I visited the illustrious Queen’s Club in London to watch the final group games of the WSA World Squash Finals. Here are my match reports (sorry for the poor photography, clearly I am not capable with a camera!):
Nicol David v Natalie Grinham
Nicol David and Natalie Grinham’s long-standing rivalry continued in the pool stages of the WSA World Series Finals. Due to David’s surprise loss to England’s no.1 Laura Massaro, only the winner of this match would progress through to the semi-finals.
Grinham started well in the first game, building a lead, but the Malaysian superstar began to display the skills that propelled her to the top of the world rankings with some fantastic winners, in particular a drop shot into the front corner, disguising the softness of her stroke well.
After losing the first game 11 – 4, Natalie Grinham returned to the court early and the practice definitely paid off. The Dutch international leapt out to a two shot lead but was pegged back quickly by David.
At 5 – 2 in David’s favour, Grinham seemed frustrated at a couple of the umpire’s decisions, motivating her onto a stirring comeback including winning the best rally of the game despite being on the back foot for big portions of the point.
However, Nicol David managed to grab the win with an 11 – 8 victory in the second game and will now face an in-form Camille Serme in the semi-finals of the competition.
Result: Nicol David bt Natalie Grinham 2 – 0 (11 – 4 11 – 8)
Raneem El Weleily v Camille Serme
With Camille Serme, France, already through and Egyptian world number two Raneen El Weleily shockingly out, you would have thought this contest would be a dead rubber but it proved anything but.
El Weleily showcased her talents in the first game, plawing some incredible downwards strokes. Serme managed to claw her way back into the game levelling it up at 7 apiece. Nevertheless, the young Egyptian maintained her composure and turned on the style to win 11-8.
Losing the first game seemed to spur Serme on as she sped to a 3-1 lead. El Weleily appeared to have an old head on young shoulders levelling the game at 5-5. Mistakes had already started to creep into Serme’s game, with the Parisian seemingly flustered, El Weleily moved into a commanding lead.
Even when Serme produced some of the best squash of the tournament, the world number two showed exactly why she is ranked so highly, illustrating lightning fast reflexes and lightness of feet to save points and turn defence into attack, winning the game 11 – 6.
Result: Raneem El Weleily bt Camille Serme 2 – 0 (11 – 8 11 – 6)
Nour El Sherbini v Jenny Duncalf
Experienced Jenny Duncalf, England, played Nour El Sherbini, Egypt, who turned 17 in November in a winner takes all bout.
This was a battle of nous versus enthiusiastic youth. No one could have predicted just how amazing it would be.
Duncalf pushed off to a good start, going 2-0 up but Sherbini levelled up at 2-2. The match remained close, an amazing rally in close proximity to the front wall won by the English international.
The tension building with a few lets before Duncalf went ahead yet again before being pegged back by Sherbini.
A controversial call by the umpire saw a point awarded to Duncalf even though it seemed a let could have been given.
Duncalf seemed to always be building leads only to be knocked down by the unflappable Nour El Sherbini.
At 12-11 in Duncalf’s favour, there were three lets in a row. The tension was building. The frustrations of both players clearly visible.
Mistakes were a rarity in this game, there were combinations of unbelievable shots, including a couple of ‘off the back wall’ shots by Duncalf and lets. The tenacity of the pair meant neither was going to give in.
Finally, after another phenomenal rally, Jenny Duncalf built a two point lead to win the first game 18 – 16.
The second game seemed the opposite of the first, instead of Duncalf fostering leads, it was the youngster, Sherbini, who was doing so and the silver medallist at the 2010 Commonwealth games who was having to come back.
However, maybe fatigued from her exerts in the first game, Duncalf seemed unable to keep up with the teenager’s tempo losing by the huge margin 11 – 4.
After making quite a few mistakes, where she would hit the ball into her own feet, Duncalf seemed in need of a minute or two, just to regain her composure.
Pushing the boundaries of the time given in the break, Duncalf collected herself but quickly found herself down by three shots after world number two Raneem El Weleily attempted to inspire her compatriot during the break.
Still, the experience of Jenny Duncalf shone through, and she clung onto her hopes of advancing, drawing level with Sheribi.
Revitilised by her comeback, Duncalf overcame a mistake to stick with the 17 year old, despite the World Junior Champion playing some of her best squash of the championships.
With the score 8 – 7 in favour of Sheribi, Duncalf moved forward, just in front of the T, but feigned a shot leading El Sheribi to step forward into the T area. Duncalf then stepped backwards to steady herself for a shot and backed into the oncoming Sheribi.
The umpire construed this as a foul move by the Egyptian youngster, awarding a point to Duncalf and this provided the platform that she needed to push for the win.
After a mistake by Sheribi, it was match point for Duncalf at 10 – 9. The rally was long, Sheribi was fighting for her life but another controversial end to the match saw Duncalf win after Sheribi thought she was blocked.
Hailing from Alexandria, the prodigious talent of Nour El Sherbini should be proud of her efforts in the mamoth match that lasted over 40 minutes. She will no doubt learn from this and become a more efficient player.
Jenny Duncalf’s win has set up an all English semi-final against Laura Massaro, both of whom have reached the final of the World Open, only to lose to Nicol David in the final.