Donna Urquhart and Emily Whitlock Shock Seeds in Macau Open
By Alex Wan – Squash Mad Asian Bureau Editor
The main draw of the 2015 Macau Open kicked off the Borja Golan taking on Greg Lobban on one court while the ladies took centre stage in the show court next to it between Joelle King and Joey Chan. As the Macau Squash Association and Hong Kong Squash have a close working relationship, Joey Chan is very much considered a local player on this island.
Local siblings Steve and Ivy Liu (Kwai Chi) took to the courts today against opponents they usually marvel at. They might not have given them a hard time, but it sure made their own day, to be sharing the same stage with such amazing sportsmen and women.
Joelle King Breaks “Local” Hearts
In the first match that started a long day at the office, Joelle King faced “local” girl Joey Chan on the centre court. The Kiwi started strongly and took the first 4 points in succession before Chan got into the game to close the gap to 5-3. The pace at which King controlled the game troubled the petite Chan, who in no time found herself 9-3 down. She does manage to string 3 points in a row, all with accurate drops before losing the next 2 to the wrath of King’s backhand drops.
In the next game, Joey Chan came in a much more composed player, controlling most of the rallies. She took a small lead and built it up from there by keeping up with King’s pace and choosing the right moments to finish the rallies off with her deft touch. From 4-all, she strings a series of 6 points to get to game ball, dropped 2 points and finishing off the game with a backhand volley into nick. Now we have a game!
The third was pretty similar to the game before, but it started in Joelle King’s favour. However, halfway through, Chan went on overdrive and the 17-inch tin was definitely being fully used to her advantage. From 3-3, she strung another 6-point streak with her volleys and drops to lead 9-3 and finishing the game off with yet another nick.
King turned the tables around in the fourth, pulling away from 2-2 to 9-3. Chan seemed to have lost a little patience in this middle part of the game but a broken strings allowed her a short break to regroup and close the gap to 9-6. But it was a little too late as King holds on to force a decider.
Chan did not have the best of starts I the fifth, tinning a boast on an already lowered tin. But she quickly raced into a 6-2 lead and the local crowd had already smelt victory at this point. But she next tins a loose shot with an attempted drop and that turned things around, allowing King to draw level 7-7. It went point for point from hereon. Joelle King reached game point thanks to a volley lob that went out of bounds, Chan saves it with yet another drop shot. But the comeback Kiwi won the next 2 points with a very low backhand drop and a ball sent out of court by Chan.
Joelle King said:
I’m happy to be on the winning side. Joey played really, really well today. I had to figure out a way to stop her. I was 6-2 down in the fifth and then Joey tinned. That switched the momentum. She was playing well to her advantage with the 17” tin. Every match for me in this year is finding back my confidence.
Joey Chan said:
I feel I played very patiently today. Perhaps my focus in the middle was a little up and down. But overall I’m happy with my performance in this tournament. I feel I was very into the game today.
Golan Tested by Lobban
Former world number 5 Borja Golan was put to the test by Scotland’s Greg Lobban in a rather memorable match, one marred with questionable decisions that went against both players. While the match duration states 62 minutes, it was definitely much closer to 90, including an injury time out and multiple discussions with the referee. Despite all this, credit must be given to Lobban whom I feel played well above his ranking of 44.
The first was close in the earlier stages, until at 5-5, Golan had accidently stepped on Lobban’s foot, who was then denied a simple let. The decision affected Lobban who then lost 5 points in a row to face game ball. He saves 2 of them but that’s all he manages in the game. As he walks out, he is still unsatisfied with the decision of the referee, who has now refused to entertain him any further.
The second started close. Both players were trading points equally. It’s deja vu as this time, it was Golan who runs into Lobban and denied a let when the score was at 6 a piece. The same thing happened, the decision affected Golan, and the Scot taking advantage of it to move up to 10-7. A not up call moved Golan to within 2 points and then another controversial no let decision against him wins the game for the Scot.
