2007 Event

Gaultier wins all-French final
as Grinham comeback denies David

24-Sep 2007, Finals, National Squash Centre Manchester:

[3] Rachael Grinham (Aus) bt [1] Nicol David (Mas)        7/9, 4/9, 9/3, 10/8, 9/1 (87m)
[3] Gregory Gaultier (Fra) bt [4] Thierry Lincou (Fra)     11/4, 10/12, 11/6, 11/3 (63m)

Comeback queen Rachael  denies Nicol

What a match. What a comeback.

Immediately after finishing one of the most dramatic and gripping matches I’ve ever witnessed, Rachael Grinham could only find one word … “Shocking!”.

Others soon came to mind though – “my best ever performance”, “my most satisfying win ever”. And in a poll of the packed audience at Sportcity that gave the players a prolonged standing ovation at the end, it’s a fair bet most would tick the “one of …” or “best ever” box.

It didn’t start as a classic, and it didn’t start well for Rachael. 4/0 very quickly, she managed to claw her way back to lead 7/4, but a few untimely tins saw the momentum swing again as Nicol took the game 9/7 after 17 minutes.

Another 4/0 start for the defending champion in the second, but this time Rachael couldn’t pull it back, Nicol doubling her lead, 9/4 after 14 minutes with Nicol seemingly firing on all cylinders, Rachael struggling to keep in touch.

In their final in Amsterdam a few weeks ago Rachael had stopped Nicol’s flow by slowballing her, lobbing wherever she could, hardly ever hitting hard, and for a while it worked, but Nicol soon caught on and won in straight games.

In the third game here she started employing similar tactics here. Not so much slow, but lob, lob, lob and lob again whenever in trouble. They would play out the rallies, moving from side to side, corner to corner, retrieving the irretrievable, and when it became too tight … lob, and start it all over again. And again. And again.

And you could see the belief starting to infiltrate Rachael. In Amsterdam she never believed she could win, she just tried to extend the match. Now she started believing.

A lead of 4/1 was converted, 9/3 and after 14 minutes it was 2/1.

The fourth was amazing. 28 minutes of precise, gripping squash, Nicol pushing, Rachael resisting. 4/0 to Nicol, 4-all. 5-all, 6-all, 7-all. Nicol’s lob died at the back …match ball, championship ball, and she tinned a volley she would normally bury with Rachael struggling to make ground.

That was her only chance. Two more tins from Nicol, a drive that left her stranded and it was two-all. 90 seconds? We all needed at least a 10-minute break …

It certainly looked as Nicol needed longer – as soon as the fifth started Rachael was on top and on the offensive. 6/0 in a single hand, three winners with Nicol nowhere in sight, unheard of.

When Rachael went 7/0 up the place erupted. Another fantastic scrambling rally, Rachael lunged to retrieve a ball tight to the right-hand wall and was still sitting there when Nicol’s crosscourt came back just above her head. From a sitting position she punched the ball straight down the wall leaving Nicol stranded again and the crowd in raptures.

There was no way Rachael could lose after that. Nicol got a serve, got a point, but that was all. The ball was soon sailing past the defending champion one last time, and it was the former champion who would be having her name engraved on the trophy for the third time.



Greg too Bright

Thierry Lincou didn’t start this match well, but then again, when does he?? So I’m sure that neither he nor his mate/opponent Greg Gaultier took much notice of the result of the first game.

But soon it looked like, although Thierry was playing pretty good squash, Greg was pretty much in control of the rallies, both at the front of the court, his specialty, but also at the back, considered to be Thierry’s territory.

The second game was monumental, 25 minutes, with the two men starting to chat in French as Greg was unhappy with several calls from the refs (“it’s three times you stitch me up”, “you’ve got to stop this”, etc…). The tension mounted, as it always does when those two battle on court, and ended on a kill backhand for the former number one that rolled happily away, allowing him to equalise at 1/1.

But from that moment on, Greg was too fast, too accurate, too precise. Thierry didn’t do anything wrong, but was not doing anything to prevent his young friend from taking territorial control. His deep game, too imprecise today, which normally allows him to contain Greg, was not tight enough, and the more the rallies developed, the slower Thierry became, and the more dominant the French number one emerged.

The result was inevitable I’m afraid. Greg is a bit like a blotting paper, you know, he absorbs everything he sees that’s got talent written on it, and he took his own abilities, his speed and accuracy at the front, added Jonathan Power’s speed of shots, and now he’s integrated Thierry’s tight at the back game. Lethal combination.

Thierry was not going to win against Greg tonight. I don’t know honestly who would have. Greg is going to be a major player on the World Tour.

Tonight is just the beginning.