11:28 am
16 Apr 2024

Kitchen Sinks Nicol As World Champion Ends Her Reign In Spain

24 Oct 2007

In one of the biggest upsets in the 28-year history of the event, Malaysia's world number one and top seed Nicol David crashed out of the Madrid Women's World Open when she was beaten in five games by New Zealand's Shelley Kitchen in a dramatic second round match in the biggest-ever women's squash event at Club Palestra in the Spanish capital.

Kitchen romped to a two game lead after just 24 minutes - the two times world champion only managing to pick up a single point. But the redoubtable David forced her way back into the match to draw level.

Order looked as if it was about to be restored when the 24-year-old Malaysian superstar - widely expected to reach her 18th successive final on the WISPA World Tour - took a 5-0 lead in the decider. However, the 27-year-old from Auckland regained the upper hand - and, after drawing level to six-all in three hands, took the final three points in a single hand to earn a sensational 9-0, 9-1, 2-9, 3-9, 9-6 victory in 69 minutes.

"I can't really believe it," said the ecstatic Kiwi afterwards. "It's great to get to the quarter-finals of the World Open - but to have done it by beating Nicol, who is such a great competitor and so good on court, is extra special."

When asked about her tactics for the match, the tenth seed replied: "I just wanted to stop her volleying - I wanted to hit the ball hard and fast, and play my game. She made a lot of mistakes in the first and second games. At 5-3 in the fifth, I felt she was a bit tired and that the momentum just shifted slightly.

"She might have been a little nervous, with all the pressure - but I was quite relaxed," added Kitchen, a quarter-finalist for only the second time. "I think I played well. These courts definitely suit my game - I usually do well on courts like this."

Nicol David, who also suffered a shock defeat to the New Zealander in the bronze medal play-off in last year's Commonwealth Games, conceded that she was "very disappointed".

"Shelley's always a tough opponent and I knew she'd be tough from the start - she just went for it. My focus was up and down. At 5-0 in the fifth, she recomposed herself - but I was still trying to work the ball.

"It just wasn't my day, really," added the favourite who has now failed to reach a WISPA Tour quarter-final for the first time since April 2004 - 36 events ago! "I must now refocus myself for Qatar and Hong Kong next month."

Kitchen will now meet Natalie Grainger for a place in the semi-finals. The fifth seed from the USA, winner of the Pan American Games gold medal in July, despatched Egypt's 13th seed Engy Kheirallah 9-2, 9-0, 9-0 in just 26 minutes.

There was another upset earlier in the day when ninth seed Jenny Duncalf beat her England team-mate Vicky Botwright in 48 minutes after the No6 seed retired with a back injury with the score standing at 9-4, 9-6, 5-3.

"I felt a twinge on my right side when Jenny pushed me forward at the end of the second game," explained Botwright, the England No3 from Manchester.

"It was shortly after the British Open (in September) that I played a league match when I felt a similar twinge, and woke up the next morning with the left side of my body paralysed. Tania Bailey was my saviour - luckily she was staying with me that night and helped me get dressed and took me to the EIS in Manchester. It was two days before I regained feeling - and some time before I was back to normal.

"I guess I just haven't been put under that kind of pressure since the British Open - but I didn't want to risk anything like that again, so I had to retire. If I have to lose to anybody like that, I'd rather it was to an English player!"

Duncalf seemed surprisingly downbeat following the win which takes her into her maiden World quarter-final: "It's never nice to win like that - but I thought I played well and deserved to win," said the 24-year-old from Harrogate in Yorkshire.

"I had a game plan and stuck to it - I didn't make many errors and was hitting a good length. I'm looking forward to playing on the glass court - though I hear the weather forecast suggests that it will be only one degree! But I'm ecstatic really - it's good to be in my first world quarter-final!"

One of the bravest wins of the day was achieved by fourth seed Tania Bailey in the other all-English last sixteen clash. Struggling for the second day with a recurrence of sinusitis, the England number one fought back from a game down to beat 11th seed Laura Lengthorn-Massaro 8-10, 9-5, 10-9, 9-3 in 75 minutes.

