8:28 am
24 Jul 2024

Hosts Dominate Games Finals In Melbourne

19 Mar 2006

Hosts Australia are in line to win double gold in the squash singles events at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne after men's favourite David Palmer fought through to the men's final - where he will meet England's former champion Peter Nicol - and Queensland sisters Rachael Grinham and Natalie Grinham will play out a surprise all-Australian women's final after third seed Natalie knocked out Malaysian favourite Nicol David.

The younger Grinham sister caused the biggest semi-finals day shock when she ousted David, the 22-year-old from Penang who arrived in Melbourne as World Champion, Asian champion and world number one - and was widely tipped to win her first Commonwealth Games gold medal.

Despite regularly training together in Amsterdam, the younger Grinham sister had not beaten David since 2004. But clearly inspired by her eve-of-Games wedding to Dutch squash international Tommy Berden, and her 28th birthday on the opening day of the event, Natalie twice came from behind to defeat the top-seeded Malaysian 9-10, 9-7, 4-9, 9-6, 9-3 in 85 minutes.

"I did my best and tried to take control of the match but she just took advantage of everything," said Nicol David later.

Natalie Grinham agreed that the conditions suited her well: "The crowd really helped me," said the world No4 from Toowoomba.

In the other women's semi-final, Rachael Grinham stopped New Zealand giant-killer Shelley Kitchen 10-8, 9-4, 9-2 in 41 minutes. The No9 seed from Auckland had reached the semis after two successive upsets over higher-seeded English opponents, but 29-year-old Grinham senior was just too strong, leaving the Kiwi to fight for a bronze medal against Nicol David.

"Tomorrow, Natalie and I won't care who'll win, we'll be happy for the other one if we lose - we're just going to have a great day, it's everything we could hope for and we couldn't wish for a better result," second seed Rachael, a bronze medallist in 2002, told www.cgsquash.com.

The pair's meeting will ensure that the women's title will remain in Australian hands for the third successive Games after wins by Michelle Martin in 1998 and Sarah Fitz-Gerald in 2002.

The first men's semi-finals at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre produced an epic battle between English team-mates Peter Nicol and Nick Matthew, with fourth seed Nicol prevailing 3-9, 9-5, 9-4, 9-5 in 85 minutes against his seventh-seeded compatriot to reach the final for the third successive year.

Nicol, the singles gold medallist in 1998, will face David Palmer after the top-seeded Australian despatched England's fifth seed Lee Beachill 9-0, 9-4, 9-4 in 59 minutes.

"It was definitely my best performance so far. It was amazing having the crowd on my side," said Palmer, a bronze medallist in the Manchester Games.

Nicol beat Palmer in the semi-finals in Manchester and currently boasts a 10-6 lead over the Australian in their head-to-head tally since 2001. But the Australian was victorious in their most recent meeting, in the Kuwait Open in March last year.

Men's semi-finals:
[1] David Palmer (AUS) bt [5] Lee Beachill (ENG) 9-0, 9-4, 9-4 (59m)
[4] Peter Nicol (ENG) bt [7] Nick Matthew (ENG) 3-9, 9-5, 9-4, 9-5 (85m)

Women's semi-finals:
[3] Natalie Grinham (AUS) bt [1] Nicol David (MAS) 9-10, 9-7, 4-9, 9-6, 9-3 (85m)
[2] Rachael Grinham (AUS) bt [9] Shelley Kitchen (NZL) 10-8, 9-4, 9-2 (41m)