Delaware Investments U.S. Open 2012, Day Six
Tue 9th Oct, Quarterfinals, Top Half:
[Q] Joelle King (Nzl) bt  Jenny Duncalf (Eng) 8-11, 11-4, 11-3, 8-11, 11-5 (42m)
 Nicol David (Mas) bt [Q] Alison Waters (Eng) 11-5, 11-7, 11-9 (41m)
 Gregory Gaultier (Fra) bt  Karim Darwish (Egy) 6-11, 11-5, 11-5, 11-4 (61m)
The first day of quarterfinal action in the Delaware Investments U.S. Open at Philadelphia’s Drexel University started with a major upset, followed by three contrasting wins for the seeded players.
King qualifies for semifinal
Duncalf, hitting the tin far too frequently for her own good, was in some ways fortunate to take a first game in which she didn’t play well, but the New Zealander took complete control in the next two games, adding her own driving winners and drops to Duncalf’s still too high error count.
The start of the decider was always likely to be crucial, and a 5-0 then 7-1 start for King proved enough. Duncalf started playing some of her best squash, but the gap was too much to bridge, and on her second match ball King was through to the semis.
“There’s less pressure on you when you’re not the seeded players,” explained a delighted winner, “but I’ve been at this level for a while and been close to some big wins so the pressure was maybe from myself.
“In the first game I felt I was in control, but not in control, it was weird. But then I got ahead, she came back but I managed to close it out.
“I’m absolutely stoked to get through, it’s my first semifinal of a Gold event, let alone a World Series, I’m so so pleased!”
Nicol extracts the first bit of revenge
The second women’s quarterfinal offered the prospect of guaranteeing a qualifier in the final, but only if Alison Waters could repeat last week’s win over Nicol David, the dominant force in women’s squash for the last six years.
Not many people have ever beaten Nicol twice in a row, and tonight the Malaysian world number one and world champion was in no mood for a repeat setback.
It wasn’t a dominant performance, but Nicol was always a little bit faster to the ball, a little bit tighter, and apart from the third when Alison kept it level pegging all the way to 9-all, David was always a little bit ahead.
Waters led 9-8 in that third, but a series of great lengths from the Malaysian racket levelled it at 9-all, a dropshot off a loose volley gave her match ball, and Alison’s volley into the tin brought the end as the Englishwoman’s racket went flying in disgust.
That’s one aberration removed for Nicol, now she’ll be aiming to complete the run to the title to remove another.
“She was always going to be up for it having beaten me last week,” said a relieved and delighted winner, “so I knew I had to start strong and fight for every point to stop her getting the feeling she had it again.
“I think I got used to playing on the court a bit quicker than her, but in the third she was finding her length better and becoming more comfortable, it was neck and neck so I was really pleased to finish it in three.
“Hopefully this should kick start me for a big push in the rest of the tournament …”
Willstrop wins a bruiser
He had to wait until the fifth though to open up that commanding lead, having shared the first four games with young Egyptian Mohamed El Shorbagy in a tough, often brutal encounter lasting 90 minutes.
The Englishman started well enough, helped by a number of errors from Shorbagy, to take the first game, but Shorbagy stepped up the pace, cut down the errors, and for the next three games there was nothing to choose between them.
Into the decider then, and now Willstrop’s control and physical conditioning that has improved so much started to pay dividends.
At 10-0 Shorbagy finally found a dropshot to claim a bagel-saving point, raised his arms and cried “yes” to the delight of the crowd. Four more points, all from crisp winners followed, and thoughts started to turn to the impossible comeback. A loose shot resulting in a stroke put paid to those hopes and a relieved and tired Willstrop was through to a second successive U.S. Open semifinal.
“I had a good first, but then he started playing at a really good place and I was failing to take the chances I gave myself at the front, I was a bit weak and tentative in that area ad that helped him.
“I was pleased with the fifth, mentally and physically, but when he starts coming back hitting winners you just have to pay your game and not panic. If he’d made it you’d have to take your hat off to him, but it was unlikely.
“I’m pleased to get through a match like that, and the format of this tournament with split first round and quarters is best for the players, so I’ll be able to get a bit of recovery tomorrow.”
Greg finishes strongly
The Frenchman found improved consistency from the outset of the second game and proceeded to dominate the rest of the match, showing determination when necessary as well as his renowned shotmaking skills.
“I struggled at the beginning,” admitted Gaultier, “I had the wrong strategy, going to the front too soon and he dominated me. I changed my tactics completely at the start of the second, tried to push him to the back and take things on the volley as much as I could and it paid off.
“I’m happy to play James again, we had an unbelievable match in Manchester and I’m looking forward to trying to get my revenge.”
Tomorrow – Wednesday – sees the completion of the quarterfinals with two more England v Egypt men’s matches including a repeat of last year’s final between Amr Shabana and Nick Matthew, and defending women’s champion and new world number two Laura Massaro also in action, starting at 5pm.