18/16, 11/9, 12/10
Alison Waters played superb squash today. The first set must have been the longest match ever played—a fantastic replay of last year’s Forexx World Open where Nicol overcame Alison Waters, 15-13 in the fourth set saving one game ball after another. Back then Alison exclaimed, “That’s the best she’s ever played!” What about today?
The first set saw Alison dominating the game all the way, and it seemed as though Nicol was having a little trouble adjusting her game. But at 5-9 down, a let decision seemed to have woken up the sleeping champion and Nicol started giving chase. Before long it was 8-9, and then 9-9. Waters took the next point at 10-9 but the English girl failed to convert the point to finish the world champion off. They went on after, neck-to-neck, both pushing the other to give in. At 15-16, Nicol dug into her reserves and found the extra edge to take it to 17-16. And then Alison gave way to Nicol and it finally ended at 18-16.
“That’s why Nicol is the World No. 1,” said Alison. “She just doesn’t stop running and she plays those big points just a little better.” In a private interview after, Nicol confessed, “The first game felt like a 5-setter. I thought it would never end! But I was glad it went my way.”
Alison fought hard in all 3 games. There were many times, throughout the match when Alison found her rhythm and could have easily taken the game but Nicol tenaciously fought her way back—changing Alison’s rhythm by mixing up the shots. At 9-9 in the second set, Alison seemed set on taking it but two tins by Alison allowed Nicol to take the second game at 11-9.
The first point of the third set started with a stroke to Nicol—she seemed to be having trouble moving around Alison—after a clash and a let, Nicol tins it, the crowd feels her frustration. Alison looking more determined, chases up to 4-4 after a delicious drop at the front. Nicol however never gave up and soon has a two point lead against her “English Nemesis” (Jenny Duncalf being the other). A very creative play by Alison soon levels the score again at 6-6. Nicol then running from the front to the back court, slips, causing the ball to fly out of the court, landing on an elevator. Alison is now in the lead at 7-6, but Nicol brings it back to 7-7 and the game goes on in similar fashion. At 10-10, Alison followed by a superbly long rally, misses the ball at the back, allows Nicol to take a crucial 11-10 lead. And then it happened—Alison’s legs seem to have given up on her as she fails to react to a forehand cross-court drive to the back. What a game.
“Each time I play her, I feel like I am getting a little closer. But Nicol’s so good at retrieving, she is so fast and gets to everything. You just have to play so many shots to get a winner,” said Alison.
All the lovely photographs are courtesy of John Zhang from www.chroniclepeople.com
BATTLE OF THE SEXES UP NEXT!
Stay tuned and in the meantime, happy squashing from us at Squash Stars.