Malaysian superstar has to find her way in after being pushed by Aussie veteran Rachael Grinham in ToC opener
By HOWARD HARDING – Squash Mad Correspondent
Malaysia’s world number one Nicol David successfully began her defence of the Women’s J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions title in New York with a four-game victory over career-long rival Rachael Grinham in the first round of the WSA International 100 squash event at Grand Central Terminal.
Incredibly, it was the 36th WSA World Tour battle between the pair since April 2000 – more than three years before Australian Grinham began her own 16-month run at the top of the WSA world rankings.
In the first game, Grinham (pictured above with David, foreground) marshalled some of the skills and speed that earned her four British Open titles to jump out to a 7-4 lead and win the game 11-6.
“I had to find my way in,” said David, who has been number one in the world for 105 months (102 consecutively). The “way in” that the 31-year-old Malaysian superstar found was to lift the ball up on the front wall, establish her position in front of Grinham and extend the rallies.
“I was starting to feel a little oxygen debt after the second game,” Grinham confessed after the match.
In each of the second and third games, David took the lead on the first point and never relinquished it. Grinham looked like she might have found her second wind in the fourth as she battled back to 5-6 and 6-7, but David calmly closed out the match with an 11-7 fourth game win.
“It is good to be back at the Tournament of Champions in Grand Central,” said the 2014 champion after her 6-11, 11-6, 11-5, 11-7 victory.
“It is such a landmark and you can feel the appreciation of the crowds who are quite knowledgeable, which gives the players more energy.”
When asked what keeps her going after 14 years on the professional tour, and nearly nine years as the No.1 player in the world, the Malaysian superstar answered: “The game itself has so many dimensions that there are always small details that you can keep improving. And I love to play on the glass show court!”
David progresses to face Alison Waters, the fifth seed from England, for a place in the semi-finals.
In the match-up between two rhythm players who patiently await their openings, it was Londoner Waters who quickened the tempo to claim victory over Mexican qualifier Samantha Teran to claim a spot in the quarter-finals. Teran had played three tough qualifying matches to get to the ToC glass court, and, in the first game, that proved to be an advantage.
The 33-year-old from Mexico gained the upper hand at six-all, reeling off five straight points to take the early lead. “It is very tricky to play someone who plays the same style of game as you do,” said Waters (pictured above, right, with Teran).
In the second game, which she won 11-6, Waters found her comfort zone, hitting the ball slightly more crisply and using the volley attack with more frequency. By the last two games, the four-time British National Champion was in high gear, closing out the match 11-3, 11-5.
In a repeat of last year’s ToC semi, Waters and David will mark their 25th career Tour meeting, with the Englishwoman looking to double her victory tally over the dominant Malaysian.
Women’s JP Morgan Tournament of Champions, New York, USA
 Nicol David (MAS) bt Rachael Grinham (AUS) 6-11, 11-6, 11-5, 11-7 (40m)
 Alison Waters (ENG) bt [Q] Samantha Teran (MEX) 6-11, 11-6, 11-3, 11-5 (47m)
 Nicol David (MAS) v  Alison Waters (ENG)
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v  Nour El Tayeb (EGY)
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) v Amanda Sobhy (USA)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) v  Camille Serme (FRA)
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Pictures courtesy of WSA