Sunday, April 14, 2024

Greymouth is a ghost town as locals turn out to cheer on home hero Paul Coll in NZ Open

‘I was a bit nervous today but like a fine wine I’m getting better with age,’ says Kiwi star Joelle King
By DAVE WORSLEY (Squash Mad Correspondent in Tauranga)

Top seeds and home favourites Paul Coll and Joelle King have progressed to the semi-finals of the New Zealand Open after they beat England’s Adrian Waller and USA’s Sabrina Sobhy today at the Trustpower Baypark Arena in Tauranga.

Coll, the World No.2 from Greymouth, recorded an 11-7, 11-6, 11-9 victory over World No.31 Waller in this PSA World Tour Silver event to send the home crowds into raptures. His opponent in the men’s Robertson Lodges New Zealand Open semi-finals will be Qatar’s No.7 seed Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi.

The Kiwi will be out for revenge after falling to a shock second round defeat to Al Tamimi during September’s QTerminals Qatar Classic.

Against Waller, both players took the first game to settle into their stride but Coll, familiar with the court after several matches in the last week, took it comfortably enough in the end.

The second game went the way of the first, Coll prevailing after some deft touches from both and while the third was tighter, Coll had just that extra touch of class, especially in his front court game, to take the win.

After the victory Coll, 30, said he relished the atmosphere. And the crowd appreciated his comments when he revealed: “I”ve got a whole row of family here from Greymouth, about 24 here tonight and 35 are coming tomorrow, so there’ll be five people left in Greymouth.”

Talking tactics after his victory, he added: “It’s one of my tactics to focus on the left-handers’ backhands, and the backhand is now one of my favourite shots, especially on the glass court.

“He was good, played some lovely lobs, very accurate, and with his big wingspan he managed to whip a few past me. Hopefully I’ll get a five minute ice-bath, some kai and will chill out in the rest of the evening.

“With or without the squash I’m having a great time on and off court. I’m very happy with my skills. I had a game plan tonight, I knew what I wanted to do and I stuck to that.

“I’m very happy with how the game went and I’m ready for the semi-finals with physically no damage done and I’m used to the court. I feel I’ve built on my Nations Cup performances and know how to play on the court. I wanted to focus on myself, mainly, for this week: it’s a tournament I want to win so I’m feeling good.

“I wanted to go out there and sort of get my game face on, and I felt good out there mentally.

“It was good finding my targets a bit earlier tonight. The atmosphere is crazy, so I’m loving every second out there and I’ve obviously got a rest day tomorrow. I might hit some golf balls and then come out Saturday looking good.

“I just want to build on that performance and work for the semis. There’s more family coming tomorrow, so it’s great to see. I haven’t seen some of these guys in 10 years. We were just speaking before about how long it’s been, and I can’t remember the last time I saw them, so it was really cool to see them. I’ll try and put on a good performance for them.”

Abdulla Al Tamimi celebrates his win

Al Tamimi got the better of Canada’s David Baillargeon, the world No.69 who scored a huge upset against former British Open champion Miguel Rodriguez in the previous round, but Al Tamimi’s racket skills and speed around court were key as he claimed an 11-5, 11-5, 11-5 victory.

“I’m moving well, hitting the ball well, I got my tactics right before each match and I’m happy to keep my focus throughout the whole match,” said Al Tamimi, who will appear in his first PSA Silver semi-final.

“I’m looking forward to playing Paul Coll here in New Zealand in his hometown. I think it’s going to be a good match and I’m going to enjoy my rest day tomorrow and get ready for after tomorrow. Since I’m young, I really like to play when there’s a crowd and it shows in both matches that I’m focused.”

Sabrina Sobhy stretches low for the ball against Joelle King

In the women’s Barfoot & Thompson New Zealand Open, world No.5 Joelle King made short work of her opponent, world No.18 Sabrina Sobhy, as she stormed to an 11-2, 11-6, 11-6 win in just 29 minutes.

“It’s funny, I turned on SQUASHTV and I saw there was such a huge amount of people,” said King.

“I decided to come a bit early and just get a feel for how many people are actually in here and sort of let myself settle down a little bit. So I think that that was good to do. I can’t wait to get back out there on Saturday.”

