Experience outweighs youth in Tournament of Champions
Natalie Grinham demonstrated a perfect example of experience over youth on her way to winning the WSA Tournament of Champions title at Grand Central Station, New York City.
The Dutch international overcame prodigal Egyptian teenager Nour El Sherbini in the semi finals, followed by 20-year-old Pallikal in the event final.
El Sherbini started quickly against Grinham, drawing on confidence already gained by defeating No3 seed Samantha Teran and local hope Latasha Khan on her way to the semi’s. The teenager established a quick first game lead over Grinham, who then came back refocused to claim the following two games. El Sherbini, demonstrating a rare maturity and court intelligence for someone of her 16 years, didn’t back down under the pressure and instead dug deep to claim the fourth game.
It turned out to be one game too many for the teenager, her twelfth over the tournament, as Grinham was able to establish an early lead in the fifth and close out the game with seven match balls. “Nour changed her game a bit in the fourth,” Reflected Grinham. “I let her dictate the points, thinking that I would let her lose the match rather than try to win it. In the fifth I knew I had to just go out and win it.”
Grinham would then face Dipika Pallikal, who won a 3-0 upset over No5 seed Jaclyn Hawkes in their semi final. Pallikal of India succeeded in dominating the tee and was confident in stepping forward for the early volley, a tactic to which her New Zealand opponent had no steady reply. The determination of the No7 seed was evident following the scalp, telling interviewers: “I won’t be happy until I have finished my job and won the tournament.”
Determination wasn’t going to be enough for Pallikal however, as Grinham’s tour experience paid dividends in the final. The 20-year-old was never allowed to settle into the match as Grinham demonstrated methodical shot selection and impeccable court coverage. 25-minutes was all it took for the No2 seed to play out the final, utilising a good length and width to deny Pallikal time in the middle of the court, and subsequently, the young player never looking likely to threaten the higher seed. The Indian national champion professed to twitter followers after her ninth match in ten days: “Horrible day on court today. Legs just gave up. Hard few weeks on court.”
The 2012 Tournament of Champions winner revealed after the match exactly how she set about defeating an opponent 13-years her junior: “Dipika is quite handy with the racket and she volleys well so I made sure not to put the ball where she could easily reach it.”
Grinham’s win is her 17th WSA title and her first Tournament of Champions win.
Final: Natalie Grinham (NED) bt  Dipika Pallikal (IND) 11-4,11-3,11-3 (25m).
Semi Final: Dipika Pallikal (IND) bt  Jaclyn Hawkes (NZL) 11-5, 14-12, 11-9 (40m)  Natalie Grinham (NED) bt Nour El Sherbini (EGY) 6-11, 11-5, 11-5, 7-11, 11-4 (45m)
Quarter finals: Natalie Grinham (NED) bt 6] Sarah Kippax (ENG) – 11/3, 11/4, 12/10 (32m)
Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt Latasha Khan (USA) – 11/6, 13/11, 11/3 (26m) Jaclyn Hawkes (NZL) bt  Rachael Grinham (AUS) – 11/5,11/8, 11/5 (25m)  Dipika Pallikal (IND) bt  Donna Urquhart (AUS) – 11/9, 11/5, 7/11, 10/12, 11/9 (65m)
Round1: Rachael Grinham (AUS) bt Kanzy Emad El-Defrawy (EGY) – 5/11, 11/13, 11/9, 11/3, 11/5  Jaclyn Hawkes (NZL) bt [Q] Lauren Selby (ENG) – 11/2, 11/2, 11/5  Donna Urquhart (AUS) bt [Q] Maria Toor Pakay (PAK) – 11/7, 11/7, 11/3  Dipika Pallikal (IND) bt Olivia Blatchford (USA) – 11/5, 11/3, 11/7
Latasha Khan (USA) bt  Nour El Tayeb (EGY) – 11/7, 13/11, 7/11, 9/11, 11/1
Nour El Sherbini bt  Samantha Teran (MEX) – 11/6, 11/9, 9/11, 11/7 Sarah Kippax (ENG) bt [Q] Miranda Ranieri (CAN) – 15/13, 11/2, 11/5  Natalie Grinham (NED) bt [Q] Lucie Fialova (CZA) – 11/8, 11/4, 11/2
Images courtesy of squashpics.com