Magnificent Malaysian claims Cleveland Classic title for a third time after closing the door on Raneem El Welily
By HOWARD HARDING – Squash Mad Correspondent
Malaysia’s world number one Nicol David celebrated her fifth successive appearance in the final of the Women’s Cleveland Classic by despatching world No.2 Raneem El Welily in straight games to win the WSA International 50 squash event at Cleveland Racquet Club in Cleveland, USA, for the third time.
It was an impressive return to form by the 31-year-old from Penang who suffered a shock quarter-final exit in last month’s JP Morgan Tournament of Champions in New York. It was an opening of which Egyptian El Welily took full advantage – going on to claim the WSA International 100 event trophy for the first time.
While David reached the Cleveland climax after a 3-0 semi-final win over unseeded Egyptian Omneya Abdel Kawy, El Welily was taken the full distance in a phenomenal encounter with England’s Laura Massaro.
El Welily had to save three match balls in a match of high quality and dramatic intensity before clinching her place in the final with a 12-10 win in the decider against former champion Massaro, the No.2 seed.
In the final, defending champion David comfortably took the opening game – but El Welily (pictured above, left, in action with David) came back strongly in the second, opening up 5-2 and 8-4 leads.
But error-free play by the top seed saw David claw back to nine-all before taking the next two points to extend her lead to 2/0.
From three-all in the third, El Welily only managed a further point as the majestic Malaysian powered through to her 11-5, 11-9, 11-4 victory. It was David’s first WSA World Tour title triumph of the year – but the 79th of her career. And the score was a reflection of how she had prepared for this showdown after El Welily ha let her off the hook in the recent World Championship final in Egypt.
“She had a big long tourney win at the ToC and then a tough five-setter yesterday,” said the three-time Cleveland Classic champion of her opponent. “I hoped maybe to get the lead and take it to the end.”
Women’s Cleveland Classic, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
 Nicol David (MAS) bt  Raneem El Welily (EGY) 11-5, 11-9, 11-4
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Final Analysis: Game by game
By BOB BOTTI in Cleveland
Game 1: Surprised Welily was not forcing the pace. Amazing movement by both players. Welily may be the only player on the tour who can match David’s movement. But not tight enough and drops not in the groove for Welily. Welily’s shots either hit the tin or pop out to the mid court. David is reading the game well, anticipating Welily’s shots. Nothing but class from David. David comfortably takes the game 11-5.
Game 2: Welily has to find a way to successfully attack David. Welily taking the ball early, cutting it off. Length is better and the Egyptian is very well balanced and dictating the pace in the middle of the court. Showing great patience, working for a better opening. Drops tighter. 5-2 Welily. David no longer having her own way. Great points as David claws back from 4-8 to 7-8. Never seen David so aggressive with an opening. Few errors despite being so far behind. She draws level at 9-9, then takes the game 11-9. From 4-8 down, that’s a run of 7-1 in points.
Game 3: The score reached 2-2, then 3-3 but Welily can’t stay with David. She moves ahead and maintains the gap from 6-3, 7-3, to 8-3. Welily has no answer and she tries everything. In the next point no matter what she does David stays in it and wins it to lead 9-3. David is lethal and surgical in her precision as she moves to 11-4 to win the game and match. The title goes to Nicol David, with a 3-0 scoreline.
Pictures by MICHAEL WEIL