The third and fourth games, both won by Golan, had far too many disputes with the referee. The squash had simply gone downhill and the protests were loud. In the end, Golan walked out the victor and Lobban the (literally) bleeding, battered one.
Borja Golan said:
It was a really tough match. It’s my first match in this tournament so it was hard for me to find my shots at first. I’m happy that I played better as the match progressed. Greg was playing really well as well today.
The referees have a difficult job. They try their best and perhaps today is not a good day for them.
Greg Lobban said:
I felt I played well. I played Borja before and it was 3-1 to him too. But today definitely felt a lot closer. The third game was pivotal. Had it gone my way, perhaps things could be different. Refereeing decisions always make a difference. And I guess Borja dealt with them better than I did today.
It’s Au v Liu Again
The pair were drawn against each other once again after the re-draw (due to Nicol David’s withdrawal), having played last year at the same event. Local wild card Liu Kwai Chi had the worst possible start when Annie Au served her an ace. She didn’t do any much better in the game and the following one, earning just 1 and 3 points.
Liu did started well in the third, as she took 3 points in a row after dropping the first point to go ahead 3-1. Annie Au served out at 3-all to give Liu the lead once again after she drew level. The Macau top women’s player manages another point before going out in 20 minutes.
Ivy Liu (Kwai Chi) said:
I didn’t play well today. Only in the third did I feel I played alright. I played Annie last year as well. At least I feel that I played better than I did last year. But I’m still not very happy with my game.
Olli Ousted by Young Egyptian
Veteran Finn Olli Tuominen and Egyptian youngster Fars Dessouki took to court next in the men’s court just as their match was initially scheduled to finish.
The first two games were close, Though Tuominen was controlling most of the rallies but in the end it was Dessouki who played the last few critical points better, with both games finishing 11-2 to the Egyptian.
The rallies were of high quality as one would imagine coming from this pair. It was a clean and fair contest, with minimal decisions, making it a much nicer match for the spectators.
Sadly, the veteran sustained a calf injury in the beginning of the third and credit to him, he continued to the end without conceding the match.
Fares Dessouki said:
I was struggling the two games and he was controlling it mostly. Olli is a good player and very experienced. I’m glad to be through. It’s my first time in Macau and I like it, it’s a nice place. If I do well, I’ll come back every year. I hope Macau will be nice to me.
Olli Tuominen said:
I played OK in the beginning, but then I hurt my calf and I couldn’t push it. It would’ve been nice if I could play the whole match in a good condition.
Nouran Gouhar Continues to Impress
Coming off a historic win over Nicol David and prior to that winning the World Junior title, did not perturb the young Nouran Gouhar, who took on her senior Heba El Torky.
The first game had some high quality rallies and the scoreline between the both players were always close, with Gohar eventually winning 13-11.
The second game was a lot more comfortable for Gouhar, who practically controlled most of the rallies. She drops 6 points in the game and in the third, it got even more comfortable as she won 11-2. The manner and maturity of her game is simply astonishing and it will be really interesting to see how she fares against second seed Nour El Tayeb tomorrow.
Nouran Gohar said:
I played well today. It’s hard to play a good friend. She’s been my roommate for the last few tournaments. I’m trying not to pressure myself (on her good run of results) but just enjoy and focus fully on my game.
Heba El Torky said:
I wasn’t happy with how I played and I expected to do better. She played well today, like she has been recently. I started with a game plan, but I didn’t stick to it till the end.
It’s my second time in Macau and I’m happy to be here again. I hope the event goes on and grows more, maybe into a World Series event.
Max Lee Squeezes Through
Nasir Iqbal of Pakistan payed his second successive 5-setter today in his loss against Hong Kong’s top male player Max Lee, the tournament fifth seed. It was Iqbal who drew first blood when he won 11-5 in the first game.
Lee then took the next two games, having better ends in the later halves of both the games to go ahead 2-1. In the fourth, Lee opened up a small lead but Iqbal eventually caught up and forced the tie break which he won to bring it to a deciding game.
