Artemis Edinburgh Open 2012, 26-29 Jan, Scotland
BSPA Men’s and WSA Women’s event
Sat 28th Jan, Day Two, Quarter and Semi-Finals
 Lauren Briggs (Eng) bt  Birgit Coufal (Aut) 11/7, 11/6, 11/5 (28m)
 Orla Noom (Ned) bt  Zephanie Curgenven (Eng) 11/7, 12/10, 11/3 (22m)
[3/4] Shaun Le Roux (Rsa) bt  Joel Hinds (Eng) 11/7, 11/7, 11/7 (49m)
 Andy Whipp (Eng) bt [3/4] Kashif Shuja (Nzl) 11/5, 11/9, 11/9 (41m)
Top two survive different tests to reach women’s final …
Well, the women’s final will be between the top two seeds, who both won in straight games but were nevertheless presented with tricky, if different, problems to solve by their opponents.
Lauren Briggs made great starts against Birgit Coufal, going 7/1 up in the opening game, but the Austrian brought herself back into contention, coming as close as 7/9 before the top seed took it 11/7.
A 5/1 lead in the second and 4/0 on the third were good enough to settle any nerves, but again Birgit didn’t buckle, and although she never really got back on terms in the second, at 4/6 in the third she was well in contention in a match featuring steady, well worked rallies.
But then Briggs decided to unleash some previously unseen weapons, three crisp winners took her to match ball and although she needed two bites at the cherry, she was through to the final soon enough.
“Well I made a better start than in the last two matches at least, but I felt quite constrained on there for a while,” admitted Briggs afterwards.
“I opened up in the last few points and went for some shots – maybe I could or should have done that earlier but she slows the pace down well and I just couldn’t seem to find opportunities to attack, and it’s never easy when you’re trying to generate your own pace.
“That’s one better than last year, so I’m looking forward to the final now, and I think I’ll try the Veggie Haggis tonight!”
For Orla Noom, the second seed, there was a very different test as Zephanie Curgenven, fresh from creating the only upset of the day in the morning’s quarter-finals, came out at a lightning fast pace, which the Dutchwoman had no choice but to try to match.
There wasn’t a point between them until 6-all, and few of the rallies had gone beyond a handful of strokes either, not through mistakes but through low, hard hit winners.
Noom finally edged ahead, taking the lead 11/7, and quickly went 8/2 up in the second. The momentum didn’t last though, as Curgenven started to find winners again, getting particular joy from her backhand crosscourt volley which she played at every opportunity.
Some crisp winners took the Englishwoman to game ball 10/9 but Noom then found three of her own to sneak the game 12/10, much to her own relief.
The third was over quickly, 4/0, then 6/3, and Orla took the final five points to win 11/3 in 22 minutes and reach a second successive Artemis final.
“The first was so fast, and still in the second she was putting those volleys away,” said Noom. “I had to try to keep it off her volley by hitting it low and hard but I couldn’t always do that.
“I’m not sure she believed she could win, and once I got ahead I felt more comfortable, but it was tight at the end, I’m happy to have finished off that third.
“It’s good to be back in the final, you always feel more pressure when you’re seeded to win, so now I’ve got to where I’m supposed to be so I can relax a bit.
“Playing Lauren should be a good test for me before our Nationals, I haven’t played her since the Swiss final in 2007, but you know you’re going to get good rallies and a tough match. Looking forward to it, but I think I’ll give the Haggis a miss!
Sean stops Joel but Whippy won’t be denied
If we have a repeat finalist in the women’s event it’s a different story in the men’s, after Sean Le Roux put out top seed Joel Hinds in straight games, but Andy Whipp made sure the ESC crowd will see a familiar face tomorrow as he ended Kashif Shuja‘s first BSPA adventure, also in straight games.
Le Roux, seeded 3/4, took on Hinds in a fast-paced, hard-hitting encounter which went to 7-all in the first, then 7-all in the second, with the South African taking the final few points of both to lead 11/7, 11/7.
The third was tight too, but from 4-all Le Roux established that all-important cushion of a couple of points, then extended it to 10/6 with Hinds struggling to keep with the consistent pace that his opponent was applying.
That finished 11/7 too, and after 49 minutes Sean was into the final.
“I knew that Joel maybe wasn’t 100% and that if I could keep the pace high it would be to my advantage,” shared Sean afterwards. “It felt like a bit of a hack at times but he was struggling with it and I knew it was what I needed to do.
“It’s good to finish in three, even though we played two games today they weren’t too long so it’s just like a training day really. I’m looking forward to the final, I’ve been in a couple but haven’t won one yet …”
Whipp, of course, has been in more BSPA finals than anyone, and has won more than his fair share, but never the Artemis.
He’s usually a slow-ish starter, but after going 0-3 down in the first, he joined in with the slower, more accurate, more varied pattern of play that Shuja was imposing, but was able to inject more pace when needed and went 10/4 ahead before taking the lead 11/5.
At 5/3 in the second Andy needed to ask the crowd if anyone had a pair of size 8 1/2 or 9 shoes as he’d just split his second of the day! At 7/3 down Kashif seemed to realise that that plan wasn’t working, played much more length and started to reap the rewards, getting back to 8-all.
Working very hard, Andy managed to fend off the challenge, doubling his lead 11/9 with a lovely volley into the nick.
The third was just as close, and just as much hard work, Andy ahead but Kashif closing to 9/8 on a stroke. A drop that just clipped the tin gave Andy matchball, and a drive deep into the corner gave him the match 11/9 and another chance at the only current BSPA title he hasn’t won (I need to check that fact, but it sounds right!)
“It’s unlike me to have a good start, well only going 3-0 down is good for me,” admitted Andy. “I’m quite good at getting through the early rounds without too much bother and then I play better against better players and that’s what it felt like tonight.
“He made a few more errors than me, just clipping the tin with a lot of those soft dropshots of his, but I started doing that as well in the third.
“I was pleased to win that though, I gave a little fistpump at the end (you can just spot it) and I never do that, but after a tough game at lunchtime I was pleased to play well and beat a good player.”
Before the final though he’ll be going on a little shopping trip (to the club shop, hopefully): “I thought I was being quite professional bringing two pairs of shoes, but I’ll have to buy some new ones anyway!”
 Lauren Briggs (Eng) bt  Laura Pomportes (Fra) 11/7, 11/7, 12/10 (31m)
 Birgit Coufal (Aut) bt Julia Lecoq (Fra) 11/5, 11/7, 12/10 (27m)
 Zephanie Curgenven (Eng) bt  Maud Duplomb (Fra) 6/11, 12/10, 11/3, 11/6 (30m)
 Orla Noom (Ned) bt [Q] Frania Gillen-Buchert (Sco) 8/11, 11/6, 12/10, 11/8 (43m)
[3/4] Shaun Le Roux (Rsa) bt [5/8] Eddie Charlton (Eng) 11/6, 4/11, 11/4, 11/7 (54m)
 Joel Hinds (Eng) bt [5/8] Simon Parke (Eng) 11/5, 14/12, 11/6 (42m)
 Andy Whipp (Eng) bt Greg Lobban (Sco) 7/11, 11/5, 11/5, 11/8 (43m)
[3/4] Kashif Shuja (Nzl) bt Paul Rawden (Eng) 11/9, 11/4, 11/4 (25m)
Quarters reports, more photos, etc … on the event website.