Monday September 17, 2012
Raneem spoils day for supporters
By KNG ZHENG GUAN
PETALING JAYA: The recently ended Malaysian Open squash championship had everything a top quality tournament had to offer.
There were quality matches from both the men’s and women’s categories and spectators flocked to The Curve, especially during the semi-finals and finals, to catch a glimpse of world No. 1 Nicol David in action.
But alas, the tournament turned out to be an anti-climax for Malaysian fans as six time world champion Nicol was denied her eighth consecutive home crown after Egypt’s world No. 2 Raneem El Weleily who produced a scintillating display to win 12-10, 11-13, 11-6, 11-2.
This was the same Weleily whom Nicol easily defeated in the KL Open semi-finals earlier this year and the Hong Kong Open final last year and the scoreline reflects just how dominant the 23-year-old was in the match and how much she has improved since.
In fact, the 29-year-old Nicol’s 2-11 loss in the fourth set was probably her worst result since losing 0-9 to Rachael Grinham in the 2007 Qatar Classic.
It is a rare sight for Nicol to lose, especially at home, with her last defeat on home soil coming back in the 2009 KL Open final, against American Natalie Grainger, and perhaps it is a sign that there may be a change of guard in the women’s game soon.
In all honesty, however, Nicol was far from her usual best throughout the tournament with India’s Joshna Chinappa and Australia’s Donna Urquhart giving her some scary moments in the first two rounds.
She certainly lack her usual sharpness, was sluggish in terms of pace and looked somewhat distracted in terms of focus.
Against Hong Kong’s Annie Au in quarter-finals and England’s Laura Massaro in the last four, Nicol dropped both the first sets before increasing her tempo to go through.
But there was always the fear that someone might eventually stop her and on Saturday, Weleily did.
Nicol, however, was gracious enough to accept her defeat and admitted that the better player won on the day.
“My buildup throughout the week was not the best and Raneem played without fear and just kept going. The better player did win it in the end,” said Nicol.
“Raneem and the other younger girls will constantly be coming after me and they’re all very good players and very sharp.
“Results like this take a little pressure off me and I will certainly work on my game when I return to Amsterdam.”
However, while it was disappointing to see Nicol lose, the tournament finally saw national No. 2 Low Wee Wern step out of her more illustrious compatriot’s shadow with an amazing run to the semi-finals.
Wee Wern’s performance has proven that there will be someone to take over from Nicol in the future.
In the men’s event, Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan justified his CIMB sponsorship with a ferocious performance in beating world No. 15 Adrian Grant in the first round.
The likes of Ivan Yuen, Mohd Asyraf Azan and Kamran Khan did fairly well despite falling in the qualifiers.
But for now, all eyes will be on Nicol on whether she’ll be able to overcome this disappointing defeat when she competes in the Carol Weymuller Open in New York from Sept 25-30.