The New Zealander imposed pressure in the front court, forcing her opponent into a speculative but high-risk attacking game.King made the most of her opportunities and achieved a decisive victory in three games to continue the excellent form she has shown on the court in the past week or so.

Class on the glass: Joelle King reflects on her experience of playing a home tournament at last

She added: “Anyone who knows Beans (Sobhy) knows she wasn’t fully fit today. When someone’s slightly off you know you have to keep your focus, and I did that today. Yes, I tried to impose myself like (men’s No. 2 seed) Mohamed ElShorbagy: we’ve had the same coach for a little while now and we’ve trained together a fair bit.

“Like a fine wine I’m getting better with age; using my brain now and enjoying my squash. I was pretty focussed today. I was actually pretty nervous this morning when I woke up and I think that’s always a good thing.

“It’s not always enjoyable to go through, but all day I was a bit nervous. I guess that’s because I knew I was coming up against a quality opponent in the quarter finals of a tournament at home. I’m very pleased with how I played out there. I thought everything came together nicely, and I was hitting my targets well.

“Even when the ball got a bit dead I changed what I was doing. I’m most happy with the mental performance; I seemed to keep good focus. I haven’t lost on this court, but let’s not jinx that.”

For King, 34 her next match will be against Belgium’s world No.12 Tinne Gilies from Belgium, who overcame Japan’s Satomi Watanabe in an entertaining four-game battle.

King added: “We’re into the semi-finals of a $70K tournament. I’m playing Tinne, who is a very good friend. We both play to win but once we come off we’re still good friends. Paul and I certainly get the crowd revved up. The crowd were great tonight; they were clapping when we both hit winners. They’re really loving top flight squash in New Zealand.”

Joy and despair is etched on the faces of Tinne Gilis and Satomi Watanabe after their quarter-final battle

Gilis had to work hard for her win. Watanabe, after losing the opening game on a tie-break, came back strongly to level up in the second, despite requiring an injury break after Gilis hit her wrist in the final point of the game.

However, Gilis rediscovered her consistency to take the third, before coming back from 7-0 down to earn victory in the fourth.

Gilis said: “Satomi has been playing unreal squash the last couple of tournaments, so I knew I had to be there and stay focused throughout the whole match because she was just firing it in as soon as she got the opportunity.

“She beat the World No.10 (Salma Hany) yesterday. I think the game she won, she literally outplayed me. I didn’t really know what to do. As soon as I gave her something on her racket, she was just firing it in, so I had to change my game plan and make sure everything was deep enough and just to get her out of the middle.”

The quarter-finals of the New Zealand Open continue tomorrow (November 11). Play begins at 18:00 local time (GMT+13) and all of the action will be shown live on SQUASHTV.


2022 Robertson Lodges Men’s New Zealand Open
Quarter-Finals (Top Half):
[1] Paul Coll (NZL) bt [6] Adrian Waller (ENG) 3-0: 11-7, 11-6, 11-9 (36m)
[7] Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi (QAT) bt David Baillargeon (CAN) 3-0: 11-5, 11-5, 11-5 (29m)

Quarter-Finals (Bottom Half, November 11):
[3] Victor Crouin (FRA) v Andrew Douglas (USA)
Leandro Romiglio (ARG) v [2] Mohamed ElShorbagy (ENG)

Semi-Finals (November 12):
[1] Paul Coll (NZL) bt [7] Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi (QAT)

2022 Barfoot & Thompson Women’s New Zealand Open
Quarter-Finals (Top Half):
[1] Joelle King (NZL) bt [8] Sabrina Sobhy (USA) 3-0: 11-2, 11-6, 11-6 (29m)
[5] Tinne Gilis (BEL) bt Satomi Watanabe (JPN) 3-1: 12-10, 6-11, 11-5, 11-9 (58m)

Quarter-Finals (Bottom Half, November 11):
[4] Nele Gilis (BEL) v [7] Hollie Naughton (CAN)
[6] Tesni Evans (WAL) v [2] Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG)

Semi-Finals (November 12):
[1] Joelle King (NZL) bt [5] Tinne Gilis (BEL)

Pictures courtesy of PSA World Tour 


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