Champions Downed in Day of British Open Shocks

September 15, 2009


RESULTS: internationalSPORTgroup British Open Squash Championships, Manchester, England

Champions Downed In Day Of British Open Shocks

A day of high drama in the quarter-finals of the internationalSPORTgroup British Open – Manchester 2009 not only resulted in the demise of both champions, but also a breakthrough win by sixth seed Peter Barker at the National Squash Centre in Manchester which put three Englishmen into the semi-finals for the first time in the professional era.

In a clash in the men’s $92,500 PSA World Tour Super Series event described by Tournament Presenter Robert Edwards as the ‘match of the tournament’, three-time world champion Amr Shabana and four-time British Open winner David Palmer – ranked three and six, respectively, in the world – battled for 86 minutes before Egyptian Shabana emerged the 11-8, 14-12, 4-11, 19-17 winner.

“There wasn’t much in it – he just played better at the end than I did,” said Palmer, the 33-year-old title-holder from Australia who was making his 13th successive appearance in the event. “It’s still nice that I can play with these top four guys. I don’t think I could have done much more.”

The two top stars of the PSA World Tour – who were celebrating their 20th international meeting since 2001 – agreed that the match was one of the best. But the Australian’s father John Palmer, attending the British Open for the first time, was more emphatic: “That’s the best I’ve ever seen David play!”

But later came the most unexpected result when Nicol David, the Malaysian super star who this month began her fourth successive year as world number one, crashed out of the women’s $53,500 WISPA World Tour Gold championship after squandering three match balls in the third game.

Ireland’s Madeline Perry, the fifth seed who had lost her previous 14 meetings with the three-time British Open champion, played the game of her life to win 6-11, 12-14, 15-13, 11-5, 11-9 in 76 minutes.

“I can’t believe I just beat the world number one,” said an ecstatic Perry, from Banbridge, near Belfast, afterwards. “I normally struggle to get a game off Nicol.”

The win came from a stunning cross court nick shot after David served to try and save her third match-ball.

“That’s definitely my best ever win,” added Perry, the 32-year-old world No8. “I’ve changed my game since I last played her – and did a lot of work on my movement over the summer.”

Nicol David had no excuses: “If it’s not your day, it’s not your day. Madeline played well and made it not my day,” said the 26-year-old from Penang.

But, otherwise, the day belonged to the hosts – with two English players through to the women’s semi-finals for the first time since 2002, and a trio of Englishmen making the last four of the men’s championship for the first time in living memory.

A major upset by Londoner Peter Barker ensured that an Englishman will be in Monday’s final of the world’s oldest and most prestigious squash championship.

In a career-first victory over the Frenchman, sixth seed Barker beat world No2 and former champion Gregory Gaultier 11-7, 7-11, 11-3, 7-11, 11-8 to reach the semi-finals for the first time.

“I’ve had a terrible record against Greg, so I’m over the moon to have beaten him – especially here in the British Open,” said Barker. “I’m going to enjoy today before preparing myself for tomorrow.

“I’ve been training really hard over the summer – endless bikes and swims for up to three sessions a day,” explained the left-hander. “So much so, that I was looking forward to the start of the season so that I could stop training!

“Greg is a class act. But I needed to get myself fitter so that I could deal with his pace. In fact, I thought to myself as I went on court – ‘I doubt he’s done as done as much training as I have’!”

The 25-year-old world No8 will now meet England team-mate Nick Matthew after the fourth seed from Sheffield ended the giant-killing run of compatriot Daryl Selby.

The unseeded 26-year-old from Essex had reached the last eight after taking out two world top 16-ranked opponents – but world No5 Matthew was too strong, winning 11-7, 11-5, 11-8.

“I’m delighted to be playing Pete tomorrow,” said Matthew, who in 2006 became the first home-grown winner of the title for 67 years. “We’re sharing a room together here – I must pop something into his glass of water tonight!”

In the final match of the day, Yorkshire’s former world number two James Willstrop, the tenth seed, claimed his place in the semis with an 11-5, 11-6, 12-10 victory over Malaysia’s 12th seed Mohd Azlan Iskandar.

Willstrop, the 26-year-old from Leeds who was runner-up last year, reached the last eight after a shock win over Egypt’s world number one Karim Darwish in the previous round.

“Everybody keeps on about how good the Egyptians are – but now we’ve got five English players into tomorrow’s semis,” said a delighted Willstrop after his win.

Third seed Alison Waters and fourth seed Jenny Duncalf will provide the domestic interest in the women’s semi-finals.

Duncalf, from Harrogate in Yorkshire, went one step closer to reaching the final for the second year in a row after beating eighth seed Vanessa Atkinson, the former world champion from the Netherlands, 11-1, 10-12, 11-6, 11-4.

“You can never underestimate Vanessa – after all, she has been a world champion and world number one,” said the 26-year-old world No6. “She’s got great racket skills.

“I felt I played well today and am improving all the time. This week I’ll be trying to close the gap the gap behind Nicol David, the world number one.”

Duncalf will face three-time champion Rachael Grinham, the second seed from Australia who recovered from a game down to beat Lancashire’s Laura Massaro 5-11, 14-12, 11-7, 11-7.

“In the first game, she was all over me – and I was really lucky to get that second game,” acknowledged Grinham, who had to save three game balls in the second to stop Massaro taking a 2/0 lead.

Born and raised in Queensland and based in Cairo for the past decade, Grinham has been training in Harrogate in the UK since Christmas. “I’ve been trying to get myself re-motivated, and it’s been good for me to have so many top English girls to train with.

“But I’m really still struggling to adjust to the new scoring,” admitted the three-time champion. “I just don’t have the confidence – and you really need confidence.

“I’ve played the other (hand-in-hand-out) scoring for so many years. It’s a different game now.”

Alison Waters claimed her first appearance in a British Open semi-final after beating Australian qualifier Donna Urquhart 6-11, 11-5, 11-3, 11-7. The former British National champion will now meet Madeline Perry for a place in the final.

Urquhart became the only qualifier to reach the quarter-finals – in her maiden appearance in the event. The 22-year-old from New South Wales, who beat seventh seed Isabelle Stoehr in the opening round, easily won the first game against Waters.

“But then I went to pieces and probably started thinking too much about the occasion,” said Urquhart. “It’s a dream come true to be playing in the British Open – and Alison is the player I most wish I could be like!

“She’s a great player, but she didn’t have to play well to beat me today.

“I came here aiming to qualify – so I exceeded my expectations,” added the Australian national champion. “I feel as if I’ve been waiting for a breakthrough for ages – I’ve been on the verge of it, and now it’s come together.”

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