Featuring the eight most successful World Series competitors from 2012, the World Series Finals splits the players in to two round-robin pools, with the top two from each group progressing to Saturday’s semi-finals.
World No.1 Nicol David moved past Annie Au of Hong Kong in straight games, and will face Englishwoman Laura Massaro in the second day of pool matches. David seemed a dominant mood from the start of the match, and the Malaysian wasted no time in launching herself to a strong lead. There were very few rallies throughout the contest, as both players sought early winners from hard-hitting play. David was always ahead and rarely looked troubled, and the pace of the contest became too much for Au to cope with as David began the defence of her title with a comfortable win.
Massaro, the world No.3, got off to a good start against experienced Dutch international Natalie Grinham. She claimed a straight-forward victory in the best-of-three contest, closing out the competitive Grinham, and whilst the game scores were close, the Englishwoman rarely looked like giving anything away. She led 7-2 in the first game, and 8-0 in the second as Grinham’s input came too late to have any serious positive effect on the tie.
In Pool B, audiences were treated to a surprise result from home interest Jenny Duncalf. The Harrogate-based Englishwoman got off to a great start against second seed Raneem El Weleily, leading throughout the first game and keeping ahead of the Egyptian until game-ball. Weleily seemed to focus at this point, and began a more thoughtful attacking approach, chipping away at the three game-balls and took five consecutive points to win the first game.
Weleily returned to court having seemingly reverted back to her error-prone first game pattern. Despite being handed numerous points, Duncalf was still taking her own chances well, and forged a strong four-point lead which she held throughout the mid-stages of the game. The Egyptian focus again, tightening her length and seemed more willing to rally, but the damage was done and she was unable to force another comeback.
Duncalf continued strongly, and wasted no time in extending a lead in the deciding game of the contest. The world No.8 picked her chances well, waiting for the right opportunity to mount an attack on her opponent and with a combination of patient and attacking play, established another promising lead. Weleily’s usual style of attack was often error-prone, and Duncalf’s length did enough to force extra errors from the world No.2 and she took the final game to claim an unfancied win.
Duncalf was pleased with her win after the game. She said:“ It wasn’t easy dropping the first at game-ball, but there was always another game after missing out on that. I had the same belief at 10-7 in the second game. I’ve had a bit of a bug over new year, but I didn’t want to miss out on this event. The court is lovely, and takes a shot well. There aren’t too many long, gruelling, bouncy rallies so it’s good to move on today!”
Camille Serme wasn’t expecting to make the cut for the World Series Finals this year, until she reached the final of the Hong Kong Open in December. She played teenage prodigy Nour El Sherbini in the second Pool B match, which began as an even contest. Serme was finding a good length but the talented 17-year-old kept herself in the game and forced errors from the Frenchwoman. The more experienced Serme had the edge in the first game, volleying well and closed out a narrow first game win.
The world No.9 carried her form into the second game, where she established a good lead, before a lapse in concentration allowed the Egyptian back into the game. Serme refocused to extend her lead, and thought she’d won after claiming a Sherbini counter-drop had hit the tin. The referees called a let-ball however, and the teen was allowed another opportunity to salvage the match. Sherbini closed the gap to force the tie-break but not to be deterred, Serme finished of the contest with a backhand cross-court volleydrop winner to get her second World Series Finals off to the best possible start.
Wednesday – results:
Pool A: Laura Massaro bt Natalie Grinham 11/8, 11/8
Pool A: Nicol David bt Annie Au 11/7, 11/4
Pool B: Jenny Duncalf bt Raneem El Weleily 10/12, 11/8, 11/8
Pool B: Camille Serme bt Nour El Sherbini 11/9, 12/10
Thursday – fixtures:
1.00pm Annie Au v Natalie Grinham
1.45pm Nicol David v Laura Massaro
3.00pm Raneem El Weleily v Nour El Sherbini
3.45pm Jenny Duncalf v Camille Serme
Photo credits: Jordan Mansfield