But the brutality of the fourth had done damage to Iqbal who was a lot less competitive in the fifth. Lee, having beaten world number one two weeks ago, inevitably has some expectations placed upon him, and he delivers (just) today to justify his seeding.
Max Lee said:
I played just average. There were quite a number of mistakes. I should’ve won the fourth game. I pulled away and allowed him to catch up again. In the fifth I opened up a lead. But it was a really tough game.
Nasir Iqbal said:
I’m happy with my game. Max is a good player and he just beat the world number one. I played the first game really well and then I had a problem with my foot. I’m happy overall with how I did in Macau.
Nour El Tayeb Unsettles Delia Arnold
Egypt’s Nour El Tayeb and Malaysian Delia Arnold, who is riding high with a career-high ranking of 12 this month, have both never faced each other. This was used effectively by the Egyptian in the first two games by playing at an inconsistent pace, mixing some hard hitting and soft touches, which troubled the Malaysian badly. The scoreline of 11-2, 11-3 is a clear indication of how things went.
In the third, Arnold finally seem to have gotten the hang of it and raced to a 5-1 lead. But this lead was cancelled out as quickly, starting with a stroke to bring her to 5-2. Three volleys in a row would win her the next three points to draw level.
From here on, it was point for point up till 7-all. A lucky nick on the backhand side on the sidewall gave El Tayeb the advantage for the first time in this game. The next three points was then gifted to the former world number five as Arnold lost focus and gave them, and the match away rather easily.
Nour El Tayeb said:
I’m very happy to get through. I knew Delia have been doing upsets lately. It’s always in my mind and I knew I had to start strong. I was worried about her good form and I was tensed before the match. I had to stay focused and maybe in the end I was a little too confident. The last game was tricky, if she won it, things could’ve been different. I am glad to get through in three. Macau is very nice but it would be nicer if I win!
Delia Arnold said:
I had a slow start in the first two games. I have never played her before and I couldn’t read her game well. In the third I got used to it and was controlling it a lot more. It was just that I hit too many loose shots in the beginning.
Marwan Elshorbagy Outguns Steven Liu
There was not much of a fight on paper in this match, but Steven Liu, the local wild card in the men’s event, had a good start. After that Elshorbagy controlled the rallies well and went short in most of them, and often enough, wins them.
The scoreline of 11-3, 11-4, 11-6 is certainly respectful but the match duration of just 13 minutes pretty much sums up how ruthless the younger Shorbagy was today.
Marwan Elshorbagy said:
I had a good game against their local player Steven. I feel he’s getting better and better each year. I hope they’ll have more and more juniors in years to come as they have good facilities here. This tournament will be interesting for me, as I did well in Shanghai two weeks ago. But there’s no pressure on myself and no expectations too.
Urquhart Creates First Upset of the Day
Aussie Donna Urquhart served the first upset of the day when she edged out England’s former world number two Jenny Duncalf in five games. The left hander started off well to take the first game 11-3 with some power hitting. Duncalf then came back to take the second in a closely fought game, 11-7.
The third had some questionable calls by the referee in the second half of the game. A decision that went against Duncalf, plus a few lucky nicks from the Australian, had rattled her, as she seem to have given up in the last two points went in Urquhart’s favour quickly. She came back to win the next to force a decider, but it was Urquhart who had the final say.
Donna Urquhart said:
I’m happy to be through. So stoked. I’m a little disappointed that I was inconsistent. At times I was playing well, and at times I just wasn’t. Good thing is it means I can improve more. Jenny is a tough opponent as you can see right to the last point. Even though I think I can play better, I’m still just happy to go through.
Jenny Duncalf said:
I felt patchy. I struggled to find a rhythm. I haven’t played Donna for a while so it’s a little hard to read. I’m disappointed at the end of the third. I let a bad decision get to me and I was feeling sorry for myself.
