World Open semi-finals – PREVIEW

Coming up in Rotterdam, the World Open Squash 2011 Semi-Finals:

[2] Jenny Duncalf (Eng) v [15] Samantha Teran (Mex)
[1] Nicol David (Mas) v [12] Natalie Grinham (Ned)

[1] Nick Matthew (Eng) v [3] Karim Darwish (Egy)
[4] James Willstrop (Eng) v [6] Gregory Gaultier (Fra)


Final places up for grabs

We’re down to the last eight players, out of 190 who set out eight days ago on the quest for the World Open Squash 2011 titles. There are many familiar faces here, as you would expect, plus one who is making her first appearance at this level.

England’s Jenny Duncalf has been world number two for almost two years, and will be making her second World Open semi-final appearance in her 11th outing in the event, having gone out at the quarter-final stage for the past three years. Her opponent, Samantha Teran, the recently crowned Pan American Games champion, has never been as remotely far as this in her seven appearances.

They’ve never met before, so this is new territory for both, but especially for the Mexican.

By contrast Nicol David and Natalie Grinham are no strangers, and they are well experienced at this level, playing in their 10th and 12th World Opens. David has dominated women’s squash in recent years, amassing five world titles and staying at the top of the rankings since August 2006.

Grinham, until she took time off to become a mother, was David’s main challenger for the best part of 2006 to 2009, rock solid ant number two and contesting virtually every major final with the Malaysian, including epic World Open finals in Belfast and Amsterdam.

Their rivalry goes all the way back to 2000, 31 matches of which Grinham has won just seven, and none of the last 13 since her last win in Seoul 2007. But the last two, the World Open final of 2009 and the Cayman Islands quarter-final this year were close, very close, and both look on good form this week – as has the crowd which is sure to get behind the Dutchwoman – so a good match is to be expected.

Nick Matthew and Karim Darwish are no strangers, to the event or to each other. Matthew, the defending champion, is playing his 11th World Open, Darwish his 10th.

Both have appeared in one final, the Egyptian losing out to compatriot Ramy Ashour in 2008 in Manchester, Matthew beating fellow-Englishman James Willstrop last year in Saudi Arabia.

They’ve met 10 times, Matthew holding a 6-4 advantage but one of those was a walkover and Darwish won their last match, in Qatar last year. If you’re a betting man you won’t find much advice here.

An even longer rivalry exists between James Willstrop and Gregory Gaultier.

The Frenchman had the edge over Willstrop (5-0) in their junior days, even though it was the Englishman who became World Junior Champion – in 2002, after Gaultier had lost his final in 2000 to Darwish.

As seniors they’ve met 15 times with Gaultier only just ahead at 8-7, but the last three have all gone the Frenchman’s way including the Qatar Classic final just days ago.

Both are World Open veterans, both appearing in their 10th event, and both have had the experience of losing in the final – twice for Gaultier, in 2006 and 2007, and once for Willstrop, last year.

Again, don’t expect a short match …

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