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17 Apr 2024

Shabana Shakes Off Palmer In Doha

3 Nov 2007

Amr Shabana beat Australia's four times runner-up David Palmer in the semi-finals of the Qatar Classic to reach the final of the $120,000 Super Series Platinum squash event in the Qatar capital Doha for the first time. The world number one from Egypt will face Gregory Gaultier, the fourth-seeded Frenchman who denied an all-Egyptian final when he beat ninth seed Karim Darwish in five games.

After crashing out of last week's Madrid World Open in the second round, Malaysia's top seed Nicol David rediscovered her best form in the semi-finals of the $77,000 women's WISPA Gold event. The defending champion beat new world champion Rachael Grinham in five games, and will face Natalie Grainger in the final after the US champion beat England's Tania Bailey, also in five.

The toil of two hour-long matches against Englishmen Adrian Grant and James Willstrop in the previous two rounds clearly had its effect on third seed David Palmer, the world champion, in his battle against Shabana - who marked up his third straight games win in the event with his 11-9, 11-5, 11-6 victory in 47 minutes.

"I felt OK physically, but I was just lost on the court, I couldn't find my rhythm at all," Palmer told www.squashsite.co.uk afterwards. "I was not moving that well, that's true, but I never felt like I had any control tonight. It was not my day. Outplayed!"

The 28-year-old from Cairo, winner of last week's Saudi International and now in the 25th PSA Tour final of his career, was delighted with his progress: "It's so hard to play tournaments back to back. But it is a great feeling to have reached the final after 12 years of participation!"

Karim Darwish, who claimed notable upsets over second seed Ramy Ashour and fifth seed Thierry Lincou to reach the last four, took the opening game against Gaultier. But the world number three from Aix-en-Provence survived a tie-break second game before going on to win 7-11, 11-10 (2-0), 11-8, 8-11, 11-5 in 68 minutes.

The win takes the 24-year-old British Open champion Frenchman into his 23rd career Tour final, and the third of the year.

The women's semi-final again Rachael Grinham was a major test for Nicol David: Not only had the Australian taken over the Malaysian's World Open title less than a week ago in Spain, but had also beaten David in September's British Open final to end more than two years of losses to her rival.

But, despite losing the second and third game for just two points, David re-established her authority over the third-seeded Queenslander to beat Grinham 9-7, 0-9, 2-9, 9-5, 9-1 in 56 minutes - and reach her 37th WISPA Tour final.

"I'm glad to be in the final, especially after beating Rachael," said a delighted David later. "I'll just see what happens from there. I'm just looking forward to giving it the last push in the final."

Meanwhile, Grinham conceded: "I guess that I just lost my head in the end. And I'm disappointed, of course, but I'm happy with the fact that I don't feel she is too good for me anymore. I used to think that I wasn't fit enough to beat her, and at the end of our matches, I just couldn't move, whereas now, I feel I can match her game, and that I could have kept on playing another game or two.

"Still, I'm glad with my performance over these two weeks, I had a long succession of matches, I'm in good form, and today, I had my chances. It would be nice to have a few days off, though!"

A disappointed semi-finalist in Madrid, fifth seed Natalie Grainger called upon all her experience in Doha to fight back from two games down to upset fourth seed Tania Bailey 1-9, 0-9, 9-6, 9-4, 9-1 in exactly one hour.

"I proved tonight that I can win a match from the back of the court," explained Grainger, now in her 33rd Tour final, and the seventh of the year.

"Tania played so well, she was quick onto to the ball, good at the short stuff too, and my game fell apart completely. She hit me off the court, and there are not too many people that can do that. She basically took my short game away from me.

"So I decided to take pace off the ball, and to run like hell, retrieving everything I could and, at 7-4 in the fourth, I felt her going breathing-wise, and I thought no way I'm going to play any short rally for the rest of the match. And I kept on battling, not giving her an inch."

Men's semi-finals:
[1] Amr Shabana (EGY) bt [3] David Palmer (AUS) 11-9, 11-5, 11-6 (47m)
[4] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt [9] Karim Darwish (EGY) 7-11, 11-10 (2-0), 11-8, 8-11, 11-5 (68m)

Women's semi-finals:
[1] Nicol David (MAS) bt [3] Rachael Grinham (AUS) 9-7, 0-9, 2-9, 9-5, 9-1 (56m)
[5] Natalie Grainger (USA) bt [4] Tania Bailey (ENG) 1-9, 0-9, 9-6, 9-4, 9-1 (60m)