From MATT WAGG
Jenny Duncalf ensures an English finalist at the World Series Finals at Queen’s Club, London this weekend after qualifying from the group stage.
The 30-year-old from Harrogate, Yorkshire had to beat Nour El Sherbini of Egypt to see her progress to tomorrow’s semi-final round, where she will play fellow home hopeful Laura Massaro.
Duncalf’s match, the longest so far this week at 42mins, saw a marathon first game as the players were tied at neck-and-neck from the first pointed. Nothing was separating the pair, who were finding good range of lengths and attacking shots. It was Duncalf who reached game-ball first, but was unable to finish off the point before Sherbini forced the tie-break. A 21-minute first game was finally finished off by the experienced Englishwoman as two backhand drops broke the deadlock, the first an outright winner, and the second a deft flick crosscourt, sending her opponent the wrong way.
Sherbini, world No.6 at just 17-years-old, stormed back onto court and to a dominant lead in the second game, which Duncalf’s influence seeming to have wilted since her tiebreak win. Five consecutive points saw an 8-2 lead for the teenager, and her strong hitting and deadly front-court attacks quickly saw her level the contest at one game-all.
Another game of cat-and-mouse ensued for the deciding contest with Sherbini just ahead for most of the game, but with Duncalf in hot pursuit. The aggressive play from both players forced errors on occasion, but neither play was willing to give an inch with a semi-final place on the line. Duncalf drew level at 8-all following a Sherbini stroke, and at 9-all another tiebreak seemed likely.
The young teenager then hit an unforced error in to the tin to gift the Englishwoman match-point, and a no let against the Egyptian allowed Duncalf to progress in second place from Pool B, and into the semi-finals.
Having already qualified from Pool A, Laura Massaro played a dead-rubber against Annie Au, who was already consigned to that fact that she could not progress to the next round.
Playing for pride alone, the Hong Kong international made an impressive attacking effort against England’s top seed, and stormed to a five-point lead at the mid-way stage. It was a gap that Massaro was unable to close, as Au hit winners from every part of the court and the world No.10 looked good value for her first game win.
Storming off to a three-point lead, a similar story seemed to be unfolding in the second game. Massaro had other ideas however, and claimed six successive points to exert her authority on the match. Au was still looking dangerous when given the opportunity, but Massaro claimed the game to draw level.
Again Au took an early lead, with Massaro seeming to lack a specific game plan to get the ball passed her opponent consistently. Au held her lead throughout the game, and Massaro was unable to close the gap, as the Hong Kong player closed out a consolatory victory.
Nicol David bounced back from her defeat yesterday to confirm her progression from the group stage of the World Series Finals.
The World Open champion defeated Natalie Grinham in straight games in the first match of the day, to ensure her place in tomorrow’s semi-final round ahead of the Dutchwoman.
After her loss at the hands of Laura Massaro, David wasted no time in gaining the upper hand in today’s clash, winning nine-points in a row to reach game-ball. Grinham’s attacking approached seemed a little too eager and her rush to take the ball short increased her error-count considerably.
The second game was a closer contest, with Grinham seemingly more patient and willing to work the rallies in her favour before taking on the winning shot. The errors were not completely removed from her game, but she was rewarded with a much more competitive display.
At 6-all, the world No.12 was in a good position to make her mark on the contest, but David had other ideas. Upping the pace, as she is renowned for doing, and leaping onto loose balls, she closed the match out 11-8 to ensure her progression to the weekend’s semi-finals.
David will play Camille Serme in tomorrow’s semi-final match, in a repeat of last month’s Hong Kong Open final. Serme, having already qualified from Pool B with two victories, played world No.2 Raneem El Weleily who was yet to win a match in the competition.
With the pressure off and playing for pride, the Egyptian set about an attacking master-class against Serme, whose own attacking fortitude was also evident in a narrow first game. The pair continued to trade blows in the second with the scores tied at the mid-way stage, but Weleily crept ahead and held onto her lead to lose out the straight-game victory.
Serme, already through, qualifies first from Pool B and will play Pool A runner-up Nicol David in tomorrow’s semi-final match, to be broadcast live on SkySports from 6pm.