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World Open: Matthew and David keen to keep hold of titles

Nicol David traps Natalie Grinham. Pictures by STEVE CUBBINS courtesy of Squashsite

Champion Matthew & Gaultier To Contest World Final
5 November 2011
RESULTS: PSA World Open, Rotterdam, Netherlands
Semi-finals:[1] Nick Matthew (ENG) bt [3] Karim Darwish (EGY) 11-9, 11-9, 11-1 (53m)[6] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt [4] James Willstrop (ENG) 11-6, 11-8, 11-4 (64m)

Nick Matthew marches past Karim Darwish

England’s Nick Matthew and Frenchman Gregory Gaultier will contest the PSA World Open final after surviving straight games semi-finals today at the New Luxor Theatre in Rotterdam.
Title-holder Matthew, who is hoping to become the first man in 15 years to successfully defend the title, beat Egypt’s third seed Karim Darwish 11-9, 11-9, 11-1 – while sixth Gautier, the runner-up in 2006 and 2007, put paid to an all-English final by beating James Willstrop 11-6, 11-8, 11-4 and is now bidding to make it third time lucky on Sunday.
It was neck and neck in the first two games of the first semi – with Matthew edging both games before overwhelming the 30-year-old from Cairo in the third to reach the final for the second year in a row.
“The first two games were crucial,” explained Darwish to the official event website afterwards.

“We were point for point the whole game, but he managed to win the crucial points, playing extremely well at the end of each game.”

It was a blow for the Egyptian, who had reached the final without dropping a single game – while Matthew had been stretched the full distance in the last 16 round and to four games in the quarter-finals.

The Englishman was delighted with the way the match panned out: “Getting through in three is obviously a massive bonus. We know Karim can come back from those situations – he’s beaten me from two love down before.

“When you have two close games like that, it’s massively important to keep momentum. I knew that if I had a good start in the third it would be a very long way back for him.

“The crowd were amazing today,” added the 31-year-old from Sheffield. “There wasn’t a home playeras such, but they seem to get behind squash as a sport. Hopefully the final will live up to the expectations and I look forward to playing in it tomorrow.”

The success marks the 46th PSA World Tour final of Matthew’s career – and his 11th since winning the 2010 World Open crown in Saudi Arabia last December.

Hopes of a repeat of last year’s Matthew/Willstrop final were dashed when Gaultier repeated his victory over the Yorkshireman in last month’s Qatar Classic final – but unlike that match, which went to four games, this was wrapped up in three.

But the Frenchman was full of praise for Willstrop – with whom he shared a 6/6 head-to-head record before the match: “We’ve been playing each other since we were kids. Our generation had a lot of strong players Thierry, James, Nick – it’s nice to still compete with all these players.

“It was a bit of a fight in the first game, but then I think we both relaxed,” Gaultier continued. “I don’t think either of us wanted to be too aggressive on court. He’s not like that at all and I don’t think I’m too like that either!

“It was nice to play from the second game. It was a much better game and I tried a lot more and so we relaxed a lot and he chose a better game I think. So we gave 100% in this semi-final stage of the World Open.

“This week I took it match per match. I’ve felt very relaxed on court and haven’t been thinking about the title. It’s not over yet so I’m just going to try and relax tonight and my physio can get to work. I’ll try to do my best tomorrow. I wish him luck, but I also wish myself a lot of luck!”

Gaultier’s win marks up his 42nd Tour final appearance.

Women’s Semi-Finals:

[1] Nicol David (Mas) bt [12] Natalie Grinham (Ned)                11/9, 11/4, 11/6 (44m)
[2] Jenny Duncalf
(Eng) bt [15] Samantha Teran (Mex)          11/9, 11/4, 11/7 (36m)

Duncalf makes it at last

Given that she’s been World no.2 for most of the last three years, it’s surprising that Jenny Duncalf had never reached a World Open final. Having never met Samantha Teran before in tournament, or even friendly, play it was not surprising that the opening exchanges of the first World Open Squash 2011 semi-final at the Luxor Theatre in Rotterdam were cagey as both players probed to find weaknesses.

There was little to separate the players for most of the first game before Duncalf played two immaculate rallies to take the lead 11/9. She was always ahead after that, despite the best efforts of Teran, who worked tirelessly to try and hang into the match.

However, the Englishwoman was determined to seize this opportunity, and from 8/7 in the third an error was followed by two winners to seal victory. The muted celebration and look of relief on Duncalf’s face was evidence of the frustration of never having previously reached this stage.

“It was maybe a bit tentative at the start but I felt more comfortable after I’d taken the first, that was massive,” admitted Duncalf.

“I’m just thrilled to reach the World Open final, if there was one match you’d choose to be in, that would be it.”

Jenny Duncalf (right) pvercomes Mexico's Samantha Teran

Nicol makes another

In the final she will meet Nicol David, the five-time champion who will be aiming to break Sarah Fitz-Gerald’s record.In comparison to the first semi-final, both David and Natalie Grinham knew each other well having already contested two World Open finals among the 28 meetings between the two of them.

However, there were comparisons with the first match. A tight first game, a comfortable second and a third where a comeback threatened but not quite delivered. Even the scorelines were just one point apart, but the story was the same, and the top seed prevailed.

“It was a bit like deja vu all over again,” joked Nicol, “but playing Natalie again on her home turf, with a big crowd like this it was always going to be difficult, and winning that first game was crucial.

“You can’t afford to think about it being a World Open semi-final, and breaking records or anything like that, you just have to treat it as another tournament, keep your focus and play each match as it comes.”It great to play in such a fantastic venue and I think the crowd was even noisier tonight than in Amsterdam!”

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