2:14 am
15 Apr 2024

Tough Battles Resolve World Open Qualifiers In Madrid

22 Oct 2007

Players from seven nations - two from England and one from each of Netherlands, Italy, New Zealand, Canada, Denmark and Ireland - claimed places in the main draw of the Madrid Women's World Open after surviving testing qualifying finals today at Club Palestra in the Spanish capital.

The lengthiest battle saw Louise Crome boost New Zealand interest in the sport's biggest-ever event by 50% when she outlasted English fire-fighter Laura Hill 9-6, 6-9, 9-6, 3-9, 9-0.

"I knew the match would be a long and hard one," said the delighted 29-year-old from Auckland afterwards. "But I'm more happy about winning this because Laura is such a great player, so consistent - she doesn't make mistakes. I'm just ecstatic about qualifying for the first time."

It took 72 minutes to resolve the clash between Ireland's world No39 Aisling Blake and Canadian Carolyn Russell, ranked just 11 places below. Blake set off at a blistering pace, winning the opening game in a whitewash - but the 26-year-old from Sligo soon found herself 2/1 down going into the fourth game. Blake regrouped and ultimately pulled off a 9-0, 5-9, 7-9, 9-7, 9-2 win to qualify for the first time.

England's Suzie Pierrepont claimed the first qualifying slot after a stunning upset over Malaysia's Tricia Chuah, the top-ranked player in the qualifiers. It was a relieved and delighted 22-year-old from Sussex who came through - exactly a year after injuring her heel in the first round of the qualifiers in the 2006 World Open in Belfast, resulting in a layoff of some ten months!

"I'd never played Tricia before, but I knew on that court she would struggle. I spent most of the summer training in New York with Damon Brown. And I'm now waiting for my visa to come through so that I can go back and live there," Pierrepont explained.

"Having the heel injury last year, and being out of action for so long, really affects your ranking. I was 30 before I had the accident - and now I'm 45 - which makes such a difference in terms of qualifying for events like this. I'm now aiming for the low 20s, just as I was a year ago.

"But, having the long layoff has made me more aware of the work I need to do. I'm still not 100% confident of my heel - but, I'm not a size zero, so I have to be careful," added Pierrepont, the lowest-ranked player to qualify.

At the end of the day, the former European Junior champion was joined from the qualifiers by compatriot Lauren Briggs after the 28-year-old from Essex beat Pakistan's sole hope Carla Khan 7-9, 9-7, 9-3, 9-2. Briggs, ranked 24 in the world, will face New Zealand's tenth seed Shelley Kitchen in the first round, while Pierrepont will take on compatriot and close friend Alison Waters, the No12 seed.

Manuela Manetta became the first Italian ever to qualify for the Women's World Open when she beat Ireland's Laura Mylotte 9-4, 9-6, 9-1.

"I'd never played her before - but I knew it wasn't going to be easy. I really prepared myself well, though I was a bit nervous at the beginning. But once I started to play well I knew I could relax," said the 24-year-old from Parma.

"I am so very happy. I thought I played well - I've been working hard for the past three or four months with my coach Marcus Berrett in Milan (about an hour away from where I live) and I'm so glad it has all come together so well."

Dutch player Orla Noom, ranked 40 in the world, celebrated her first success in the qualifiers at her third attempt after upsetting England's Sarah Kippax, ranked nine places higher. Kippax fought back from 2/0 down to level the match, but Noom - despite winning the Leinster Open in Dublin only 48 hours before - had enough in reserve to pull off a notable 9-3, 9-6, 4-9, 1-9, 9-3 victory in 61 minutes.

"When I got the first match-ball, I felt I should play safe - and the rally seemed to go on for ages. At 3-8 down, I decided to be more adventurous and got a wonderful nick - so it was disappointing that I actually then won the match-ball on a stroke," explained the delighted 21-year-old from Hoofddorp.

"One of my goals this year was to qualify for the Worlds. But when the Leinster Open came up, I set my sights on winning that. So when I got here, I just decided to take it one match at a time - so I'm really happy to have qualified."

Qualifying finals:
Suzie Pierrepont (ENG) bt Tricia Chuah (MAS) 9-1, 9-6, 9-6 (34m)
Orla Noom (NED) bt Sarah Kippax (ENG) 9-3, 9-6, 4-9, 1-9, 9-3 (61m)
Manuela Manetta (ITA) bt Laura Mylotte (IRL) 9-4, 9-6, 9-1 (34m)
Louise Crome (NZL) bt Laura Hill (ENG) 9-6, 6-9, 9-6, 3-9, 9-0 (88m)
Runa Reta (CAN) bt Elise Ng (HKG) 0-9, 9-4, 9-4, 9-3 (71m)
Line Hansen (DEN) bt Margriet Huisman (NED) 9-2, 9-7, 9-3 (56m)
Aisling Blake (IRL) bt Carolyn Russell (CAN) 9-0, 5-9, 7-9, 9-7, 9-2 (72m)
Lauren Briggs (ENG) bt Carla Khan (PAK) 7-9, 9-7, 9-3, 9-2 (55m)