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US OPEN: Kasey Brown stuns Nicol David

Nicol David looks worried as Kasey Brown gets in front. Picture by STEVE CUBBINS
Delaware Investments U.S. Open Squash 2011
Daily News, Issue #6, Monday 3rd October

Official Website : Twitter: @USOpenSquash

Brown KO’s David as Matthew and Willstrop guarantee English finalist

From STEVE CUBBINS at Drexel
The first day of quarter-final action in the Delaware Investments U.S. Open at the Daskalakis Athletic Center at Drexel University in Philadelphia saw a sensational upset in the women’s draw and the guarantee of an English finalist in the men’s competition.

First up, Ireland’s third seed Madeline Perry met Camille Serme, the eighth seed who came from two games down to beat the USA’s Latasha Khan yesterday, and Perry continued her impressive record against the French champion, winning 11/6, 11/7, 11/7.

Top seed and world number one Nicol David, will have to wait at least another year to add one of the few major titles missing from her record as she was sensationally beaten 11/9, 6/11, 11/9, 11/4 by Australia’s Kasey Brown, the sixth seed. The Malaysian, five times World Champion and world number one for almost six unbroken years, had won all nine of their previous encounters and the victory was certainly the best of Brown’s burgeoning career to date.

Three Englishmen featured in the men’s quarter-finals. First, top seed, world champion and world number one Nick Matthew who won the U.S. Open title in 2007, beat Mohamed El Shorbagy, the two-time world junior champion who has broken into the upper echelons of the senior rankings 11/5, 9/11, 11/3, 11/6 in 65 minutes.

An all-English matchup followed, as third seed James Willstrop met Peter Barker, the fifth seed. The pair have met many times in junior and senior events – they contested the World Junior final in 2002 – with Willstrop holding the upper hand, leading 12-1 in their PSA tour meetings. The tall Yorkshireman added one more to that tally as he won 7/11, 11/5, 11/6, 11/7 to sete up an all-English semi-final with Matthew.

[3] Madeline Perry (Irl) bt [8] Camille Serme (Fra) 11/6, 11/7, 11/7 (42m)
[6] Kasey Brown (Aus) bt [1] Nicol David (Mas) 11/9, 6/11, 11/9, 11/4 (59m)
[1] Nick Matthew (Eng) bt [7] Mohamed El Shorbagy (Egy) 11/5, 9/11, 11/3, 11/6 (65m)
[3] James Willstrop (Eng) bt [5] Peter Barker (Eng) 7/11, 11/5, 11/6, 11/7 (63m)

Perry first into the semis

Madeline Perry became the first player to reach the semi-finals of the Delaware Investments U.S. Open with a solid straight-game win over France’s Camille Serme at the Daskalskis Athletic Center at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

The Irish third seed made the better start, taking an early 3/0 lead, and with the French champion committing too many unforced errors, she extended it to 8/4, taking the game 11/5 with a volley into the deep.

With forays to the front of the court infrequent, the pattern continued in the second, with Perry generally holding the upper hand in the rallies. A 3/1 lead was extended to 6/3, then 10/4, and although Serme pulled a few [points back another deep volley from Perry saw her advantage doubled.

The third game was the most competitive of all, with numerous testing rallies. Serme started the better, leading 2/0, 5/3 and 6/4, but Perry levelled at 7-all, reached match ball with three crosscourt winners and a final drive into the tin sealed Serme’s fate.

“It was a pretty fast game,” said Perry. “I started well which obviously helped, I was hitting good length to stop her being able to attack me, and I felt relaxed and confident in my movement too.

“I’m very happy with that, I feel I’m playing some of my best squash at the moment, I hope I can carry on in that vein for the rest of the tournament.”

SHE'S ON THE KASE: Australia's Kasey Brown powers past Nicol David. Pictures by STEVE CUBBINS
Kasey pulls off biggest upset

The second women’s semi-final saw Kasey Brown pull off the biggest win of her career as she sensationally beat top seed Nicol David in four games in just under an hour of enthralling play.

From the outset the match was much more varied than the Perry/Serme match, both players covering all four corners of the court and not hesitating to put the ball short when the chance arose.

There was little to choose between them in the first, but a handful of uncharacteristic errors from the Malaysian’s racket handed the advantage to Brown and she moved ahead from 6-all to take the lead 10/7, and the game 11/9.

David steadied in the second, the rallies lengthened and it wasn’t until she was already 9/5 ahead that she made her first, and only, unforced error of the game, taking it 11/6 to level.

Often Nicol will steam ahead in this sort of situation, but Kasey wasn’t finished, and the third game was just as competitive as the first. From 9-all two drives glued to the wall produced a stroke and a winner and the Australian was back in front.

