Malaysian superstar Nicol David took a step closer to her first Viridian Australian Open title when she downed former champion Rachael Grinham 11-7, 13-11, 11-7 in the semi-finals on Saturday.
In front of a large crowd at Canberra’s Royal Theatre, David outplayed her Australian opponent to claim the opening semi-final in 34 minutes.
She will take on Jenny Duncalf of England in the final following the second seeded Duncalf’s 11-8, 11-9, 2-11, 11-4 win over defending champion Madeline Perry of Ireland.
Grinham hadn’t beaten David since 2007, but she took the game right up to the world number one and had her under enormous pressure at times. However, David was able to stay in the points with some superb defence and lift her game when it counted, saving two game balls in the second to gain a crucial 2/0 advantage.
“I didn’t want to let the second game go,” David, who will be playing her 70th tour final on Sunday, said later. “I knew in this situation these girls are going to keep going, so that game was really important to me.”
David acknowledged that Grinham had played very well.
“She didn’t make many errors, it was just very solid squash. I knew I had to work hard. I’m just happy to be in the final.
“With Rachael, because we have these matches all the time, it was always going to be a battle and even though it was three-love it was really hard, like a five-setter.”
Grinham conceded that losing the second game had handed David a vital advantage.
“It’s definitely harder to come back from two-love down against Nicol,” she said. “I made it harder on myself by not taking advantage and taking that second game.
“But Nicol is good at that, when she’s down she just digs in and doesn’t make any errors and makes you win the point, she doesn’t give you anything. She doesn’t hit too many winners. It’s either you’re on the end of a long rally and you guess the wrong way, or you make the error.”
Duncalf ended Perry’s title defence in a close match that could have gone either way.
She claimed the first two games narrowly before Perry stormed through the third playing almost faultless squash. However, the Englishwoman regrouped to dominate the fourth game to reach her first Australian Open final.
“That third game was bizarre, it just ran away from me,” Duncalf said.
“I tried to get back into it and stay in the rallies but it just wasn’t happening and I went a bit flat. I just tried to forget about it and start from scratch and rebuild the rallies, which worked well in the fourth.”
Duncalf said winning a tight second game may have been the reason for her collapse in the third.
“Maybe the emotion of winning that made me a little flat for the third,” she said. “Pete Barker was talking to me after the third and told me it had happened, it was gone, just reassert yourself and build the rallies up again because in the third there weren’t even that many contested rallies.”
A disappointed Perry said there hadn’t been that much between them.
“The key was those first two games, I think if I could have won one of those two games it could have been different,” she said.
“But obviously at two-love down it gives Jenny all the confidence, and even after winning the third she was still two-one up, but it was a really close game and I thought I played better than yesterday, I was just disappointed with the result.
“In the fourth I just got my tactics wrong. I was perfect in the third but just went a bit defensive in the third and let her get too big a lead.”