The Malaysian Open is an important tournament as a kick-off ground to the second half of the squash season. Players are back with renewed energy after 2 months of analysing previous strategies, and adding more variety to their game play, improving their endurance and realigning their objectives for the year.
Nicol David bt Donna Urquhart 11/7, 11/6, 11/4 (31m)
Gearing for her 7th Malaysian Open title, Nicol is expected to make the finals. The humble World Champion however sets her focus to the game at hand and her Round 1 match with Donna was no different.
Donna drew first blood in the first game which was characterised by long rallies. Points were gathering quickly on both sides of the scoreboard as the girls matched each other in every rally. The fast paced game went Nicol’s way and she raced into the second as well. A nice backhand push by Nicol to the back of the court beyond Donna’s reach, gave her a 3/2 lead. Donna missed two shots in a row; score moving on to 6/3 in Nicol’s favour and the game ends with a stroke in Nicol’s favour.
The third game was so fast, it probably went by in a blur for most of the audience. With a 5/1 lead by the world no. 1, it was surely frustrating for Donna as she tried to close the gap. More unforced errors on her part gave Nicol a wider lead. The Duracell Bunny was on a roll and wrapped up the game at 11/4 with a sweet nick at the left corner. We secretly think that Nicol was probably hungry and rushing for dinner 😉
Laura Massaro (ENG) bt Sarah Kippax (ENG) 11/9, 12/10, 11/7 (44m)
While Sarah played a good game today, Laura managed to match her all the way and added on just the little extra needed to take her to the next level. Laura’s present for making it to the quarters is an encounter with World No. 1 and defending Malaysian Open Champion, Nicol David.
Nicol has a 8-1 head-to-head win over Laura but the one loss she had at the Cleveland Classic final early this year remains the most famous match of 2011. With the support of the Malaysian crowd, Nicol will be vying for sweet revenge. Laura would have to come up with something even more special tomorrow to maintain her running as the only player to have beaten Nicol David this year.
Rachael Grinham (AUS) bt Annie Au (HKG) 11/8, 7/11, 11/6, 11/9 (35m)
Two players with similar style of play, Rachael vs Annie was definitely interesting to watch. Annie started well with a 4/1 lead in the first but Rachael stretched her long limbs, reaching out to shots that seemed beyond her reach, and took the first game.
The second game went Annie’s way but from the third, Rachael led the way. In the fourth game, as Rachael led 6/4, a dejected looking Annie kept pressing on. Rachael does a split to reach for a drop shot which results in a stroke to Annie. Soon enough, both girls were more busy arguing over the ref’s decision.
Rach continues to lead at 9/6, when Annie, the little trickster, sends an unretrievable drop shot, moving up 7/9. Tit for tat by Rach as she replies the favour – 10/7 and match ball to senior Grinham. Annie saves one, 8/10. Rachael moves to the corner of the court, wipes her sweaty palm on the wall, (probably saying a quick mantra), and wallah! She takes the match 11/8.
Omneya Abdul Kawy (EGY) bt Delia Arnold (MAS) 10/12, 9/11, 14/12, 11/9, 11/3 (75m)
Seeing Delia up 2-0 against the mighty Omneya, it was evident that Delia’s training had been paying off and her confidence from last week’s good run at the Malaysian Nationals was showing. Omneya on the other hand, fresh from a long absence on the tour was still finding her magic touch.
By the third game, tempers were evident on court as Omneya disputed a stroke given to Delia at 3/4. Unhappy that the ref stuck to his decision, Omneya forced a conduct warning upon herself as she threw her racquet to the ground, murmurring “I’m in a dream, a nightmare…”. To add oil to the fire, another stroke was awarded to Delia. The Egyptian let her racquet do the talking from then on. A cross-court drop to even the score at 5/5. She kept pushing ahead and took an 8/6 lead. Stroke to Omneya this time and she led 10/9! Delia levelled it at 10/10 and the crowd went wild with cheer! Omneya took the game to stay in contention.
Delia led in the fourth but Omneya literally pushed her way around to take the game. By the fifth set, it seemed that Delia had run out of steam and was rolled over by the more experienced Omneya with a 11/3 win. Delia had a good opportunity to take this match especially with a 2-0 lead at the beginning but needs to work on her closing.
Camille Serme (FRA) bt Raneem El Weleily (EGY) 11/9, 8/11, 11/8, 8/11, 11/9 (66m)
This was bound to be an interesting match as both players have such immense talent and are very close, ranking wise. Serme stamped her mark first, taking the first game but Raneem caught up in the second, to even the contest to 1-1.
As one could have expected, this game went the full distance. Interestingly enough, instead of Camille doing the splits on court as per norm, Raneem showed off her flexibility with three splits within the 66-minute game. In the decider, Camille made some unforced errors, giving Raneem a 5/3 lead. Match was even at 6/6 but from then, Camille stepped it up a notch to lead 9/6. Raneem managed a comeback – 9/9! Close and nerve-wrecking… as both fought for the much awaited quarter final spot. It was the Frenchwoman who managed to hang on tight towards the end without any errors.
Joelle King (NZL) bt Madeline Perry (IRL) 11/9, 11/2, 11/6 (40m)
Prior to coming into this match, the head-to-head between these players was 1-0 in Madeline’s favour. Her last tournament was the Irish Open where she was forced to retire in her semi final match against Jaclyn Hawkes due to a back injury.
The biggest upset of the day came from the Kiwi who seemed to have a reservoir of energy even after the marathon match with Samantha Teran yesterday at the qualifying finals. Joelle was confident and went for her shots, not allowing Madeline to carry out her game plan.
Kasey Brown (AUS) bt Dipika Pallikal (IND) 6/11, 11/4, 13/11, 7/11, 11/3 (76m)
Dipika carried her momentum from yesterday into today’s match as she raced to a quick lead in the first game against Kasey. 5/2, 10/4, and the game was over at 11/6. Kasey, being the fighter we all know her to be, started out strong in the second with a 3/0 lead. Dipika wasn’t too happy with some of the calls made by the referees and it seemed to have distracted her as she trailed throughout the second game with Kasey winning 11/4.
Both girls went all out in the third, forcing the game into extra points. Dipika was playing much better shots in this game. A stroke to her at 9/8, giving her an important lead but Dipika didn’t manage to convert it as Kasey took the third. As some errors crept up from Kasey’s racquet, Dipika took the fourth game.
The fifth game was rather one-sided as Kasey took control. After over an hour of entertaining squash, Kasey marches into the quarters to face second seed Jenny Duncalf.
Jenny Duncalf (ENG) bt Low Wee Wern (MAS) 11/5, 11/9, 12/10 (39m)
11/5, 11/6, 11/3. That was the scoreline when Jenny beat Wee Wern last year at the CIMB Malaysian Open. The scores this year show an advancement in the young Malaysian’s squash skills as she edges closer to the upper echelon of players.
The first game started off pretty evenly with Jenny pulling away from 6/5. Wee Wern tinned at 10/5 giving Jenny a 1-0 lead. In the second, Wee Wern took a short lead at 4/3 and while the scores were neck to neck, Jenny closed the game at 11/9.
The third game started with a 3/0 lead by Wee Wern, determined to stay in the fight. Both girls played a patient game but the World No. 2’s shot precision was impressive and from 7/6, Jenny was ready to run away with a straight set win but not without a challenge. Wee Wern pushed the third into extra points but conceded, with Jenny moving on to the quarters.