By MATTHEW LOMBARDI
Pictures by DAVID TURBEN
Nicol David triumphs in Cleveland after a close-fought win over Laura Massaro to claim the WSA Gold $50k Cleveland Classic 2012.
The world No1 lost out at the hand of Massaro last year, with Cleveland 2011 being one of just two WSA titles she was unable to win. Revenge was exacted this year however, despite early signs that the Englishwoman was unwilling to relinquish her title.
Massaro started strongly, establishing a deliberate rhythm and showing precise racquet work to reel off four winners on her way to a 6-0 lead. David was given the chance to counter, after some unforced errors from her opponent allowed her a way back into the game. Neither player could keep errors from their game as they battled for the advantage.
The English No2 took the first game 11-7, but not before David had upped the pace, the faster tempo more suiting the Malaysian’s game and was a sign of things to come.
The second game was a highly close-fought affair, with neither player moving out of reach of the other. The scores were level at 9-9 until a fortunate back-court nick gave Massaro game ball.
The following point was the turning point to the match. Massaro, keen to finish the game off, hit a string of likely winners all of which were scraped back by David until one such retrieval lodged itself in the back corner to force the tiebreak. Almost a similar display of shot returns from Massaro followed, but she was just unable to find the quality of return to force the World Champion off guard and succumbed 12-10.
David didn’t find the tin once in the third, buoyed by her fight-back in the second game. Her improved execution would be decisive in her taking the game 11-7, with Massaro seeming to have dropped of the pace.
In the fourth she began forcing Massaro to the front of the court, an effective strategy against the English player’s tiring legs. David raced to a 7-1 lead, heavily utilising the drops and drives fed from Massaro counter-drops. The Englishwoman still had some fight in her, coming back to within two points at 9-7, but a marginal stroke gave David match ball, and after knocking a backhand overhead into the tin, she hit an unreachable drive that gave the Malaysian the championship, and her 59thtitle.
 Nicol David (MAS) v  Laura Massaro (ENG) 7-11, 12-10, 11-7, 11-8 (57m)
 Nicol David (MAS) bt  Madeline Perry (IRL) 11-3, 11-4, 11-6 (31m)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) bt Amanda Sobhy (USA) 11-9, 11-5, 11-6 (28m)
 Nicol David (MAS) bt  Annie Au (HKG) 11-5, 11-6, 11-1 (27m)
 Madeline Perry (IRL) bt  Raneem El Weleily (EGY) 11-8, 9-11, 14-12, 11-3 (41m)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) bt [Q] Donna Urquhart (AUS) 11-8, 4-11, 11-6, 11-2 (40m)
Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt  Jenny Duncalf (ENG) 6-11, 11-5, 11-3, 4-1 ret.
 Nicol David (MAS) bt [Q] Joelle King (NZL) 11-4, 11-9, 9-11, 8-11, 11-7 (63m)
 Annie Au (HKG) bt Camille Serme (FRA) w/o
 Madeline Perry (IRL) bt [Q] Jaclyn Hawkes (NZL) 11-7, 11-9, 11-6 (35m)
 Raneem El Weleily (EGY) bt Natalie Grinham (NED) 11-13, 11-7, 11-4, 11-9 (36m)
[Q] Donna Urquhart (AUS) bt  Kasey Brown (AUS) 10-12, 11-7, 11-6, 13-11 (62m)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) bt Low Wee Wern (MAS) 11-4, 11-5, 9-11, 11-5 (53m)
Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt  Rachael Grinham (AUS) 11-3, 11-7, 11-2 (19m)
 Jenny Duncalf (ENG) bt [Q] Sarah Kippax (ENG) 11-8, 12-10, 11-7 (52m)