But she stuck with it,
and with both moving the ball sweetly around the court as
they do, the score advanced to 4-all, then 6-all.
David moved ahead 9/6, then got a reprieve on a no let
courtesy of the video ref (I was close and the original call
looked good to me), took immediate advantage to take the
But you could tell already that this was going to be a
match, Rachael was matching her opponent in movement, and
given a chance she was going to try her hand at the drops,
boasts and volleys that have served her so well over the
And immediately in the second those shots started to pay
dividend. Nicol admitted after yesterday's match that she
had been defensive at the start, and now she was definitely
being too defensive, and Rachael relished in being able to
place her shots without really being put under pressure.
3/0, 6/1, 9/2 with Nicol being forced to retrieve - which
she's quite willing to do all day of course - and having to
hurry her shots too much.
game ended 11/4 with Nicol hitting her return of serve out,
a rare occurrence indeed, and it felt like she needed to
change her game to stop, if not the rot, then the tide that
was turning against her.
And she did. From the outset of the third Nicol was faster
onto the ball, looking to punish anything loose rather than
just push it back. And from 6/0 she rarely loses. Rachael
steadied, but the tide had been turned. Back to 6/4 she
came, but a stretch that resulted in a lucky winner started
the scoreboard moving again for Nicol and she finished it
It was a similar story in the fourth as Nicol, still forcing
the pace, moved into leads of 4/1 and 7/2. Sometimes in
these situations Rachael can tail off, the end coming
quickly, but not tonight, definitely not tonight.
Australian seemed to up her own pace to match Nicol's. She
was running hard, making very few mistakes, and the long
drops were working well to. It became a real battle, and for
a while it looked as though she was going to force a decider
as she levelled at 8-all.
The long drop let her down to give Nicol the lead again at
9/8, the video ref again intervened to reverse a no let to
Nicol that would have made it 9-all (correctly this time,
from my viewpoint).
Then Nicol glued a short drive to the wall and after a long
rally with Nicol doing all the work, Rachael's volley winner
just clipped the top of the tin. It was all over when it
felt as though there should be more. Certainly the crowd
wanted more, Rachael definitely did.
Nicol will be glad to extend that winning sequence but she
knows she was tested tonight, really really tested.
37 matches – including all the times I played her here in
Qatar, as in nearly every time I came! – were 5 setters
or/and 1h30m! So needless to say I’m happy with this 3/1
victory in 50!
Rachael keeps pushing back, I have to hang in there,
especially on that court… She didn’t win those titles for
nothing, times and times again, she’ll find drop shots and
winners from all over the court. And I’ll have to keep
running keeping them up!
Also, she seems to be more and more relaxed every time she
plays me, each time, she seems even more relaxed than the
time before, as she’s got nothing to lose. And she is so
fast, when I play a drop shot, I have to make sure it’s
perfect, so sometimes I get a bit tentative.
In the second, I gave her too many opening and
opportunities, it gave her confidence, and she just killed
me out there. So in the third, I had to make sure I was
straightening and tightening my game.
I still work with Liz Irving, who keeps teaching me, and
making me improve day by day, I’m learning a lot from here,
everything she says I take on board, she is giving me so
When you do a lot of work, and keep learning every day, and
everything finally together, and you get the recognition,
it’s an amazing feeling…
Madeline Perry (Irl) bt  Nour
El Tayeb (Egy)
11/9, 19/17, 11/9 (61m)
Three-nil Madeline. Easy.
Yeah, right ...
There are three-nils and three-nils.
You can play a blinder or have an off day and be off court
in 15 minutes. You can have a match where each player gets a
run of points, the scores are close in the end but you knew
who was going to win each game from halfway through it. You
can play for an hour and get five, seven or maybe more even
more games for your court fee.
you can have a match like this, between two players who have
never played each other before, with very different styles
and approaches to the game, who play for an hour with never
more than a two-point gap between them and one of them ends
up winning three-nil.
There was nothing, absolutely nothing to choose between them
tonight. Madeline Perry probably spent more time at the
front of the court than she has all tournament, because Nour
El Tayeb was dragging her there when she could. For her part
the Egyptian found the back corners more welcoming than she
ever has, because that's where Madeline likes to keep you.
them they conjured up a hell of a match, fast, varied,
tense, lots of long rallies, lots of winners, scrambling and
sliding (well, more of that by Nour, obviously!).