And then, in a flash, she was 8/0 up in the fourth. Five tins from Nicol, three winners from Kasey, and the upset was more than on the cards. A volley error from Kasey gave Nicol her first point, and, steadying again, she won three more before another dropshot error put Kasey on match ball.

One was all it took, a loose return from Nicol was powered away deep into the backcourt and the Australian camp was celebrating a famous win.

“I started well, then got a bit passive in the second,” said a delighted Brown after the best victory of her WISPA career. “I knew I had to come out and attack again in the third, then did the same in the fourth where everything just came off for me.

“She got a few points back, and I told myself to just keep steady and not change the game that had got me there – I know I have a bit of a reputation as a choker, so I was determined not to let it happen.

“Today was all down to my coach Rodney Martin, he’s been working with me for eight years now, and in the past year or so we’ve been working here in America with a really good group. Without him I wouldn’t have been here, and I certainly wouldn’t have won that match … it feels great when everything you’ve been working on comes together!”

Nicol David fights in vain. Picture by STEVE CUBBINS

Matthew squeezes out Shorbagy

If you look at the three games that top seed Nick Matthew won, the scoreline looks pretty convincing. Add to that the fact that the world number one was clearly annoyed with himself at letting the second game slip, and you could be forgiven for thinking that this was a comfortable victory over Mohamed El Shorbagy, the seventh seeded Egyptian.

Far from it, as Matthew himself attested after the match, declaring that Shorbagy had at times made him feel “old and slow”. That’s not true either, but you get the idea, that although Matthew hard control of the rallies and the match for the most part, he had to work hard to maintain that control.

Errors were the Egyptian’s undoing in the early part of the match as he fell behind 11/5, but he rallied well, taking a marginal lead from the middle of the second and taking it 11/9 as he squeezed a couple of errors from the Englishman at the end.

For the rest of the match it was Shorbagy himself who was being squeezed though, always behind in the score, always under the pressure that Matthew’s pace and early taking of the ball puts his opponents under.

Matthew ran out the winner 11/3, 11/6 to move 2-1 ahead in their head to head series, but he certainly knew he’d been in a match.

“He seemed to decide he could take me on down the backhand wall, and he got the better of that battle in the second,” admitted Matthew. “But that effort maybe took something out of him, he wasn’t able to press as hard after that.

“He’s like all the Egyptians though, they can score two or three quick points out of nowhere, whereas we English like to build the rallies more, so you have to be on your toes all the time.

“I managed to keep the momentum for most of the match, and he was having to work harder than me, but he still managed to make me feel old and slow at times! He’ll be around for a long time, well after I’ve gone, and he’ll be a nightmare to play …”

TAKE THE STRAIN: Nick Matthew has to work hard to get the better of Shorbagy. Picture by STEVE CUBBINS

Willstrop makes all-English semi

James Willstrop and Peter Barker are certainly no strangers to each other, having played countless times as Juniors, and prior to tonight had contested a baker’s dozen (that’s 13) PSA matches. The only one of those that Barker won was the last one, earlier this year in Canary Wharf, so both had extra reason to want to win tonight, as if making the semi-finals of a World Series event wasn’t enough.

As you would expect, between the third and fifth seeds, there was never a lot in it. Willstrop made a good start, going 5/1 and then 7/3 up in the first, but Barker struck back with eight points in a row to take the lead 11/7.

From 3-all in the second it was Willstrop’s turn to string points together as he pulled away to 7/4, finishing it off 11/5.

Barker struck back in the second, from 3-all he pulled away to 7/4, finishing it off 11/5.

Another 5/1 lead in the third for Willstrop, who was beginning to patrol the ‘T’ more effectively now, and although Barker battled back he could never close the gap as Willstrop regained the lead 11/6.

After a tight opening to the fourth it was Willstrop’s advantage again, from 2/3 down he pulled clear to 7/3 with an outrageous volley kill, but four points in a row from Barker threatened to take us into a decider.

Not to be though, Barker snatched at a volley kill, tinned it, floored another one at 9/7 down before Willstrop manoeuvred him out of position opening up an easy put away deep to take the match 11/7.

“It was just a tough, hard, game,” said Willstrop.” You can’t expect to win 3/0 every time so when I lost the first I just kept on playing my game.

“You have to work it out, it’s a mental and a physical battle, we were both getting control of the ‘T’ at times and matches like that come down to very fine margins but I managed to take the important points tonight.

“I’m feeling pretty fit at the moment, but then we’ve had a Summer’s training and the season’s only just begun, if you don’t feel fit at the moment you’ve got no chance …”

James Willstrop wins another all-English battle against Peter Barker, and now faces another in the semis. Picture by STEVE CUBBINS

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