9:58 am
24 Jul 2024

Peter Nicol & Natalie Grinham Strike Gold In Melbourne

20 Mar 2006

England's Peter Nicol and Australia's Natalie Grinham struck gold in the squash singles finals today at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne - Nicol beating top-seeded Australian David Palmer in his third successive singles final to reclaim the title he won eight years ago in Malaysia, and Natalie Grinham upsetting her higher-seeded older sister Rachael Grinham to win the women's crown for the first time.

In the bronze medal play-offs, Lee Beachill beat his England team-mate Nick Matthew in straight games and New Zealand's ninth seed Shelley Kitchen pulled off her third upset in the event by overcoming Malaysia's top seed Nicol David.

In a marathon men's final before a sell-out crowd at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre, Peter Nicol clinched his third successive Games gold medal with a sensational 9-5, 10-8, 4-9, 9-2 victory over the Australian favourite.

"I am in shock. I can't believe I have won it," said the 32-year-old from London after his dramatic win over the world No2 in 109 minutes - the longest match of the tournament.

"I was overcome with emotion and I have never felt that before in my entire squash career. I wanted to win so desperately, and I wanted to make amends for Manchester.

"This is everything I have been working for, for the last sixteen months, and for my whole career really," added Nicol, one of the oldest players in the tournament, who won gold in the men's singles for Scotland in Kuala Lumpur in 1998, and gold for England in the men's doubles in Manchester. He also took silver in the men's singles in 2002.

"During that last game, I was so tired - but it was the best game of squash I have ever played. It was a constant mental battle. I knew he was tired and was giving it everything he had to get back in the third game. I knew that if I could get ahead it would be very hard for him."

"I almost felt that it was my destiny win," he added, after winning his 52nd major international title.

After taking the first game, Nicol led throughout the second but needed four game balls from 8-5 before finally securing the long energy-sapping game 10-8. Palmer took the upper hand against the increasingly tired-looking Englishman in the third and, after a brief break while a cut to a finger on Nicol's left hand was treated, the Australian reduced the deficit by winning the game.

However, it was a rejuvenated Nicol that returned for the fourth and, in a single hand from 5-2 up, took the game and the match with a sensational display of the highest-quality squash.

Lee Beachill, the fifth seed from Pontefract, beat seventh-seeded Nick Matthew 9-3, 9-7, 9-3 for the men's bronze medal.

"I came off the court last night, having lost the semi-finals, and didn't really feel that I had done anything wrong, so I was hoping to get back on the court today and just pick up where I had left off," said Beachill afterwards.

"After my operation at Christmas, the Commonwealth Games were a big target for me. I would have been devastated to miss it. To come here and get a singles medal is brilliant."

For Nick Matthew, from Sheffield, it was the third all-England clash that he had battled and the second he had lost. Afterwards he revealed: "Motivation wasn't a problem - I just felt mentally drained. It was definitely hard to be at 100% level, but Lee deserved to win.

"I have slightly mixed emotions. I am delighted with the way I performed here. I have played some of the best squash of my career and came incredibly close to the finals. But I'm disappointed that I have ended up with nothing."

Queenslander Natalie Grinham, the third seed, reached the final after a stunning upset over Malaysian favourite Nicol David, the world No1, in the semi-finals. Clearly buoyed by her eve-of-event wedding to Dutch international Tommy Berden, and her 28th birthday on the opening day of competition, Natalie maintained her excellent form to defeat her second-seeded sister Rachael 2-9, 9-6, 9-1, 9-6 in 49 minutes.

Despite both having played on the WISPA World Tour for more than ten years, the pair have only faced each other ten times since their first meeting in 2001 in the KL Open in Malaysia - their only other meeting in a final. This was also Natalie's first win over 29-year-old Rachael for two years.

"I was pretty high on winning yesterday - actually I got the feeling I'd won the gold medal when I beat the world number one," said Natalie later to www.cgsquash.com. "It's a shock for us this week as our Mum was there during the whole event - and normally when she comes, we have an awful tournament.

"Who does she support? Me, of course, I'm the youngest - she feels sorry for me!"

Rachael, who maintained a 17-month hold on the world number one ranking until last December, admitted that Natalie is playing well at the moment, and that she found it difficult motivating herself to beat her younger sister in the final - "I guess it felt like we already won, just in reaching the final."

"I didn't have my sister in my corner to coach me - that's what went wrong today!" joked Grinham senior.

Nicol David started strongly in the women's bronze medal play-off, winning the opening game against Kitchen.

But the 26-year-old from Auckland rebounded in the second game to draw level, then kept her momentum going to close out a memorable 5-9, 9-6, 9-5, 9-2 victory in 53 minutes.

"This was a tough game for me," commented Kitchen after her first win in nine meetings since 2003.

"From the very start I knew it was going to be tough but I slowly found my rhythm towards the end of the second game."

David was full of praise for the performance of her opponent.

"She always gives it her best, she played a great game," said David. "Yesterday really took it out of me and to come back and play my best was difficult."

Men's final:
[4] Peter Nicol (ENG) bt [1] David Palmer (AUS) 9-5, 10-8, 4-9, 9-2 (109m)
Bronze medal play-off:
[5] Lee Beachill (ENG) bt [7] Nick Matthew (ENG) 9-3, 9-7, 9-3 (47m)

Women's final:
[3] Natalie Grinham (AUS) bt [2] Rachael Grinham (AUS) 2-9, 9-6, 9-1, 9-6 (49m)
Bronze medal play-off:
[9] Shelley Kitchen (NZL) bt [1] Nicol David (MAS) 5-9, 9-6, 9-5, 9-2 (53m)