Mixed Fortunes For Gold Medallists In Delhi
9 Oct 2010
Squash's two new Commonwealth Games gold medallists suffered mixed fortunes in today's (Saturday) first qualifying rounds of the Doubles events when men's winner Nick Matthew triumphed in just 16 minutes in the Men's Doubles with England team-mate Adrian Grant, but Malaysian Nicol David went down in straight games in the Mixed event with partner Ong Beng Hee at the Siri Fort Complex in Delhi.
It was less than 15 hours after Matthew won his title on the all-glass showcourt that he found himself beginning his second medal campaign on a conventional glass-backed court at the Indian city's new sports complex.
And the 30-year-old world number two from Sheffield took full advantage of the fresh legs of partner Adrian Grant, the left-hander from London who was playing his first match in Delhi. The experienced pair - winners of the Australian Doubles Championship in August - cruised to an 11-1, 11-4 win over Cayman Islands duo Malton Blair & Alexander Frazer, both making their maiden appearance in the Games.
"I enjoyed it," said Matthew after his brief encounter on the court. "We feel we've got a good thing going - and hit the ground running. Adrian was buzzing and I was feeding off his energy."
The new Games champion had enjoyed precious little time to celebrate his gold medal: "After the medal ceremony I went straight back to the village where I had something to eat, then chatted with the guys back in the room, then had about five hours sleep, then got up this morning to be back here to play," explained the Yorkshireman who headed a 1-2-3 of Englishmen in the medals ceremony. "We'll have to leave the celebrations until we're back home."
Grant was delighted to be playing after being forced to sit out the singles competition: "I've been gearing up for this. It was good to see the guys winning all the medals. The energy I had not competing, and also seeing them on the podium, gave me an extra lift.
"And Nick's up for it just as much as I am," added the world No14, who celebrated his 30th birthday this week in Delhi.
Nicol David and Ong Beng Hee are no strangers to the Commonwealth Games Mixed Doubles event having clinched the event's silver medal in 2002. But the Malaysians met their match in Harry Leitch & Lisa Aitken after the tenth seeds from Scotland pulled off the day's biggest upset with a shock 11-9, 11-5 victory over the third seeds in 39 minutes.
While David has held the world number one ranking for 54 months and her partner was once No7 in the world, 25-year-old Leitch has never had a world ranking and Aitken currently stands at 183 in the women's world list!
"Doubles is a whole different ball game," explained David, the record five times world champion later. "We've both had busy years (on the singles circuit).
"It's all about communication," David continued. "The first match is always difficult.
"But we knew they'd been working hard.
"Beng Hee has been very patient with me. We've now just got to focus on our next match to make sure we get into the knockout stages."
Leitch, a Cambridge graduate who is now studying for a PhD at the world-famous University, was confident that the pair would do well. "We've been concentrating on doubles - it's so different from singles. We were confident that we could compete with opponents like this.
"Lisa's a rising star - she's going to be a great singles player."
Left-hander Aitken, a 20-year-old from Angus who was born in Dundee, admitted that it was strange to be on court with a player like Nicol David whom she has always looked up to.
"But we've been working on this for the past two years - and just had to put out of my mind who our opponents were."
Roger Flynn explained Scotland's doubles philosophy: "We're competitive in doubles because we've got a young team," said the country's national coach. "Apart from Alan Clyne, we're not competitive in singles yet - that will be our focus for 2014.
"With three gold medals in doubles, it makes sense for us to target those - it's more of an even game and we've worked hard at establishing our pairings: mature players with younger players, where the chemistry is right.
"We only have one doubles court in our country - it's in Clickamin on Shetland Island - and some years ago we took a large squad there to find our best pairings. Since then we have taken part in international doubles events in England, Australia and India."
Earlier in the day, Scotland again showed their doubles prowess when Lyall Paterson & Chris Small upset local stars Gaurav Nandrajog & Siddharth Suchde, the No8 seeds, 11-8, 11-8 in the Men's Doubles.
One of the highlights of the match was the reaction from the jubilant and vociferous crowd surrounding the all-glass showcourt: "The crowd were absolutely sensational," added Flynn. "Their exuberance was overwhelming and made for a great occasion."
"The crowd is unbelievable," said Indian National coach Cyrus Poncha. "I've never seen this before at an Indian squash event. I'm absolutely thrilled and delighted. This is truly a good sign for Indian squash."
Another good sign for Indian squash took place on one of the conventional courts where the country's top two players Saurav Ghosal & Joshna Chinappa took on Marlene West & Cameron Stafford of the Cayman Islands.
A queue of spectators stretched around the vast concourse of the Siri Fort Complex, desperate to get into the limited seating available for this popular mixed doubles clash.
Ghosal & Chinappa had been paired up less than 24 hours earlier, following the shock withdrawal of top Indian star Dipika Pallikal, the 19-year-old world No32 from Chennai who had been training for this event for some time with Ghosal. The teenager, laid low with a high fever, represented one of the host country's best medal hopes in the women's doubles event where she and Chinappa were the second seeds.
Ghosal and Chinappa, each now only competing in one doubles event, took the first game against the Cayman Islanders, but saw their opponents stage a remarkable fight back to draw level. The local stars regrouped to close out the match 11-6, 9-11, 11-5.
"We were a bit unsettled in the second game when our opponents switched over," explained Ghosal with his new partner after the game. "We made a few errors, and they took advantage - but we did well to impose ourselves on the third game and pull through."
On the last-minute change, Ghosal said: "Joshna's a really good player and we have played before, even though not for some time. I knew what she was capable of. It's just a matter of getting through the early rounds and getting the tactics right.
"The games we won, we won well - but we can produce better than that," added the world No26 from Chennai.
On the withdrawal of her women's doubles partner, Chinappa said: "I'm very sad for Dipika and hope she gets better soon. We were going for gold - which would have been great for us and our country - but I'm now going to have to settle for gold in the Mixed!
"Saurav and I only had a short time to practice together before today - but lots of time to talk, and that was very useful," concluded the 24-year-old from Chennai.
For more info, visit the WSF's dedicated Commonwealth Games site www.cwgsquash.com