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Natalie Grainger Claims Weymuller Title
Nov 9, 2008, by Rob Dinerman for SquashTalk.com , Independent News; © 2008 SquashTalk LLC       

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In her match in Saturday night’s semifinal during the Carol Weymuller Open at the Heights Casino Annex in Brooklyn this past weekend, second seed Natalie Grainger demonstrated her ability to come from behind when she engineered a six-point match-ending rally from 6-10 in the fourth game against Vanessa Atkinson. In her match in Sunday evening’s final, Grainger compellingly showed her ability to pour it on when ahead when, from 1-1, 8-6 against Shelley Kitchen, she took off on what became a devastating 14-1 run to close out her 9-11 11-8 11-6 11-1 victory and retain the trophy she had won in likewise devastating fashion in her ’07 final-round 11-3, 4 and 6 triumph over Jenny Duncalf.

All four games in last night’s final began similarly (with Grainger jumping out to solid leads, 5-1 in each of the first two games, 6-2 in the third and 3-0 in the fourth), with what followed  from one game to the next trending progressively in Grainger’s favor --- in the first game, Kitchen came back ALL the way (winning the last four points from 7-9 on a stroke call against Grainger, a nick-finding Kitchen backhand drop from deep in the court, a tinned Grainger backhand working-boast and a shallow Kitchen forehand rail); in the second, she came back MOST of the way (climbing from 2-7 to a nervous-making 8-9 before a pair of consecutive Grainger backhand drop winners closed out the 11-8 tally); in the third game, she came back PART of the way (from 3-7 to 6-8, only to bow to a trio of snappy early-point Grainger clear-winners); and in the fourth game, she was unable to mount any kind of comeback effort at all.

This was partly due to the toll, both physical and emotional, that Kitchen’s win one day earlier in her semi with top seed and ’06 Weymuller champion Rachael Grinham understandably had to have exacted. Even though that match only went three games (all of them very close), beating Grinham required a lot of executing and thinking and especially running, perhaps to the extent that once Kitchen’s adrenaline quota ran out, the reality of a depleted energy level in taking on a powerful opponent like Grainger may have taken over. Certainly Kitchen was striking the ball with noticeably more verve and authority in the first game than she was doing by the end.

But in fairness, Kitchen was never playing badly, even in the lopsided final 15 points; that she lost all but one of them was virtually totally due to the brilliance of Grainger’s play, especially her sometimes up-and-down backhand drop shot, which, starting with those two salvos that quelled Kitchen’s comeback try late in the second game, was absolutely on fire throughout the second half of the match.

By the time the fourth game rolled around, Grainger had become so confident in that shot, and had honed it to such a degree, that she was firing it off practically every time that Kitchen steered the ball to the left side of the court, whether from up front, from mid-court, or even off the back wall. And her precision was astounding, causing the ball to both drip so close to the front wall that even the extremely mobile Kitchen could barely get there AND to be clinging so tightly to the left wall that even when Kitchen DID get to the ball, she had nothing to swing at. Almost all of the 11 points Grainger amassed in sprinting swiftly through that game (one exception being the tin a by-that-time despairing Kitchen hit on her serve-return on Grainger’s first match-ball) came either on drop-shot winners; on winners directly set up by desperation gets of drop shots that left a fully open court for Grainger to drive the ball into; or (twice) on winners from last-second different shots that succeeded due to Kitchen anticipating a drop shot and starting for it too early to have any chance of tracking down the ball when Grainger switched to something else.

Kitchen exhibited some of the best form of her career in getting to the final, snapping the ball with an action akin to cracking a whip (somewhat reminiscent of the arm action of the similarly slender Hall Of Fame-bound Yankees closer Mariano Rivera when he puts opposing batters away with his cut-fastball), moving beautifully and winning a slew of 11-9 games (four in her last three matches, including the opener of her Grainger final), yet Grainger won the final going away, then accepted the Weymuller trophy from tournament chairman (and former Weymuller champion) Fiona Geaves to the full-throated applause of a deservedly admiring gallery, which had just seen some of the most exceptional shot-making in the history of this tournament.

RESULTS:      Women's Carol Weymuller Open, Heights Casino, New York, USA

[2] Natalie Grainger (USA) bt [4] Shelley Kitchen (NZL) 9-11 11-8 11-6 11-1




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