Palmer beats Willstrop in Dramatic 5, David Wins
May 12, 2008, By SquashTalk.com , Independent News; © 2008 SquashTalk LLC
English Finalists Come up Empty in British Open Finals
Hopes of an English double were foiled in tonight's (Monday) finals of the Dunlop British Open - Liverpool 2008 squash championships when Australia's David Palmer clinched the men's title for the fourth time and Malaysian Nicol David the women's crown for a third time at the ECHO Arena in Liverpool.
David Palmer and Nicol David win British Open finals. (photo ©2008 Fritz Borchert)
In what will go down as one of the most dramatic men's finals in the prestigious event's 80-year-old history, fifth seed Palmer squandered a 2/0 lead against England's James Willstrop, then saved two championship balls in the decider to beat the fourth seed 11-9, 11-9, 8-11, 6-11, 11-10 (3-1) in a 111-minute thriller.
Underdog Palmer, who had reached the final after his semi-final opponent Karim Darwish conceded the match he was leading after sustaining an Achilles injury, was in commanding form in the first two games and well into the third.
But Willstrop, 24, from Leeds, showed true Yorkshire grit by fighting back to level the match and moving 9-6 ahead.
Both players were clearly exhausted, but fought for every point - causing gasps of amazement from the capacity Arena crowd as irretrievable balls were retrieved.
The Englishman had match balls at 10-9 and 11-10 - but it was the 31-year-old from New South Wales who ultimately prevailed in the longest match of the tournament - and the longest British Open final since 1997.
"You've got to take your hat off to him," said British National champion Willstrop afterwards. "I didn't have an answer in the first two games - but then I dug in. He's a true champion - it's no disgrace, I've just got to accept it!"
Palmer admitted that he thought he was 'home and dry' at 6-4 up in the fourth. "I then got a bit slow - and he took advantage. James is a great guy and a great ambassador for the sport."
David Palmer and James Willstrop fought down to the last point. (photo ©2008 Fritz Borchert)
After a seesaw last half of the final game, Palmer reached match ball at 12-11, then noticed that his racket was cracked and walked off court to replace it. Amazingly, the winning shot that followed was a miss hit off the frame, which ended in the sidewall nick!
"We both had a few lucky bounces - I don't know what happened in the final shot, it came off my frame for a cross-court nick. 'I'll take that', I thought."
Earlier, Nicol David, in her fourth successive women's final, faced final debutante Jenny Duncalf, the fifth seed from Harrogate who beat Australia's defending champion Rachael Grinham en-route to the climax.
David, eager to make up for the disappointment of her shock defeat in last year's final, romped to a first game win in just eight minutes - then forged a 7-2 lead in the second.
But Duncalf, buoyed by a near capacity home crowd at the brand new ECHO Arena, fought back to level the game then moved to within a point of taking the game.
However, the 24-year-old from Penang rallied to save the game-ball and went on to win the match 9-1, 10-8, 9-0 in 40 minutes to secure her third title in four years.
"She's a very special player," said Duncalf of her opponent afterwards. "I just couldn't make any headway. I certainly could have done with that second game - it would have given me a lot of momentum."
Nicol David, now celebrating her fifth successive WISPA World Tour title and her 17th in 20 events, admitted that losing the title last year hit her hard: "I was really devastated - it was there for the taking.
"But you get stronger - you learn what you have to do. You don't let anything get in your way.
"I knew she was going for it in the second game - she had nothing to lose. I had to make sure I didn't let her in."
When asked about her feelings about the new 'Pro Scoring' system which will be in place by the time she seeks to reclaim her World Open title in Manchester in October, David said: "It'll be interesting. We'll see what happens."
RESULTS: Dunlop British Open Squash Championships, ECHO Arena, Liverpool, England
 David Palmer (AUS) bt  James Willstrop (ENG) 11-9 11-9 8-11 6-11 11-10(3-1)
 Nicol David (MAS) bt  Jenny Duncalf (ENG) 11-1 10-8 11-0