10:15 am
16 Apr 2024

Grinhams In Historic World Open Final

26 Oct 2007

Australians Rachael Grinham and Natalie Grinham will meet for the 16th time on the WISPA World Tour in Saturday's final of the Madrid Women's World Open. But the encounter on an all-glass court near the Royal Palace in the Spanish capital will not only be the pair's first clash in a major Tour final, but the first ever World Open final featuring two sisters.

It was the second day of action on the open-air all-glass court set in the Jardines del Cabo Noval, adjacent to the Palacio Real - in the first sports event ever to be held alongside Madrid's historic Royal Palace.

In the first semi-final, second seed Natalie Grinham faced England's Tania Bailey in the pair's fourth meeting in the semi-finals of a Tour event this year. Grinham junior, the three-times Commonwealth Games gold medallist from Toowoomba in Queensland, was in devastating form - brushing aside the fourth seed from Lincolnshire 9-2, 9-5, 9-7 in 41 minutes.

"I was a bit nervous before going on - not because it was a semi-final, but because I wasn't so comfortable on the court yesterday," explained 29-year-old Natalie after reaching her third world final in four years. "But once I got on, I was timing the ball better - I play a bit better when I'm nervous, I focus better.

"I haven't really thought about what's like to be in my third final - but it would be nice to win one! Hopefully I'll play as well in the final as I did tonight."

When asked whether winning the World Open crown was her ultimate goal, the Netherlands-based Aussie responded: "I've already got my ultimate goal - winning three gold medals in the Commonwealth Games. I don't want to put too much pressure on myself - I don't need to win every single title there is!"

Tania Bailey, who was struck down by sinusitis on the eve of the event and had struggled with her breathing throughout the earlier rounds, conceded that she was not disappointed to lose: "A week ago, I would have given anything to be in a world semi-final.

"Natalie played really well, played the ball really tight - I couldn't maintain the way I played for the whole match because of the way she played.

"But I've learned a lot recently - I used to run around at 100mph all the time. It makes me realise how valuable all the work I put in over the summer was," added the 28-year-old England number one from Stamford.

"I feel confident that I'm close to the top three in the world - even though I think they are another level ahead. I'm still learning a lot and know the weaknesses in my game which I've got to work on.

"Natalie's got a great chance to win the title - she's probably the most consistent of the three. But they are all capable of winning - and it's good for the game that that is the case!" concluded Bailey.

Later, former world number one Rachael Grinham took on fifth seed Natalie Grainger. Third seed Grinham, aged 30 and based in Cairo, was looking for her second major title in a month after winning the British Open in September - and Grainger was hoping for her first win over the Queenslander in 10 clashes since the World Open in Qatar five years ago.

Grainger, the Pan American Games champion from Washington DC, darted to a first game lead - but Grinham took control of the match thereafter to wrap up a 5-9, 9-6, 9-6, 9-3 victory after 45 minutes.

"It was so nerve-wracking - it was obviously a great chance for Natalie and me to be in our first major Tour final together, and she had already won her semi," said Rachael, runner-up in 2005, afterwards. "But even though I've won most of the recent matches against Natalie (Grainger), she's one of the best players - especially on that court.

"The match seemed so fast - I'm not used to games going that fast - I had to try and relax and slow it down a bit."

When asked her feelings about playing her sister in the historic world final, Rachael said: "I'm sure we both want to win the title - which neither of us has done before - but, in a sense, the best thing is us both reaching the final. At least it's going to be one of us that wins - and whichever of us loses, we won't be as disappointed as we would be losing to someone else!

"It's just like it was in the Commonwealth Games - the excitement was over once we'd both reached the final!"

Natalie Grinham agreed that it had been difficult watching the final stages of her sister's match: "As it was getting towards the end, I was getting to g really nervous - just like at the Commonwealth Games, when I had already won my semi and had to wait for Rachael to get through hers."

Earlier, immediately after hugging Rachael as she came off court, Natalie was on the phone to their parents down under.

"I've just spoken to Mum and Dad at home," said Natalie later. "Mum was watching the live scoreboard on a dial-up connection, and I woke Dad up. He said, 'I thought that might be why you were ringing'!"

[3] Rachael Grinham (AUS) bt [5] Natalie Grainger (USA) 5-9, 9-6, 9-6, 9-3 (45m)
[2] Natalie Grinham (AUS) bt [4] Tania Bailey (ENG) 9-2, 9-5, 9-7 (41m)