Friday, May 24, 2024

Delight for David as she tastes Hong Kong Open success for eighth time

Nicol David has now won nine titles in Hong Kong since winning the 2005 Women’s World Championship

Eighth wonder: Record-breaker Nicol reigns again in Hong Kong

By MICHAEL CATLING – Squash Mad Reporter

WORLD number one Nicol David continued her love affair at the Hong Kong Open, as she claimed an eighth successive title at the spectacular Cultural Centre with a 3-0 victory over world number three Raneem El Weleily.

David, who won the first of her seven World Open titles at the same venue in 2005, has now triumphed in every edition of the $77,000 event after storming to a 11-7, 11-7, 12-10 victory in just 35 minutes.

A delighted David said: “It is a lucky charm of mine playing in Hong Kong and the support from the crowd is really fantastic. It is such an amazing feeling coming here after winning my first World Open title here and that’s what really spurs me on every time I come here.”

In truth, the defending champion was barely troubled by El Weleily as she racked up an impressive winner count en route to extending her unbeaten streak to 26 matches. 

The 30-year-old, who equalled Sarah Fitz-Gerald’s record by competing in her 90th WSA Tour final, ends the year with an incredible seven Tour titles and a commanding lead in the world rankings.

In contrast, El Weleily will be left to reflect on another dominant performance by the Malaysian, as her hopes of avenging her 2011 final defeat in Hong Kong evaporated under the bright lights of the Hong Kong harbour. 

The Egyptian number one from Cairo narrowly lost their last encounter at the China Open in October and she seemed determined to prevent a similar scoreline as she attacked the front left corner from the outset. 

However, with the scores finely poised at 6-6, David struck with successive winners before executing a beautifully angled boast to win the first game 11-7.

The second-game was similarly close early on, as El Weleily enjoyed success in two gruelling rallies.

But with the scores again locked at six-apiece, a succession of errors proved El Weleily’s downfall as she handed the Penang-based player three game-balls. One point later and David was purposefully leaving the court with a seemingly unassailable 2-0 advantage.

Yet despite taking an early lead in the third game, David was quickly pegged back and El Weleily unleashed a powerful array of tight lengths to edge ahead 6-3.

Once again, however, several loose shots began to creep into the 24-year-olds game as two stroke decisions, followed by a volley-drop winner by David, handed the Amsterdam-based player two match-balls.

El Weleily, though, fought-back and took the game into a tie-break after a cross-court down the centre of the court caught David unaware.

It was a shame, then, that after playing arguably the longest rally of the match, El Weleily inexplicably tinned a drop-shot to give David the initiative and a third match-ball. 

Another unforced error ultimately handed David victory and extended her eight year undefeated streak in Hong Kong; a feat the 30-year-old could scarcely believe.  

“I can’t believe it. It was a really tough match especially at the end of the third, I just had to be patient and try to hang in there.

“It was really close in the first and second games and it was neck-and neck until the end of those games. I got a few mistakes from Raneem which gave me a bit of an advantage and I am just really pleased to get through,” added David.

The top-ranked players will now take a brief interlude over the Christmas period, with many returning to action at the Tournament of Champions in mid-January.

For a comprehensive review of all the action from Hong Kong, click here.

Final Result:

[1] Nicol David (Mas) 3-0 [3] Raneem El Weleily (Egy) 11-7, 11-7, 12-10 (35m)

Pictures by Steve Cubbins (SquashSite)

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