Canadian on comeback trail is ready for Nash Cup semi-finals
By ALAN THATCHER
Samantha Cornett has reached the semi-finals of the 2016 Nash Cup after a long spell out of action through injury.
Yesterday she beat England’s Alison Thomson in straight games in the quarter-finals after negotiating her comeback to competitive play with a 3-1 win over fellow Canadian Nicole Bunyan.
After more than a year out of action, she was delighted to celebrate her return to the court with two victories.
The 25-year-old, who was ranked 28 in the world two years ago, now faces another Canadian, national team-mate Danielle Letourneau, in the semi-finals.
Samantha, seeded four this week in London, Ontario, said: “While I was quite nervous for my first match, I realized that there is no need to be in my second match!
“I felt a huge contrast in how I played just based on nerves. My second match I played much more confident squash, because, why not?! I remembered how positive I was feeling at the end of the 2014-2015 season and channelled that.
“Both players were new to me, which is a really nice way to start. Fresh, with no expectations.
“My match versus Nicole was a great one. Some epic rallies in there. I knew she wasn’t going to get tired with her triathlon background which seemed to be translating well to squash. I was getting tired because I was doing too much running. Once I figured out I didn’t need to do that much, things turned in my favour!
“My match with Alison felt really good, although I forgot that I had to win the third game, and she came out for blood! In the nick of time I quit trying to win easy and clawed back to take it in three which was a nice surprise.
“I’m looking forward to the semi with Danielle Letourneau tomorrow. We haven’t played in a while and it should be quality.”
Nash Cup Quarter-Final: Samantha Cornett vs Alison Thomson
Sam wins 11-3, 11-3, 11-9 (27 mins)
With Cornett off a season-long injury lay-off, the crowd did not know what to expect from the loveable Canadian and the virtually unknown Thomson. Sam, the heavy favourite on paper, came out in the first game looking every bit the three-time national champion and top 25 WSA player with her trademark heavy pace and relentless volleying. Thomson seems slightly overwhelmed by the opportunity of playing at prime time against a top player and makes four critical tins in this game, giving Cornett a stress free first game.
The Englishwoman tightened up her game in the second and the rallies became longer and probing with Cornett still the hunter but Thomson starting to make some inroads with quality straight length and some well timed counter drops. Sam, perhaps with some confidence from the first game, continued to play at a high level, seeming to enjoy the higher pace and pressure, pulling through in a highly contested second game.
In the third, Thomson had nothing to lose and came out guns blazing, catching a complacent Cornett by surprise with some perfect drives and complementary drops.
However, summoning her years of high-level experience, Cornett did not panic and started to claw back the game with flawless squash, bringing her all the way to 9-9. At this point the tide had now firmly turned and Sam could sense the comeback was almost complete. A perfect backhand drop and savage forehand volley drive gave her the 3-0 quarterfinal victory.
The first round: Samantha Cornett vs Nicole Bunyan
Cornett wins 11-5, 11-9, 8-11, 11-6
The Canadians started slowly, gauging each other’s games and trading points. Cornett gradually started to impose her style late in the game to win the first.
Cornett seemed to really get a sense of the court in game two. She worked Bunyan very hard with some quality lobs and hard crosses to win it.
Bunyan came out with a vengeance in game three, winning the first seven points with attacking squash. Cornett rallied to bring the score to 9-6 before losing the game on an unbelievable backhand volley nick from Bunyan.
Cornett came back very strong in game four, picking up the pace and showing some of the talent that comes from being a National Champion. She worked Bunyan very hard around the court forcing mistakes and won the final game.
Nicole was happy with her game, just disappointed losing a large lead in the fourth. Sam happy to be back playing tournaments again. She’s hoping the body responds well tomorrow.
PSA W10 Nash Cup, London Squash & Fitness, London, Ontario, Canada.
 Christine Nunn (AUS) v  Misaki Kobayashi (JPN)
 Danielle Letourneau (CAN) v  Samantha Cornett (CAN)
 Christine Nunn (AUS) bt  Nikki Todd (CAN) 11-7, 11-7, 7-11, 11-3 (36m)
 Misaki Kobayashi (JPN) bt  Maria Toorpakai Wazir (PAK) 11-8, 11-5, 11-7 (24m)
 Samantha Cornett (CAN) bt  Alison Thomson (ENG) 11-3, 11-3, 11-9 (27m)
 Danielle Letourneau (CAN) bt  Hollie Naughton (CAN) 11-8, 11-8, 16-14 (34m)
 Christine Nunn (AUS) bt Reyna Pacheco (USA) 11-4, 11-2, 11-3 (20m)
 Nikki Todd (CAN) bt Melina Turk (CAN) 11-5, 11-7, 11-2 (21m)
 Maria Toorpakai Wazir (PAK) bt [Q] Anna Kimberley (ENG) 4-11, 11-4, 11-5, 14-12 (54m)
 Misaki Kobayashi (JPN) bt Enora Villard (FRA) 11-5, 11-4, 11-2 (24m)
 Samantha Cornett (CAN) bt [Q] Nicole Bunyan (CAN) 11-5, 11-9, 8-11, 11-6 (35m)
 Alison Thomson (ENG) bt [Q] Nicole Garon (CAN) 11-6, 11-3, 11-7 (24m)
 Danielle Letourneau (CAN) bt [WC] Micaala Seth (CAN) 9-11, 11-9, 11-6, 11-6 (40m)
 Hollie Naughton (CAN) bt [Q] Colette Sultana (MLT) 11-4, 11-1, 11-1 (17m)
Colette Sultana (MLT) bt Arden McKillop (CAN) 11-4, 11-5, 11-7 (25m)
Nicole Garon (CAN) bt Holly Delavigne (CAN) 11-9, 12-14, 11-4, 11-6 (38m)
Anna Kimberley (ENG) bt Laura Savage (CAN) 11-5, 11-3, 11-4 (22m)
Nicole Bunyan (CAN) bt Paula Jenkins (CAN) 11-3, 11-4, 11-6 (22m)
Pictures by Rael Wienberg