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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Au axes English trio to advance into Cleveland final

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Annie Au Alison Waters

Au survives marathon match to book final showdown with David
By MICHAEL CATLING – Squash Mad Chief Reporter

Qualifier Annie Au claimed an unexpected place in the Cleveland Classic final, after securing her third successive upset this week with a thrilling five game victory over world number four Alison Waters in Ohio, USA.

Au, 24, ousted seventh seed Jenny Duncalf and world number two Laura Massaro en route to the last four and twice came from behind against Waters to prevail 6-11, 11-7, 10-12, 11-2, 13-11 and complete a hat-trick of victories over English top 10 opposition.

The world number 13, who has won 10 times on the WSA Tour, will meet seven-time World champion Nicol David in the climax of the $50,000 event, after the Malaysian recovered from a huge deficit in the second game to seal an 11-7, 12-10, 11-4 win.

The headlines, though, belonged to Au (pictured above) for a third day running and after reaching the semi-finals of the Hong Kong Open in December, the left hander is finally recapturing the form which took her to world number six in May 2012.

However, she was forced to overturn a 2-1 deficit at the Cleveland Racquet Club as Waters edged a crucial third-game tie-break to reclaim her opening game advantage. 

Against expectations, though, Au fought back and produced a stunning display to drop just two points in a grossly one-sided fourth game.

The Hong Kong number one continued in the ascendancy in the final game and capitalised on several errors by the England number two to claim two match balls.

But with the prospect of competing in her first final since the Buler Challenge Cup beginning to dawn, Au needed another two chances to claim the match before a delicate cross court lob secured her 18th WSA final appearance.

Nicol and OmneyaMeanwhile, world number one David enjoyed an easier ride in her last four encounter as she extended her unbeaten run to 34 matches following a straight games victory over Egyptian qualifier El Tayeb.

The 30-year-old from Malaysia breezed through the opening game but was forced to battle back from 7-2 and 10-7 down in the second before edging the tie-break 12-10. 

The top seed pounced on El Tayeb waning confidence to ease through the third and final game and remain on course for her 72nd and seventh successive WSA title. 

The Penangite has now failed to drop a game in eight matches since the Hong Kong Open semi-finals and will be the overwhelming favourite in the Cleveland final, after needing just 25 minutes to thrash Au in their previous meeting at the first round stage of the Tournament of Champions last month. 

Semi-Final Results

[1] Nicol David (MAS) 3-0 [Q] Nour El Tayeb (EGY) 11-7, 12-10, 11-4
[Q] Annie Au (HKG) 3-2 [4] Alison Waters (ENG) 6-11, 11-7, 10-12, 11-2, 13-11

Pictures courtesy of the Cleveland Classic organisers 

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2 Comments

  1. It’s quite remarkable what Annie Au has achieved. She started playing Squash at school in Hong Kong aged thirteen, the following year she won the British Junior Open Under 15 trophy. Most would consider this impossible in such a short playing career. My own theory is that the Chinese mind-set makes them excellent pupils. Discipline and self-discipline are part of their culture, and their quest for perfection follows every opportunity. Neighbouring Malaysia was probably the inspiration, with Nicol David showing what can be possible. A coach’s dream, they will take advice like a sponge, not only to achieve but also to show respect for their family’s and coach’s support. Imagine what it means to be the best of a billion of their own people, and then go on to achieve on the World stage.

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