Aussie veteran denies Nick Matthew second gold with his own double strike
By HOWARD HARDING – Squash Mad Reporter
A fairy-tale climax to David Palmer’s comeback appearance in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Scotland saw the illustrious Australian veteran win two gold medals on the final day of Squash action at the Scotstoun Sports Campus in Glasgow.
The 38-year-old former world number one and world champion retired from the international circuit three years ago. But, despite having a then record six Games medals to his credit over four events since 1998, Palmer was looking for a first ever gold.
Minutes after winning gold in the mixed doubles final with Rachael Grinham on the spectacular all-glass showcourt surrounded by a capacity finals day crowd in excess of 2,000, Palmer was back on the court with world No20 Cameron Pilley to do battle with English pair Adrian Grant and Nick Matthew, the defending champions eager to maintain England’s 16-year grip on the men’s doubles gold medal.
Grinham & Palmer beat England’s Alison Waters & Peter Barker 11-8, 11-10 – then recovered from losing the first game in the men’s final to beat Matthew & Grant, from 1-4 down in the decider, 10-11, 11-7, 11-9 in a mighty 80 minutes.
The second triumph takes Palmer’s total Games medal haul to eight – a new record.
“I think that’s it now,” said Palmer when asked if he might compete in the 2018 Games in his homeland. “I hope I will be at the Gold Coast Games – not as player, but watching!
“I’ve achieved what I wanted to – it’s a dream come true.
“Before we arrived, I thought I had a better chance in the mixed with Rachael as we read each other’s games well and her variation and style suits my game,” explained US-based Palmer.
“The men’s was always going to be tough as England have dominated the event since the beginning and Nick and Adrian are so strong – we knew it would be a huge effort to beat them.
“We were trying to hang in there in the third game, and I dropped off the pace a bit – but Pilley really stepped up and hit some incredible shots.
“It was good that we got off 2/0 in the mixed – especially as they really got off to a good start in the second and were really focussed.
“It was better to keep going,” said Palmer when asked about having to play the two matches back-to-back. “I had a quick shower after the first match to freshen up.
“I knew the schedule would be tough but I didn’t play the singles – I enjoyed the first week watching the matches – Nick and James’s singles final was a great match.
“It probably was the toughest day of my life – especially at 38 – but in the end I got over the line.
“This is great for me personally – but I hope it will also help Squash Australia. Winning two golds should help the funding,” concluded the double gold medallist.
Matthew, the world No2, said after the match: “I thought the good start in the final game was going to carry us through but you can second-guess every shot in doubles.
“We did ourselves proud, we put our game plan into practice – but they pulled off two great shots to win.
“It’s been amazing here right from the word go. It’s the best Team England I’ve ever been part of – the spirit of the team has been fantastic. The fact that I carried the flag at the Opening Ceremony still gives me goose-bumps – it was a pity not to end on a high. Next week will probably be a bit of a comedown.
“I think the doubles came out well – with a lot more credit than it had in Delhi. Doubles is now on a high after that.”
Team-mate Grant added: “Credit where it’s due to the Australians, they fought hard and we fought hard – that’s what the crowd wanted to see. Everyone was excited to see the doubles.”
After her gold medal success in the mixed final – a win which takes her all-time medal tally to seven – Grinham said: “Doubles is so different – you can’t relax for a minute or it’ll get away from you really quickly.
“I think I played really well considering. They put us under a lot of pressure.
“David and I have played together so much – we’ve even won British Opens together! We’re a bit older than the others – but to finally get this gold together is quite special for us,” added the 37-year-old Queenslander.
Barker and Waters led 9-5 in the second game of the mixed final and were unable to convert three game-balls. “We are disappointed to not convert that lead in the second game,” said Londoner Barker. “We played well throughout but in the first game they just hit some unbelievable winners.
“We’ve got no complaints. I actually think we played the best we’ve played all week but they were just better. I felt it was a really good final – how doubles should be played!”
Waters added: “The Games have been absolutely brilliant, we have had a lot of success as Team England and I have loved playing here.”
Cameron Pilley won a second medal of the day in the mixed doubles bronze medal play-off earlier. He and Kasey Brown beat New Zealand duo Joelle King & Martin Knight 8-11, 11-9, 11-8 in a repeat of the 2010 final.
“We won from a game down last time,” said Brown. “I really wanted to come away with a medal here.”
Pilley added: “We were confident going into the second. I am so happy.”
The other bronze match saw England pair Daryl Selby & James Willstrop defeat home hopes Alan Clyne & Harry Leitch 11-9, 11-7. It was a bitter blow for the Scots – massively supported by the vociferous crowd – who also finished in fourth place in Delhi.
“We are absolutely gutted,” said Leitch. “We came here for a medal.”
A jubilant Selby, now with a first Commonwealth Games medal to his credit, said: “It’s the biggest two weeks of my career – it’s what I wanted, a Commonwealth Games medal. This is our Olympics.
“It’s a pleasure to share it with James – we’ve both put in a lot of hard work for this. We picked ourselves up from yesterday when we were punished.”
Men’s Doubles final:
 David Palmer & Cameron Pilley (AUS) bt  Adrian Grant & Nick Matthew (ENG) 10-11, 11-7, 11-9 (80m)
Bronze medal play-off:
 Daryl Selby & James Willstrop (ENG) bt  Alan Clyne & Harry Leitch (SCO) 11-9, 11-7 (79m)
Mixed Doubles final:
 Rachael Grinham & David Palmer (AUS) bt  Alison Waters & Peter Barker (ENG) 11-8, 11-10 (48m)
Bronze medal play-off:
 Kasey Brown & Cameron Pilley (AUS) bt  Joelle King & Martin Knight (NZL) 8-11, 11-9, 11-8 (78m)