It had everything you'd get in your typical five setter, it
was just as long, it only had three games, that's all.
And the fact that Madeline was just that little bit stronger
in the crucial points at the end of each game could be put
down to experience, or just the roll of the dice.
Certainly the video referee played a crucial role in the
second. Twice, deep into extra points, Madeline appealed and
twice she had the verdicts overturned, once to keep herself
at game ball once to give herself game ball, which she
The fourth referee could have played a pivotal role in the
third too. At 8-all the court lights went off for a few
minutes, and on the resumption the score advanced to 9-all.
wafted her racket for what seemed to be, to me, an obvious
stroke, and to Madeline too because she immediately appealed
the let decision given.
Even Nour knew, because when the "video review unavailable"
message appeared on the screens (the systems were still
rebooting) the young Egyptian gestured a grateful "thankyou"
towards the TV studios.
In the end it didn't matter, Madeline fired in a crosscourt
which left Nour on her knees, then an error into the tin and
after 61 minutes it was all over.
An easy three nil for Madeline. Yeah, right ...
It was 3/0,
but it was never 3/0, was it, if you look at the rallies!
I thought I played well, but I was really impressed with her
today, she kept getting it back, and she’s got a great
future in front of her.
Even at the end, when it was really close, I was never
tight, I was always relaxed and managed to win the big
points at the end of the games.
Winning that second game and leading 2/0 made a huge
difference, and in the third the rallies weren't quite as
long, but I was very happy to win that last point…
don’t think I played too badly, but she is the one that
played better on the crucial point and deserve to win. I
think I didn’t have as much experience than she has, but
I’ve learned so much during this tournament.
Today, I could have had a better length, and my drop shots,
well, they were not bad, but in particular in the important
points, they were not sharp enough.
GREG CLINICAL This
was a short match when you think of the standard of the
players on court, Karim, world number 3, Greg number 6. You
would expect the match to go much longer than the official
42m in the score sheet.
The first game was close at it comes, both working pretty
hard, 21m, but with Greg really up for it, constantly in
front of his opponent, and Karim that seemed not always on
the backfoot. The Egyptian seemed to move well enough,
although he had his right ankle surrounded by a black
strapping that was maybe there for protection, maybe a
niggle there, I’m not sure.
And the second started really close as well, up to 3/3, but
after that, Greg controlled more or less every rally, Karim
just not assertive or positive enough with his shots to make
any impact on the end result…
is an unbelievable player, he is the double defending
champion, maybe a bit of pressure tonight. Whereas for me, I
was lucky enough to have played Tarek last night, so my
speed was up to date, so thanks Tarek…
I was so comfortable on there, I was happy to play, so happy
to play, and I hope I can keep on playing like that… I was
relaxed, I was moving freely, I was enjoying every second of
my time on there, and it’s such a fantastic feeling when
everything you’ve been working on suddenly falls into place
on D day….
The first game was really tough, I had to dig in deep to win
it, and when I found myself 2/0 up, I just gave it a huge
push, trying to prevent him to score at all costs, really
working point, after point, after point, structuring ever
When you are a top seed, it’s tough, I have been in that
situation when I was world number one, and I didn’t handle
it that well then, but now, I’m trying to get back into the
top ranking, and for me, beating Karim who is ahead of me in
the ranking is good for my points. And it’s a good win….
A lot of people came tonight to support Karim, but it
doesn’t matter really who you come to support, as long as
you come to see squash. Squash is a fantastic sport to
watch, and thanks to your support, we’ll hopefully get into
Willstrop(Eng) bt Stewart
11/8, 11/3, 11/9 (56m)
DIG IN JAMES STRIKES AGAIN…
Looking at the stats, as in James having spent on court 133
minutes this week before this match, while Stewart had spend
183 minutes, as in 50m more, it looked not too bad for the
Pontefract man. Add to that two great victories for the
Australian, one against David in the second round, a man he
beat the last time 10 years ago on that same court, then
Cameron, younger and better ranked than him.