Hammer Of Thor Through
Top seed Omar Mosaad, who’s appearing in the event for the fifth time, booked his place in the quarter-final after ousting team mate Karim Ali Fathi. Both Egyptians, who like to hit through their shots, provided great entertainment for the audience, which was by this time, pretty big. The power hitting and strong volleys of the pair were a joy to watch.
The first two games were shared. In the third, it was the big Egyptian who slowly built up a lead from 5-3 and maintaining it up to 7-5. He next produces two backhand drops that were tight which Fathi could not keep the ball in play. Mosaad eventually closes out at 11-7.
The fifth game saw Mosaad build a lead at the start, then slowly opening up a much bigger lead to 10-6, after which Fathi had already given up.
Omar Mosaad said:
It was a bit difficult being the first match of the tournament. I’m still not at 100% having travelled to China and back to Egypt and now back to here again. It’s a little tough on the body. Karim is also a talented player and we have pretty similar styles. We both like to strike the ball. The first game went well and I lost some concentration in the next. The third was important as I wanted to be up and then the fourth was smooth for me. Tomorrow, it’ll be hard to tell. There are so many players here. It’s not about ranking anymore. It’s about whoever plays well on the day will win.
Top Seed Impressive
Laura Massaro, the former world champion had a good game today as she took out Indian Dipika Pallikal in straight games. The first was tight, with Massaro winning 11-.9. The next two games ended with similar 11-6 scores.
Laura Massaro said:
I thought I played well. It was really even in the first all the way to 9-9, then I played a couple of good rallies. In the second and third, I felt more comfortable. It’s the first match of the season. It’s a little unknown how I’d feel. I started to use the full court a lot more in the later parts.
Danny Massaro said:
I think she played well. She looked like she enjoyed herself. After the summer, you never know how the first game will go. She’ll be happy with today and she’ll probably say the same to you.
Dipika Pallikal said:
My game was OK. I haven’t played in the last four months so it’s a good game to start off again. I leave for America soon and I look at the positives I gained from this match.
Nafiizwan Adnan Gets a Little Help (in the end of the third)
The pair of Nafiizwan Adnan and Leo Au are no strangers to each other, and it clearly shows in their matchup. The familiarity with each other’s games meant longer rallies and both these boys showed some great athleticism in the rallies.
Au narrowly lost the first in a tie break but took the next game. Adnan then got lucky in the end of the third as he was awarded a no let decision against Au, which was heavily disputed. The decision threw Au’s focus away for a bit. The fourth game, like the previous, unfortunately, ended in a decision. This time, being a stroked against Au.
Nafiizwan Adnan said:
I’m happy with how I played, especially now that Leo is in good form. He beat me 3-1 the last time we played. I managed to put pressure on him and especially in the fourth. Tomorrow I play Omar (Mosaad), who is in the top ten. I will just want to play well and try my best.
Leo Au said:
I think I was playing alright, but Nafiizwan was playing very well today. I think the third game was crucial and especially with the decisions in the last point, I lost a bit focus.
Two Each for England and Egypt
In the last four matches of the day, Rachael Grinham was the other seed to fall, going out in three games to 21 year old Emily Whitlock. Third seed Alison Waters and Joshana Chinappa played next, with the latter winning 3-1.
Egyptian pair Omar Abdel Meguid and defending champion Tarek Momen went through too. While Momen was tested by Australia’s Rex Hedrick, Meguid spent just 11 minutes on court as Shaun Le Roux retired with an abductor injury.
Emily Whitlock said:
I’m happy with my game. I just went in and played well. This is my second time here in Macau. I qualified the last time and I have a good track record here.
Rachael Grinham said:
She played better. I should’ve won the first game as I was 9-4 up. I’m frustrated because a lot of the rallies, I got to the ball but it just didn’t get back. That was my day today.
Joshana Chinappa said:
The match was pretty good at first. Then Alison stepped it up and she put me under pressure.
Results title (i.e. First Round):
Pictures by Macau Squash Association