Tesni toughs it out to win another big battle with Laura
By ALAN THATCHER and HOWARD HARDING
Tesni Evans toppled top seed Laura Massaro in a brutal, physical battle to reach the semi-finals of the Commonwealth Games women’s singles.
Evans clinched the match in a dramatic fourth game, holding her nerve to win a tense tiebreak 15-13 on her third match ball. It was her third consecutive victory over England’s former world champion, who was runner-up to Nicol David in the 2014 Games in Glasgow and was desperate to grab gold here in Australia.
Both players are clearly familiar with each other’s style of play, and both were fully committed to the task that awaited them on court at the Oxenford Studios.
Driving the ball with pace, precision and plenty of passion, these two totally-committed athletes served up a thrilling encounter. The raw, combative, aggressive nature of the sport was fully exposed within the confines of the glass court as two evenly-matched players battled for every point.
Massaro was clearly frustrated at several refereeing decisions, but generally speaking the No.6 seed Evans kept her composure better and made fewer errors throughout the match.
The 5ft 3in tall 25-year-old from Rhyl played solid squash to win the two opening games by an 11-8 margin, taking fewer risks and only going short when the opportunity presented itself.
Massaro came back strongly to win the third game 11-5, using her pace and accuracy to dominate most of the rallies. At last able to impose herself on the match as Evans fell off the pace, she continued to look strong in the fourth and although she built a solid lead, Evans hit back to take the game into a tiebreak.
There were several controversial decisions, usually involving the line to the ball (or the opponent) following drop shots on both walls.
Massaro saved three match balls but was penalised with a no-let call that gave her opponent the ultimate opportunity to wrap things up. When Evans chopped in a backhand drop that was too tight for Massaro to scrape up, Evans screamed with delight and raised her arms in triumph after clinching victory 11-8, 11-8, 5-11, 15-13 in 61 minutes of drama, aggression, and simply spellbinding squash.
Evans celebrated at courtside with every member of the Welsh squad and coach David Evans (no relation) before saying: “I guess my style maybe doesn’t suit her. Maybe it’s because of the last couple of times – but I try and build on that. But it’s never easy – the toughest person to play by a mile on the Tour is Laura.
“Being a Welsh person against England – it’s our biggest rivalry. We fight for our lives. And I think we showed that today. Wales has helped me massively.
“It’s probably the biggest match I’ve played yet – in an arena like this, there’s nothing like it, it’s our biggest event – yes, that was a massive match.”
David Evans, the Welsh national coach and a former world No.3, added: “This massive for Welsh squash – and especially for Tesni who’s our number one player, she’s the first Welsh person ever to win the British championships and she’s got the highest-ever world ranking for a woman in Wales.
“So we’re trying to get a medal now. In the Commonwealth Games we’ve only ever had one medal and that was Alex Gough in 1998, so it would be massive if she were able to do it. The way she handled herself in that game was excellent.”
Evans now meets another tough, determined Englishwoman in the shape of Sarah-Jane Perry. World No.8 Perry is making her Commonwealth Games debut – and disappointed the packed and partisan Oxenford Studios crowd by beating Australian number one Donna Urquhart 11-5, 7-11, 11-2, 11-5.
Perry (27) said: “I’m so happy right now – Donna is such a tricky opponent, she’s been playing some seriously good squash recently, pushing some of the top players, so I knew I had to go out there and play really well.
“I was really pleased with how I played the whole match. I kept myself nice and positive, had some good play and built some good rallies.
“It’s a fantastic crowd – it’s been pretty much this full since day one as well which is amazing. We like a good crowd. Sometimes you have a big crowd and they don’t make any noise, which is a bit odd as well. So it’s nice to hear them between the rallies – even if it wasn’t for me, most of it! But I heard plenty of English people, which was nice.
“I know what it’s like playing against the crowd – I’ve played Amanda Sobhy in New York! I don’t think anything can top the brashness of some of the American fans!
“It’s my first experience of a multi-sport Games and I’m absolutely loving it. It’s a really good set-up from the village to everything here – we couldn’t really ask for anything more. The court looks amazing and the crowd is amazing so I’m just really excited I get to play on there tomorrow again.”
Nicol David made an extraordinary comeback to book her place in the semi-finals. David, Malaysia’s ‘Queen of squash’ is making a record sixth successive appearance in the Games, with gold success both in 2010 and 2014.
Looking completely out of sorts, the 34-year-old former world No.1 from Penang went two games down as England rival Alison Waters looked set to reduce the 26-2 head-to-head that the Malaysian had built up since 2004.
But a revitalised David came onto the court in the third and soon forced a decider – and after saving two match balls in the fifth, celebrated her stunning 7-11, 11-13, 11-9, 11-9, 12-10 win in 61 minutes.
“When you go into matches like that, you don’t know what to expect – and when your opponent comes out strong, you start think ‘what am I doing’?” said David.
“In the third, I knew I really had to enforce my game now – there’s no time left. So I had to put the pressure on, and put the pressure on to the very end. She made some mistakes and I just gave it my best so I’m very pleased.”
When asked what coach Liz Irving had said to her in the break after the second game, David replied: “She said I had to get a little more assertive and enforce my game. It’s now or never, I thought, why not! I’d worked so hard – I’m going to go for the long haul! I knew I had to push and push and not give up!”
Of her compatriot Wan’s success, David added: “That was amazing, I’m so proud of him. What he did was truly special and it means we have two players in the semi-finals.”
David will now face Kiwi Joelle King after the No.2 seed saw off India’s No.8 seed Joshna Chinappa 11-5, 11-6, 11-9. There is nothing a Kiwi loves more than winning on Australian soil, so we can expect another massive performance from King against Malaysia’s “Queen” tomorrow.
Tall, strong and back to her best movement after a long spell out of the game through injury, King is not only the top seed left in the competition, but also the highest ranked player.
It may need another miraculous performance from David to stop her reaching the final as the gold medal matches loom nearer on the Gold Coast.
2018 Commonwealth Games Squash, Gold Coast, Australia.
 Tesni Evans (WAL) bt  Laura Massaro (ENG) 11-8, 11-8, 5-11, 15-13 (61m)
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt  Donna Urquhart (AUS) 11-5, 7-11, 11-2, 11-5 (41m)
 Nicol David (MAS) bt  Alison Waters (ENG) 7-11, 11-13, 11-9, 11-9, 12-10 (61m)
 Joelle King (NZL) bt  Joshna Chinappa (IND) 11-5, 11-6, 11-9 (34m)
Women’s semi-final line-up:
 Tesni Evans (WAL) v  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG)
 Joelle King (NZL) v  Nicol David (MAS)
Pictures by TONI VAN DER KREEK