"I can't believe I managed to get through that," said the 28-year-old from Lincolnshire who was clearly again having serious difficulty with her breathing. "I felt I needed to win the first game - and when I didn't, I didn't think I could win the match.

"But I felt I then played thoughtful squash. I was feeling light-headed and kept having to take deep breaths. I never went into the match thinking I was going to win - Laura is such a tough player," added Bailey, who goes on to meet former world champion Vanessa Atkinson.

"I look forward to playing on the glass court - where conditions surely couldn't be more different from those here. I've actually beaten Vanessa the last four times I've played her - but that followed about eight wins in a row by her. But she's playing a lot better at the moment."

Atkinson, the eighth seed from the Netherlands competing in her 11th World Open, was the first player to reserve a place in the quarter-finals when she beat Australia's 15th seed Kasey Brown 9-5, 9-0, 9-0.

"Kasey was moving well in the first game, but then she began to struggle and I was getting more confident in my shots," said the 2004 champion. "I feel my movement is back to what it was a few years ago - but my strength is better.

"It's a huge difference being eighth seed, instead of the ninth seed I was - and getting through these first two rounds reasonably comfortably will probably make a big difference when we get onto the glass court.

"I feel quite relaxed - and I put that down to Malcolm (Willstrop) my coach. I used to be tense and a little highly strung - but he's knocked that out of me. It's the club atmosphere at Pontefract - it's so relaxed. And I love training. In fact I actually enjoy training now, which is a new thing."

Australian sisters Rachael and Natalie Grinham secured their places in the last eight with relative ease - third seed Rachael Grinham fighting back from a game down to beat England's No12 seed Alison Waters 4-9, 9-6, 9-4, 9-5 in 71 minutes, and younger sister Natalie, the second seed, knocking out Hong Kong's Rebecca Chiu, the 14th seed, 9-5, 9-5, 9-4 in 40 minutes.

Tournament action now moves onto an all-glass court sited adjacent to the Royal Palace (the Palacio Real) in Madrid - the first time in the city's history that any sporting event has been staged by the Spanish capital's world-famous Palace.

Natalie Grinham will face Egypt's No7 seed Omneya Abdel Kawy, while Rachael will take on Jenny Duncalf.

The Queensland sisters agree that the setting will be quite different: "We all prefer playing on the glass court - it'll be much fairer for everybody," said Natalie. "Tomorrow will be quite different, it'll be a lot colder. Omneya's very talented with the racquet and she had a tough match today."

Rachael added: "The games (on the indoor club courts) take a lot out of you, both physically and mentally. It makes for really limited opportunities - you can't really win at the front of the court.

"It's a lot easier to go from any court in the world onto a glass court as they tend to be the same. All I'll need tomorrow is about 15 minutes to get used to the court - yet sometimes it can take up to two days to get used to other courts."

2nd round:
[10] Shelley Kitchen (NZL) bt [1] Nicol David (MAS) 9-0, 9-1, 2-9, 3-9, 9-6 (69m)
[5] Natalie Grainger (USA) bt [13] Engy Kheirallah (EGY) 9-2, 9-0, 9-0 (26m)
[3] Rachael Grinham (AUS) bt [12] Alison Waters (ENG) 4-9, 9-6, 9-4, 9-5 (71m)
[9] Jenny Duncalf (ENG) bt [6] Vicky Botwright (ENG) 9-4, 9-6, 5-3 ret. (48m)
[8] Vanessa Atkinson (NED) bt [15] Kasey Brown (AUS) 9-5, 9-0, 9-0 (35m)
[4] Tania Bailey (ENG) bt [11] Laura Lengthorn-Massaro (ENG) 8-10, 9-5, 10-9, 9-3 (75m)
[7] Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY) bt [16] Annelize Naude (NED) 4-9, 10-8, 9-5, 9-4 (59m)
[2] Natalie Grinham (AUS) bt [14] Rebecca Chiu (HKG) 9-5, 9-5, 9-4 (40m)