While Australia claimed the most wins in today’s second round of Commonwealth Games Squash Doubles qualifiers, their six victories were partially overshadowed by New Zealand pair Joelle King & Martin Knight‘s straight games upset over England’s No2 seeds Jenny Duncalf & James Willstrop in the Mixed event at the Siri Fort Complex in Delhi.
Perhaps still feeling the effects of their earlier defeats in the singles finals, silver medallists Duncalf and Willstrop went down 11-9, 11-5 in 35 minutes as New Zealand celebrated a notable breakthrough win.
“I guess they didn’t expect much after Melbourne,” said Knight, referring to the Australian Open Doubles championships in August, when the Kiwi pair crashed out in the opening round – and Duncalf and Willstrop progressed through to the final.
“We lost every match 2/1 there – but we were confident we could make it here,” added the jubilant Wellington-born 26-year-old.
Joelle King continued: “After Melbourne, we went away and worked on a few things. We both stepped up today – and kept each others’ confidence up. We’re definitely very happy with that result.”
Willstrop, looking weary from his arduous week so far in Delhi, was downcast: “We’re disappointed because we’ve worked hard at this. And we feel we were quite good too.
“It just means we’ll have a harder route through to the final stages,” added the 27-year-old world No4.
“It’s not all over,” Duncalf pointed out.
Earlier, New Zealand suffered a mild setback when their fifth-seeded pair Jaclyn Hawkes & Campbell Grayson were defeated 11-9, 11-4 by lower-seeded Australian duo Donna Urquhart & David Palmer.
The Melbourne event was again cited as the misleading factor: “We played four matches there and lost three of them 11-10 in the third,” said Palmer, a bronze medallist in the Mixed event four years ago.
“This was a big match for us – we were really up for it today, we both wanted to win. We’ve worked a lot together in various doubles events recently. It would be nice to do some damage here.
“Donna and I have teamed up well – she’s a left-hander which works well. We struggled a bit to start with, but we’re really working well together now.
“We don’t play doubles that often – but it’s a medal,” continued the 34-year-old from Lithgow in New South Wales who has accumulated five medals in three previous Games’ appearances since 1998.
“We both missed out on singles medals – so we’d like to get one back. I’ve had a few down days since losing in the quarter-finals – but today was a turning point.”
Was 23-year-old Urquhart, a Games debutante in Delhi, at all overawed by former world number one and two-time world champion Palmer when they first teamed up? “I remember the first time we practised together – I felt so intimidated. But now it’s just Dave,” explained the world No16 from Yamba, NSW.
Urquhart went on to partner Kasey Brown in an 11-6, 9-11, 11-8 victory over New Zealanders Tamsyn Leevey & Kylie Lindsay in the Women’s Doubles, while Palmer continued his Men’s Doubles campaign with Stewart Boswell, crushing Zambians Kelvin Ndhlovu & Ray Simbule 11-3, 11-9 in just 16 minutes.
After the rare experience of a defeat – in yesterday’s first qualifying round of the Mixed Doubles – Malaysia’s proud new singles gold medallist Nicol David was back in winning form after partnering Ong Beng Hee to an 11-3, 11-5 victory over Kenyans Khaaliqa Nimji & Hardeep Reel.
David, the 27-year-old world number one Penang, was 15 when she made her debut in the sport’s first appearance in the Games in her home country in 1998. But her direct opponent Khaaliqa Nimji is still only 12 – and is not only the youngest player ever to compete in the event’s squash competition, but is also her country’s youngest senior champion, a title she won last year when only 11.
David and her partner delighted the crowd by keeping the rallies going – giving their inexperienced opponents the chance to enjoy their court-time with two seasoned professionals.
“When you’ve got a 12-year-old on court, it’s hard to attack her,” explained Ong Beng Hee, a one-time world No7, afterwards.
“Khaaliqa has good ball sense and hits it well,” added David. “Getting this experience at this age will be so useful to her.”
On the significance of the third seeds’ first win in the event, Beng Hee continued: “Yesterday was a bad start for us. But Nicol had a busy build-up to the event, with the worlds followed by five matches here to win the gold. She’s understandably a bit tired from that. But we’re back on track today now.”
David was asked if she was still on a high after her long-awaited singles triumph: “It’s a great feeling to have the gold medal. Winning it hasn’t really sunk in yet – I still can’t believe it.
“It’s difficult to get into another competition so soon afterwards.”
Khaaliqa Nimji clearly enjoyed her unique opportunity: “It was a good experience – I’ve learned a lot – but I’ve still got a long way to go.
“I hope to make it back next time,” added the Kenyan squash prospect.
“Back another six times, probably,” David chipped in!
Men’s Doubles last sixteen round line-up:
 Adrian Grant & Nick Matthew (ENG) v
 Robin Clarke & Shawn Delierre (CAN)
 Mohd Azlan Iskandar & Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS) v
 Gaurav Nandrajog & Siddharth Suchde (IND)
 Ryan Cuskelly & Cameron Pilley (AUS) v
Gye Duncan & Duncan Gray (NFK)
 Campbell Grayson & Martin Knight (NZL) v
 Philip Musonda & Lazarus Chilufya (ZAM)
 Alan Clyne & Harry Leitch (SCO) v
 Sandeep Jangra & Harinder Pal Sandhu (IND)
 Peter Barker & Daryl Selby (ENG) v
 Yasir Butt & Danish Atlas Khan (PAK)
 Lyall Paterson & Chris Small (SCO) v
 Michael Fiteni & Bradley Hindle (MLT)
 Stewart Boswell & David Palmer (AUS) v
 Aamir Atlas Khan & Farhan Mehboob (PAK)
For more info and full results, visit the WSF’s dedicated Commonwealth Games site www.cwgsquash.com