English Men’s & Women’s Medallists Assured In Glasgow
England are already assured of Squash medals in the 2014 Commonwealth Games after defending champion Nick Matthew set up a men’s semi-final clash with 2010 bronze medallist Peter Barker, and world champion Laura Massaroestablished a last four meeting in the women’s event with Londoner Alison Waters.
For the third day in a row, a rapturous near-capacity crowd in excess of 2,000 enjoyed world class action on the spectacular all-glass showcourt at Scotstoun Sports Campus in Glasgow as squash enthusiasts – and considerable numbers seeing the sport for the first time – saw the quarter-finals unfold in Scotland’s largest city.
“It was incredibly tough,” said the 34-year-old Yorkshireman later. “Chris was just so desperate to do well – I could feel the pride of playing for Guernsey oozing out of him. He’s a regular training partner, but I’ve never seen him play that well before. His court coverage was incredible.”
When asked whether he was back to full fitness after knee surgery six weeks ago, Matthew said:
“Alan (Clyne) and Chris gave me two of the toughest matches I could have had in the last two rounds. These guys are really physical players. It’s what I needed – it really opened up my lungs.”
“Pete will be up for it tomorrow. He’ll see this as his moment. With my recent injury, he’ll be sniffing his chances. If I give him an inch he’ll take a yard. I’ll have to try and stop that happening.”
World No23 Simpson, playing on the glass court for the first time, said: “I always seem to play better when I have a crowd behind me.
“It’s definitely the best I’ve played against him. He’s got no real chinks in his armoury – even when you hit a good shot he will return it. I was pleased I managed to compete with him in so many facets of his game – it’s the first time I’ve done that.”
The Guernsey star, who played the first three rounds on conventional courts, had denied himself a look at the showcourt setting until he had earned his right to perform there.
“As it happens, I couldn’t find the court for my practise session this morning – and when I finally did, there were about 1,000 people already in their seats! To practice in that situation was something special!
“To walk in and hear that amazing response from the crowd before my match was incredible. It was like being a footballer! It is great for squash. I now feel confident enough to be able to look up at the crowd and enjoy it.”
“I felt really good,” said the London left-hander. “It was my first time on the glass court, with a change of conditions, crowd and adrenaline!
“I’ve put in a lot of work in preparation for this. It’s quite a long competition and I’ve come here to win a medal.
“Nick’s played every match on the glass court, but I played all mine until today on the plaster courts – which haven’t had much attention. I like to go under the radar! I wasn’t concerned when I saw the playing schedule – as long as I got one glass court match under the belt before the semi I was happy. And it was a quality match.
“Nick hasn’t had a lot of squash in the last six weeks – I hope to use that to my advantage.
“The crowd was amazing – the best I’ve ever played in front of,” added the world No8. “This is the pinnacle of our game – it’s a real honour to play in front of so many people.”
Pilley, the Australian number one, said:
“I found it difficult to implement my game – he didn’t let me in it. A lot of rallies could have gone either way. He seems to up his game when he plays me!
“Doubles is now my main focus.”
At the end of the evening, Delhi silver medallist James Willstrop became the third Englishman to make the semis after beating surprise opponent Ivan Yuen, the 15th seed from Malaysia, 11-1, 11-7, 11-3.
“I was very ready for that,” said the former world No1 from Harrogate. “To beat Alister (Walker) like he did in the previous round meant that I had to be respectful to him. But I managed to stop him attacking.
“It’s a massive experience for me playing in front of a crowd like this, and I’ve been playing for a hundred years. But he’s a young guy: imagine what it must have been like for him!”
Second seed Willstrop now plays fourth seed Saurav Ghosal, the Indian number one who has recently returned to the city of his birth, Kolkata, after being based for many years at Willstrop’s club in Pontefract.
“Saurav is my best friend on the Tour – he’s a great guy and I know we’ll have a great game.”
Ghosal survived a five-game battle for the second day in a row – clawing his way back from 2/0 down to beat New Zealander Campbell Grayson, the 12th seed, 8-11, 7-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-6 in 93 minutes.
“He played some very good stuff in the first two games – I thought I deserved at least one of them,” said Ghosal. “In my head and my heart, I kept telling myself I need one game on board.
“He came out firing in the fourth, going 5-0 up – and in the fifth it was neck and neck. There were some tense moments, but I got the job done in the end.
“I’m really happy to be able to back up yesterday’s 86-minute match with this one today. I’m so focussed on trying to win that maybe I’m missing the chance to appreciate the setting and the crowd. It’s the first time I’ve played on this court and I’m looking forward to coming back tomorrow.
“Yes, I know his (James’s) game – but he knows mine too! We’re very good friends on and off the court and our matches are played in the right spirit.
“But I want to win and will be doing my best to do so.”
“I feel I’ve been challenging players like that for the past two years – but the problem is that I haven’t been beating them. And that’s why I’m not in the top 20. I’m not consistent enough. I need to win these matches.
