Natalie Grinham Takes Dutch Interest Into World Open Quarters

24 Sep 09

Dutch number one Natalie Grinham ensured domestic interest in the quarter-finals of the Forexx Women's World Open Squash 2009 when she beat former compatriot Kasey Brown in straight games in the second round of the $118,000 WISPA World Tour event at Frans Otten Stadion in the Netherlands capital Amsterdam.

And the Almere star looked likely to be joined in the last eight by fellow countrywoman Vanessa Atkinson when the 11 times Dutch national champion took a surprise two-game lead over Natalie's older sister Rachael Grinham, the third seed who represents Australia.

But Grinham senior denied the hosts the first ever appearance of two Dutch players in the world quarter-finals when she battled back to beat Atkinson 7-11, 8-11, 11-6, 11-6, 11-3.

Natalie Grinham moved one step closer to her fourth appearance in a World Open final - as suggested by the seedings - when she beat Brown 11-4, 11-8, 11-8 in 26 minutes.

But Australian-born Grinham, the world number three who became a Dutch citizen early last year, had to fight back from 1-5 and 5-7 down in the second game before overcoming the world No11 from New South Wales.

"I'm happy that I won today," said the 31-year-old from Almere who was runner-up in the event in 2004, 2006 and 2007.

Grinham is fighting back after suffering with whopping cough for three months at the beginning of the year. "I feel that I'm fitter now than I was two years ago, when I reached the World Open final in Madrid. I'm under a bit of pressure with the expectations on me to do well here - but I do well when there's a bit of pressure.

"I was a little bit nervous in the second game when she started picking up the pace."

Grinham now meets England's No8 seed Laura Massaro for a place in the semi-finals: "Every match is a new match, I don't think of previous meetings," said the Dutch hope when reminded that the English player won their two most recent meetings - when Grinham was less than 100%.

Rachael Grinham arrived in Amsterdam fresh from winning the British Open title last week - for the fourth time. But the 32-year-old world No4, a former world champion, was outplayed for the first two games as Atkinson - also a winner of the event, in 2004 - took control.

Grinham senior changed her tactics and began to assert her authority on the match - ultimately clinching a 7-11, 8-11, 11-6, 11-6, 11-3 victory after 50 minutes.

"I've had a lot of matches with Vanessa in the past. You never what's going to happen - when she's on form, she's really good," exclaimed a relieved Grinham after her biggest test in the event.

"I felt I played all right - but I was outplayed in the first two games. But coming back from 2/0 down is another big boost for me.

"Perhaps I was just trying too hard in the first two games - I had to go back to basics in the third and just hit a decent length," explained the Queenslander.

"I've obviously peaked," confessed Grinham. "But I do feel I'm capable of winning matches against the top girls."

Atkinson admitted she was disappointed, but pleased with the way she played: "In patches, I felt as if I played as well as I ever have," said the former world number one who is combining playing on the Tour with studying for an English Literature degree at Leeds Metropolitan University in England.

"It's given me a new lease of life. I was struggling with motivation before and now I'm happy just to be able to compete at this level - I'm not too worried about the results."

At the end of the night, world number one Nicol David sauntered into the last eight, beating unseeded French player Camille Serme 11-3, 11-5, 11-0.

Since last playing the Malaysian three years ago in the World Team Championship, Serme made rapid progress through the junior ranks - winning the European Junior crown a record three times - and reaching 18 in the world.

"Maybe that's why I expected to do better," said the downcast 20-year-old. "She's far too good for me at the back of the court - and I made too many mistakes."

England team-mates Laura Massaro and Jenny Duncalf earned early places in the last eight in the afternoon session. Massaro, the No8 seed from Preston in Lancashire, recovered from a game down against Annie Au to beat the tricky Hong Kong left-hander 8-11, 11-9, 11-7, 11-9.

"It was tough - she plays a bit differently to the other girls, she doesn't let you get into any rhythm," said Massaro, the world No9. "She's difficult to read - she's a left-hander, and there are so few of them. Anything short and she puts it away. I don't feel I played that well - I'm just happy to be through."

Duncalf extended her winning run against Engy Kheirallah when she beat the unseeded Egyptian 11-9, 11-9, 11-8. The 26-year-old British National champion from Harrogate had to come from behind in all the games before overcoming Kheirallah, the Cairo-based former world No12 who upset 14th seed Jaclyn Hawkes to reach the last sixteen.

"I'm happy to win in three - Engy's a good player. It's all going well here so far," added the fifth seed who reached the semi-finals last year.

There was further British success when Ireland's Madeline Perry despatched Rebecca Chiu, the 13th seed from Hong Kong, 11-8, 11-4, 11-5 in just 24 minutes to reach the quarter-finals for the fourth time since 2005.

Only a week ago, the 32-year-old from Banbridge, near Belfast, became the first Northern Ireland woman to reach a British Open final. And the No7 seed was 4-5 down on the career head-to-head count with Chiu before they walked onto the all-glass Amsterdam show court.

"I'm glad to even the score. I was a bit nervous really, after doing well last week. But I was happier with today's performance than yesterday's - I was more focussed."

Perry's historic British Open performance led to considerable media coverage back home: "It's nice to get some recognition for your achievements - but I've given up on being famous!"

Egypt's former world junior champion Omneya Abdel Kawy secured a place in the last eight of the World Open for the fifth year in a row after defeating Mexican Samantha Teran, the 15th seed, 8-11, 11-5, 11-4, 11-7.

"It's good to be in the quarter-finals of the World Open for the fifth time - but I hope it will be my first time in the semis, so I'm looking forward to my match tomorrow," said the sixth seed from Cairo.

"I've always had a tough draw in the worlds - I've lost three times to Nicol - so I'm glad if I play Rachael as our results are closer. Whoever I play, I'll chill out for the rest of the day, then work out a plan with my coach tomorrow.

"I feel I'm still improving - I'm still young, you know," exclaimed the 24-year-old world No7. "I'm working on some stuff and hopefully it will work. I feel I am consistent. I've been around the lower half of the top ten for a long time now - but I need one more step. I need a change."

2nd round:
[1] Nicol David (MAS) bt Camille Serme (FRA) 11-3, 11-5, 11-0 (23m)
[5] Jenny Duncalf (ENG) bt Engy Kheirallah (EGY) 11-9, 11-9, 11-8 (52m)
[4] Alison Waters (ENG) bt [16] Raneem El Weleily (EGY) 10-12, 11-7, 11-5, 11-13, 11-7 (58m)
[7] Madeline Perry (IRL) bt [13] Rebecca Chiu (HKG) 11-8, 11-4, 11-5 (24m)
[6] Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY) bt [15] Samantha Teran (MEX) 8-11, 11-5, 11-4, 11-7 (33m)
[3] Rachael Grinham (AUS) bt [11] Vanessa Atkinson (NED) 7-11, 8-11, 11-6, 11-6, 11-3 (50m)
[8] Laura Massaro (ENG) bt [12] Annie Au (HKG) 8-11, 11-9, 11-7, 11-9 (45m)
[2] Natalie Grinham (NED) bt [10] Kasey Brown (AUS) 11-4, 11-8, 11-8 (26m)