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Duncalf & Matthew Keep British Hopes Alive
Oct 15, 2008, by Martin Bronstein for SquashTalk.com , Independent News; © 2008 SquashTalk LLC       

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[Men's Main Draw]     [Women's Main Draw]     [Most recent: Tuesday evening session]


The afternoon opened at the stroke of noon with Jenny Duncalf, England’s highest ranked women, facing Kasey Brown, the only other Australian  in the top twenty besides the Grinham sisters.  Brown is solidly built and is prepared to work hard, the sort of application that has got her up to 13
in the world.  However she does not have the flair to trouble top ten players; she has no surprises, cannot kill the ball and relies on length and running to bring results.  Duncalf, now ranked fifth in the world, is more problematic to pin down.

She has the England national coach, David Pearson, as coach and step-father, which means she has had he best of training and funding that you can get in the UK. She moves beautifully and
at time can be startlingly good. Which means that she can be just as bad at times. She never gives the impression that she is totally committed all of the time – just some of the time and that is when she is really good and could hold her own with anybody on the WISPA circuit. Put bluntly, with her background Duncalf should be challenging  Nicol David  - but she isn’t.

I know from previous interviews that she has been working with a sport psychiatrist to help her with her concentration; On her showing today there has been some improvement. Her handlers may well say I am being harsh, pointing out that she did beat Brown  11-8, 11-2, 13-11 in 33 minutes, but with the right attitude and more of a killer instinct she should have halved that time.  She can play very cleverly and work her opponent out of position, but the killer  shot never comes, or she lets
up. When she meets Natalie Grinham  in Friday’s quarter-finals she will need to start spitting nails if she is to  try her luck with Nicol David.

Through a series of  strange occurrances, Nick Matthew, despite not playing for six months because of a severe shoulder injury,  has barely dropped down the rankings, remaining in the top ten. The reason is because in the last three months of last year he chalked up some good results and there was very little activity  this year.  However, and here’s the rub, those points from last year will soon start dropping off  which means if he does not do well here  and in Qatar at the end of the month, he could plummet down the rankings.

The prognosis is good: in his first tournament back, the Forexx Dutch Open, he walked away with the title, showing that he was match fit.  His opponent today was the man who was supposed to win on his home ground, Laurens Jan Anjema.

They opened cautiously, feeling each other out and spending more time in the back court than the front. It was tight, high quality squash played at a goodly pace with few errors. Anjema  took an early 4-1 lead but  Matthew never looked worried and fought back to 5-5. From that point they were even with Anjema trying to vary his approach to trouble Matthew. On one rally  Anjema used his long reach to volley everything, determined not to let the ball reach the back wall. It was a wonderful barrage, but Matthew soaked it up and kept in the game.  At 7-7 Matthew put in fine forehand drop and then went 9-7 up when Anjema completely missed the serve. The next rally ended as he again mishit on the wall  and suddenly he was facing  game ball. Matthew  cracked a perfect cross court drive  to length to win the eleventh point to win 11-7 in just over 15 minutes.

 In the second game they both loosed up and started attacking the front corners more , but Matthew had gotten rid of his errors and  took control from the start to run out an 11-6 winner. At  9-6 in the third game he seemed all set for an early shower, but Anjema is a man who never  gives
up. He got to 8-9 before Anjema won another point with a clinical forehand dropshot. Anjema survived that match ball when  Matthew tinned and then  forced a tie break with a low backhand drive. Matthew said later that he had stopped controlling and started reacting. “That played
right into  LJ’s hands because he is much better at reacting than me.”

Anjema took full advantage of his recovery to  take the game 13-11 and suggest another upset win.  Matthew however got back into his own dominant groove from the start of the fourth and  his full range of shots started to appear – cross courts nicks, backhand flicks and delicate forehand
drops. They were very good because Anjema likes to mix it up at the front of the court, but he had no answer to the Matthew onslought. Matthew took the game  11-4 in just over seven minutes.

He told me that he felt happy with his performance but it wasn’t as tough a test  as his last tournament in Paris two weeks ago when he lost to Gregory Gaultier. “I was reminded just how tough it gets – remember my last such test was nearly nine months ago,” he said.

His quarter-final game is on Friday when he will face the phenomenon known as Ramy Ashour.  This Egyptian wizard  beat Peter Barker  in four games despite Barker’s solid presence on the court.  This big lefthander  is rapidly climbing the rankings and is good enough to have beaten David
Palmer in their last two meetings. The problem Barker had with Ashour is that  he simply could not read his game with certainty – I don’t think anybody can. Once Ashour has won two or three points with outrageous drops from the back of the court, then every shot after that becomes  worrisome – is he going to drop or drive? His racket preparation gives nothing away and so overanticipation by his opponents just uses up their energy.

It is not so much cat-and-mouse as spider-and-web. Ashour seems fearless and goes for drops – straight and cross court -  from the unlikeliest of positions and at the oddest of times.  He finished the first game with  a perfect lob. Yes, perfect. It dropped down at the back wall and even
someone as good as Barker could do nothing with it.  Barker played well  and despite losing that first game 11-8 and trailing 7-3 in the second, he kept getting to everything and pulled his way back
to  9-all and kept up the pressure  to win the tie-break 11-13.

Ashour had made seven errors in that game, but in the third game it was Barker who made far more than his usual amount of errors – six  - probably because he was doing more work than Ashour who just keep slotting in the drops shots, forcing his opponent into bending to pick up the drops.
Ashour won the game 11-8 and still could not get on top of Barker in the fourth game until half way through and then from 5-5, he began to pull away to win 11-6, which included two tired errors from Barker.

This was gripping squash and full of suspense because we, like his opponents, do not have the foggiest idea what Ashour is going to do next.

“Today I was happy that I was playing more of a basic game, which is not my game, but I was happy that I was able to do it,” Ashour said later. Questioned about his list of injuries he said that he had got over them but six days before this tournament started he pulled a hamstring and so
had six days of inactivity.  You would hardly notice on today’s showing.

Hi-Tec World Open Manchester, UK
Men's Round of 16:
[1] Amr Shabana (EGY) v [9] Wael El Hindi (EGY)
[Q] Mohamed El Shorbagy (EGY) bt Hisham Mohd Ashour (EGY) 11-4, 6-11, 11-8, 10-12, 13-11 (45m)
[4] Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt [12] Peter Barker (ENG) 11-8, 11-13, 11-8, 11-6 (60m)
[8] Nick Matthew (ENG) bt [15] Laurens Jan Anjema (NED) 11-7, 11-6, 11-13, 11-4 (60m)
[5] David Palmer (AUS) v Daryl Selby (ENG)
[3] James Willstrop (ENG) v Davide Bianchetti (ITA)
[7] Karim Darwish (EGY) v Alister Walker (ENG)
[2] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v [14] Adrian Grant (ENG)

Women's Round of 16:
[1] Nicol David (MAS) v [13] Rebecca Chiu (HKG)
[8] Laura Lengthorn-Massaro (ENG) v [9] Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY)
[4] Natalie Grainger (USA) v Jaclyn Hawkes (NZL)
[6] Shelley Kitchen (NZL) v [14] Madeline Perry (IRL)
[5] Jenny Duncalf (ENG) bt [12] Kasey Brown (AUS) 11-8, 11-2, 13-11 (33m)
[3] Natalie Grinham (NED) bt [Q] Annie Au (HKG) 11-6, 11-7, 11-4 (27m)
[7] Alison Waters (ENG) bt [15] Isabelle Stoehr (FRA) 11-3, 11-1, 11-7 (25m)
[2] Rachael Grinham (AUS) v [11] Vicky Botwright (ENG)





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