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• 11th Qatar Classic Squash Championship  • 14-21 Oct 2011 • Doha •  

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TODAY ] Qual ONE ] Qual TWO ] Round ONE(1) ] Round ONE(2) ] ROUND TWO ] QUARTERS ] [ SEMIS ]

TODAY at the Qatar Classic 2011:
Thu 20th, Day Seven, SEMIS                         Fram & Steve in Doha

Semi-Finals:
 

[1] Nicol David (Mas) bt [3] Rachael Grinham (Aus)
       11/6, 4/11, 11/6, 11/8 (51m)
[4] Madeline Perry (Irl) bt [13] Nour El Tayeb (Egy)
         11/9, 19/17, 11/9 (61m)

[6] Gregory Gaultier (Fra) bt [3] Karim Darwish (Egy)
         11/8, 11/4, 11/1 (42m)
[4] James Willstrop (Eng) bt Stewart Boswell (Aus)
         11/8, 11/3, 11/9 (56m)

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.

Her 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 around.

Those 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 the third.

"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 the final."
   


Galleries

I 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 different.

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 those girls…

[1] Nicol David (Mas) bt [3] Rachael Grinham (Aus)
           11/6, 4/11, 11/6, 11/8 (51m)

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 that.

So 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 first 11/6.

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 years.

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.

The 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 off 11/6.

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.

The 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.

Our 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 much…

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…

[4] Madeline Perry (Irl) bt [13] 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.

Or 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.

Between 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 eventually took.

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.

Madeline 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…



I 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.

Hopefully, I’ll do well next week in the worlds …

[6] Gregory Gaultier (Fra) bt [3] Karim Darwish (Egy)
             11/8, 11/4, 11/1 (42m)

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…

Karim 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 rally,

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 the Olympics…

[4] James Willstrop (Eng) bt Stewart Boswell (Aus)
         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…

The 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, yet again…

Stewart 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 completely different…

I 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 again…

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 it exciting…

 

Although he’s 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 him...


The Khalifa Complex

Preview Info:

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.
  

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