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Friday, June 18, 2021

Delia Arnold socks it to them in Penang

Alex Wan
Alex Wan is an avid squash lover who writes, photographs, plays and coaches when he is not making a living with his Finance degree.

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Malaysian number three Delia Arnold gets a confidence booster just ahead of the Women’s World Team Championship
By ALEX WAN – Squash Mad Asian Bureau Editor

Delia Arnold and Rachael GRINHAM WITH THE SPONSORS
Delia Arnold and Rachael Grinham with the sponsors from IJM Land

Malaysia’s Delia Arnold ended her barren run in 2014 as she won the IJM Land Penang Open, upsetting the books by beating world number 13 Rachael Grinham, ranked 18 places above her, 11-6, 9-11, 11-9, 11-8 in just under an hour. 

With the Women World Team Championships beginning in a week, Arnold’s win could not have come at a better time to boost her confidence, as she will be playing a key role as the Malaysian number three, in what would be the strongest ever team the third seeds will be fielding.

The final, played to a packed crowd comprising of mainly local Penang juniors and their parents, had its nerve wrecking moments especially in the second and third games. After taking the first game comfortably, Arnold continued where she left off by racing into a 6-1 lead, playing some very tactically sound squash that did not allow the elder of the Grinham sisters much opportunity to play her trademark shots. But a couple of unorthodox serves into her seem to threw her concentration off, turning the whole game around which Grinham was more than happy to accept.

The third game was very identical. Arnold races to a 6-2 lead and then shuts off once again, allowing the experienced Australian to take the lead. Arnold recovered in time to squeeze in the third after some very commanding rallies. There were shots coming out of nowhere from Grinham but Arnold read quite a few of them well.

The fourth was a struggle for both players, who both did a lot of work in the previous game. The ten year age gap between the pair certainly was no pushover for Grinham as she matched Arnold rally for rally almost throughout the game. At times, it was the younger Malaysian who looked the worse, who, in a friendly banter later, admitted that with the amount of times Grinham had held and flicked on her, her legs did feel like jelly.

It must be a joy to watch to see a local player winning, but for some parts, Grinham definitely got the younger ones in the crowd behind her with her magical racket artistry one will never find in any squash textbook. I had overheard one parents whispering to another, “I hope the kids do not try these!”

After a rather difficult time in the last two years, which saw her ranking drop twenty rungs along the way, the 28 year old lass is definitely slowly making a comeback, her biggest win against Alison Waters at the Malaysian Open.

Today’s win is also Arnold’s first over Grinham, who also exacted her semi final loss from last year’s event. At the post-match interview, she said “I’ve played Rachael many times and I’ve never ever beaten her, so I am really happy about it.”

“Unfortunately I’ve lost out again. It’s never a nice feeling to lose but these days, I am not used to playing so many matches in a row anymore”, said Grinham, who was also the losing top seed last year.

Perhaps, it’s a sign for Grinham to return and be third time lucky.

 

Lotte savours some local hospitality
Lotte Eriksen (far right) and Australian Christine Nunn (third left) savour some local hospitality with Penang junior coach Matthew Wong and family

 

 

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