“At 2/0 up, I had to remind myself that there was still a long way to go. Perhaps the turning point came in the fourth when I lost my length – then at six-all in the fifth, I slipped.”
The women’s semi-final featuring Massaro and Waters will mark the English pair’s 29th meeting since contesting the British Junior U14 final in 1997. Second seed Massaro beat Low Wee Wern, the No5 seed from Malaysia, 11-3, 11-2, 11-6 in just 35 minutes – in stark contrast to their previous two matches which, while won by the English player, took five games and each lasted well over an hour.
“I think Laura played really well – and if you want to beat her you have to be fully fit,” explained the Malaysian number two. “Yesterday was my first match since coming out of hospital two weeks ago after suffering with Dengue fever – which can take five to six weeks to get over.
“I almost didn’t make the Games at all. I’ve not had the best preparation! I’ve had doctors with me, making sure everything was all right with me on court.
“It took me a while to get used to the glass court – it was my first time on it here. I hope to be in better shape for the doubles.”
“Wee Wern is known for getting ball after ball back – but the rallies weren’t very long, so I knew something was wrong.
“I didn’t enjoy yesterday at all. I was unlucky enough to play someone (Nicolette Fernandes of Guyana) who seemed ‘possesed’ – I’ve never seen her dive for so many balls before!
“So today I just wanted to enjoy myself – from the walk on to the court to the match itself. I learnt a lot from yesterday.
“But, to be honest, today’s match was a bit of a blur – I was just in the moment and suddenly it was match-ball!”
“I won’t say I played badly but she’s got more experience than me and I think that’s what made the difference today,” Pallikal explained. “I played well in patches. I will take a lot of positives out of the match. It was such a big game – the quarter-finals of the Commonwealth Games!
“It’s a pity I have to wait another four years away for the next event – but I’m only 22 so I have a few more chances.
“I know I can compete with the top five in the world – I just need more confidence and experience.
“I was so disappointed to have missed the last Games in Delhi, because of illness, as it would have been wonderful to have played in front of a home crowd – so I can imagine what it was like for Alison today. This crowd was amazing – it’s really good to know that so many people seeing squash for the first time are enjoying it so much. It’s a real positive for squash and the Olympics.”
“I gave her too much at the front in the first game and needed to pin her to the back. We both wanted to win this one.
“Before you start, you’re thinking about medals – and now I’m close. If I play Laura tomorrow, there’ll be no pressure as she is the higher seed.”
“It was a good match – it was good solid squash from both of us,” said David, the world number one since August 2006. “She was very sharp – in the beginning it was neck and neck. She played her best squash against me for a while so I had to dig deep. I really had to step up in the fourth to take the control away from her.
“We were pushing each other – I was really pleased to win the game and now I can move on another level tomorrow.
“I feel relaxed and it was an early match which is good. I’m hoping to see some other sports later, maybe the cycling which is near the village.”
“I’m excited to be in the semi-finals,” continued David. “Joelle is definitely the one to look out for and I know I can’t give her anything too easy. I just want to give it my all.”
When asked about the sport’s chances to join the Olympic programme, David added: “What you see here shows how great this game is and you can see the squash players are complete athletes. Squash is an all-round sport and that’s what an Olympic sport is all about.
“We’ve got all the qualities and tick all the boxes and we deserve that spot. Hopefully the IOC will see the display here and will give us a second chance.”
Duncalf, the former world No2 who was also making her maiden appearance on the Glasgow glass court, said:
“I knew it was going to be a tough match and I was looking forward to playing on the glass for the first time. I thought I played well – it’s the best I’ve felt on court for a long time – so it was disappointing to lose in front of this great crowd. I would love to have sneaked the first game.”
When asked what sets David apart from her fellow players, Duncalf responded: “The amount of balls she picks up – and her mental resolve. But she’s not unbeatable, she is human!
“Now I can look forward to the doubles,” concluded the 31-year-old. “We’re number one seeds so I hope to get a medal there.”
“I thought it was a really complete performance,” said King. “I let it slip a little bit yesterday in terms of concentration and I was really happy that that only happened for maybe two points at the start of the third.
“She’s a very tough competitor, she’s been on the tour a long time and won major events so she’s no mug and I’m just really happy.”
On her meeting with David, the Kiwi said: “I’m just feeling really good out there. Whoever I play, I’ve just got to concentrate on what I’m trying to do.
“When I focus on that, and play how I want to play, I think I can beat anyone.
“I just want to come back tomorrow and do the same thing I’ve done today!”
“I really struggled with the court today. Joelle was playing really well and I never got to do what I wanted to do.
“I thought I had a good chance but I couldn’t find any rhythm today.”
Perry was being coached by her doubles partner Michael Craig, aged just 18:
“I was really listening to him: what he told me made a lot of sense. It’ll probably be different in the doubles where I’ll tell him what to do!”