World Champion Downed As Lincou Reaches Dunlop British Open Final
17 Sep 2006
A dramatic conclusion to today's Dunlop British Open semi-finals session at the University of Nottingham saw France's Thierry Lincou stage a mighty recovery to beat Australia's world champion David Palmer to reach the final of the world's most prestigious event for the first time.
With the certainty of a new men's champion, Lincou will face Yorkshireman Nick Matthew - who earlier beat Egypt's Karim Darwish to take himself within a match of becoming only the second England player to win the men's British Open title since 1939.
Second seed David Palmer, who saved five match balls to win the World Open crown less than two weeks ago, relived the same experience in reverse when Lincou, the third seed from Marseille, first recovered from two games down - then prevented Palmer from converting five successive match balls before clinching his own at the first attempt to record a sensational 8-11, 10-11 (0-2), 11-9, 11-4, 11-10 (5-3) victory in 95 minutes.
It was a gutsy performance by both players, with the packed auditorium surrounding the all-glass court at the University Sports Centre vociferously supporting French 'underdog' Lincou.
"I just kept pushing, just kept trying," said a exhausted Lincou afterwards. "'You really helped me a lot', he told the crowd.
"It was just like Liverpool," said the world number three, recalling his fight back against the Australian in the final of the Liverpool 08 Open in May. "I knew there was a chance. But coming back from two games down against David is huge.
"He was getting tired, but I was exhausted too. Every time he hit the tin, I thought it was a gift from God."
When asked if he can win the title, the 30-year-old said: "It depends on my Physio. There's always a chance!"
Earlier, world No8 Matthew battled for 61 minutes to earn his first PSA Tour win over Darwish, the eighth seed, 11-9, 9-11, 11-6, 11-6.
"It was a bit of a scrappy game, with lots of lets and interruptions - which suits his game - so I had to resort to finding my length and getting back to playing squash," said Sheffield-based Matthew, who enjoys strong local support since leading Derbyshire club Duffield to the Premier League title earlier in the year.
"It was bound to be a bit tense for us both - two young players in the British Open semis for the first time.
"I didn't play my best squash - but I don't seem to against Karim, which is credit to him," added the 26-year-old England international.
"When it got to one-all, I knew the third would be vital - so I increased the intensity and lengthened the rallies. I tried to pretend my match was just a training match - in fact, I might make a few calls to get advice on how to treat tomorrow's final.
"I've got to move on, I can't afford to just dwell on this success today. Tomorrow's going to be a big day - there'll be lots of people to support me," concluded Matthew.
Australia's third seed Rachael Grinham reached her third women's British Open final - all of which have been in Nottingham - when she beat unseeded Engy Kheirallah in straight games. The first Egyptian woman to reach the event's semi-finals, 24-year-old Kheirallah led 4-0 and 5-2 in the first game - but Grinham won the next five points to build up a lead which she never lost, winning 9-7, 9-0, 9-2 in 29 minutes.
"I knew it was going to be a tough game - but also realised that Engy had had some long games, so I had to make her work for every point. I didn't want to give her any easy rallies," said the 29-year-old from Toowoomba in Queensland.
"I like playing on this glass court - I seem to see the ball more clearly."
When asked if she held any special affection for Nottingham, Grinham replied: "So far, for me, it's a pretty magical place!"
The first all-Grinham British Open final was put on hold for at least another year when Malaysia's Nicol David beat Rachael's younger sister Natalie Grinham 9-3, 9-3, 9-5 in the other women's semi-final.
David, who began her international breakthrough when winning last year's British Open led her to the top of the world rankings at the beginning of this year, battled for almost an hour to contain the 28-year-old world No4 who beat her the last time they met, in the semi-finals of the Commonwealth Games in Australia last March.
Asked whether the Games loss played on her mind during the match, the world champion and world number one replied: "You have to treat every new tournament as a different and fresh experience - that's in the past, and you have to learn from it and not repeat it.
"I'm more focussed now - I've added more stuff to my game," said David.
"I'm just glad to have pulled though that game - I'll think about the final tomorrow," added the defending champion.