Two hard matches then, both mentally, and physically. Still,
James didn’t have a walk in the park himself, under
tremendous pressure from team mate Peter, he had to dig in
and hang in there quite hard the day before…
Australian started beautifully and annihilated James’
attacks completely, leading 7/2 in that opening game.
Slowly, point by point, the Englishman clawed his way back
in, eating away Stewart’s confident, catching up 7/7 and
getting a two points lead, 9/7. James made his first error
of the match, 8/9, pushed to attack from the wrong position,
but was able to close the game 11/8 in 17m.
The second, well, Stewart was just dead, he hit the wall,
just wasn’t able to contain James anymore, and let him in
front, the legs feeling probably very heavy….
But all credit to the Aussie, second wind he got, moving
very well again, finding both length and weight in the ball,
more positive, more aggressive, and it paid off, 7/3! Well,
I certainly didn’t see that coming….
Patiently, as he did in the first game, James came back,
grinding away the comfortable lead the Australian earned.
Lovely rallies, so tight, so accurate from both players,
some stunning retrieving actually, on some o so beautiful
attacks. A real joy that was for us.
Not that Bozza was enjoying it probably, when James caught
up at 8/8, then 9/9. A stroke for James, match ball. And a
lob that get out of court, and James closes it, 11/9.
Note. You won’t find a quote from Bozza, I just completely
forgot to ask him! I do apologise for that… A blond moment,
is so accurate especially at the back, and mentally, I
really had to dogged in tonight. He deserves so much more
than what the score shows.
My shots were a bit loose, but they were because he makes
you do that! The tightness of his shots made me spray the
ball around, he is lethal and such a smooth operator…
I was trying to break him and make him move but Stewart
doesn’t give you a chance to do it! Thank God I knew what to
expect, I was ready for him, although we were not on court 3
in Pontefract squash club, training away, the intensity is
had the best and the worst results here, I won the title,
had some shocker losses on the back courts. It is in my
opinion an extremely difficult court to play well on, as the
court conditions seem to vary as the AC fluctuates. But most
of the time, the court is dead, which is very good for me.
The court is unique and today, Stewart played it very well,
he deserves more than he got to be honest.
But I’m happy with the fact I had the toughness to come
back, like I did the day before against Pete, and made sure
that I would try and not find myself in that situation
I’m so pleased to be in the final, to have been getting
through all the matches. Greg and I had some tough matches
in our times, we’ve got some contrasting styles that makes
lost the match, I haven’t seen him play that well for years,
and he didn’t move as well since… 2002!!!! I'm so proud of
The Khalifa Complex
Nicol David is
aiming for her fifth Qatar Classic title having won in four
of the last five years, and leads Rachael Grinham, in
a rivalry going back for over a decade, 30 to 7, with
Grinham winning their first 5 meetings and her last win
coming in a dramatic British Open final in 2007.That
was the year that Grinham won her World Open title, while
David already has five of those plus a winning streak of 14
matches against Grinham to call on. Still, it's been a
tournament of upsets so far ...
Madeline Perry, at the age of 34 has only reached the
Qatar Classic final once before, although she does have
other major titles to her name. Nour El Tayeb, little
over half Perry's age at 18, also has one Qatar Classic
semi-final on her record, and is the World Junior Champion.
They've never met before, so this will be an interesting one
for all concerned.
Karim Darwish and Gregory Gaultier are both
former world number ones. and have met 12 times in PSA
matches, the Frenchman leading 7-5. When their junior -
including the 2000 World Junior Final - and world teams
meeting included Darwish draws level at 8-all, with the last
four meetings shared too. Odfd are the final match will be
late starting ...
James Willstrop, champion here in 2005, also had an
illustrious junior career, but it was his Qatar Classic
victory that consolidated him into the top echelons where he
has been ever since. Stewart Boswell has been as high
as world number four, but since returning from a long term
back injury has remained in the 10-21 bracket for the last
six years. This will be his first major semi-final in that
period while Willstrop is a regular at this stage, so the
odds must favour the Englishman, who leads 4-2 in their PSA
meetings, 6-2 with World Teams and World Games included.