David begins 7th squash world title bid with ease
GRAND CAYMAN, CYM (AFP) –
Nicol David made light of the toughest of first round draws as she made an impressive start to a bid to extend her record of World Open squash titles to seven.
The sport’s biggest star needed to overcome Omneya Abdel Kawy, the gifted Egyptian whom she played in the 2010 world final in Sharm El Sheikh — and she did so in little more than half an hour on Sunday.
David’s 11-8, 11-5 11-5 win carried her over the potential banana skin in some style, and suggested she had prepared with an emphasis for making better starts.
“I’ve tended to start slowly in some first round matches and I’ve been looking at that,” the Malaysian said.
“The main thing was to remember the work that I had been doing, and to stick to my game plan.”
That plan was almost certainly to find a tight line with her drives and to keep Kawy away from the front.
A greater importance though may have been the mental calmness gained from focusing on the plan.
“You just have to trust in that,” she said. “I think I did — and it helped. I played a tight match and I needed to. She’s getting back to what she was and is a difficult opponent to get in the first round.”
The unusual draw happened because Kawy was sidelined with injury for many weeks, fell from the top 20, and lost her seeding position.
But her recent efforts have suggested that her inventive, wrong-footing stroke play is as effective as ever, for in Hong Kong two weeks ago Kawy beat three top six players — Laura Massaro, Joelle King, and Alison Waters.
She also led briefly in the first two games on Sunday, with flashes of her special brilliance.
But David soaked them up and then smothered any attempts at repeating them with fast, early and accurate driving, taking advantage of any openings this created with speedy court coverage.
She was in a hurry to leave too, departing still dressed in her kit and without a shower in order to leap on to the shuttle bus back to the hotel
David’s main rivals, Raneem El Weleily of Egypt, Massaro of England, and Waters, also English, all came through safely, although El Weleily dropped a game to the improving Aisling Blake, from Ireland.
Earlier, there was an upset as Rachael Grinham, a world champion only five years ago in Madrid, missed three match points and suffered a disheartening first round loss to a qualifier.
The Australian’s 3-11, 6-11, 12-10, 11-5, 11-9 defeat was harder to take because of the raucous support for her conqueror — the Caribbean champion Nicolette Fernandes, a Canada-born, British-based 23-year-old from Guyana.
Fernandez, ranked 60, found it hard to believe she had managed her career-best win.
“You have to believe you can win, even if you don’t expect to,” she said.
“I don’t even remember saving match balls in the third game. But when I got to 10-6 in the fifth and she started coming back I told myself just to keep playing the way I played to get to that point. I am very happy and thankful.”