Sunday, 6 October 2013
Nicol David takes the 2013 Carol Weymuller Open, and how...
Observations of Players in the 2013 Carol Weymuller Squash Open
After the Malaysian Open, started the season, the Carol Weymuller Open has quickly followed on, and along with the Malaysian Open it's one of the three women's Gold events to begin this squash year, the third being the upcoming US Open.
This event ending just before the US Open, had attracted an exceptionally strong field of women. Once the qualifying rounds were done, the first round of the main draw of 16, included only two women from outside the world's top 20. And one of those outsiders is returning to the courts from an injury break, before which she was a solid member of that same top 20.
So from the first round of the main draw every single match was worthy of a final in many other non-Gold tournaments around the world. Virtually every match had at least one player from within the top ten. And looking at the results we can make some observations as to how the women are doing, as the season really winds up tight now, with the US Open literally around the corner, and the Women's World Open not far on the horizon. And then the rest of the season coming in after the new year break.
So here we go:
Aisling Blake (Irl): Good results coming through the qualifying, particularly a good win over Sarah Kippax. In the first round though, she went down to Laura Massaro (Eng). Aisling is going to need something more to go much further up the rankings. Not a threat to the top guns.
Nicolette Fernandez (Guy): Recent results have brought her up to her highest career ranking of #19. She had a couple of solid wins in Qualifying and taking Low Wee Wern (WR#5) to four games in round one. Solid performance, from a fighter. Will have a difficult time breaking into the top 15. Needs a more polished attack.
Alison Waters (Eng): Was out for awhile for an injury, has made a rocketing return in the past year back up to the top, currently world #4. This is the second tournament in a row where she's lost to Camille Serme (Fra). Granted Camille is on her own recent return climb up the ranking mountain, but it's hard to see where Alison is going. At the moment it is not upward.
Victoria Lust (Eng): Had a couple of nice wins in qualifying. Definitely puts her in the range of players just outside the top 20. Not enough to her game yet to break into that top group, but she's young, probably a solid member of the next generation for the English National Team.
Omneya Abdel Kawy (Egy): If you don't make her move, and you let the ball loose anywhere near her racket, it's lights out, game and match over. This time Joelle King (Nzl) did a good job of keeping Omneya on the move, with patient rallying. Omneya is always difficult, but her lack of speed restricts her game, and it's difficult to see her returning to her previous high of being inside the top 5.
Line Hansen (Den): Had two expected wins in qualifying, and that was it. Coming up against Raneem El Weleily (WR#3), it didn't look good, and that's the way it played out. After Raneem warmed up in the first game, the match was essentially over. Line's game and experience will keep her just inside or around the top 20, but not likely to go much further up the ladder.
Dipika Pallikal (Ind): Has been ranked as high as #10, dropped back down, currently at #17. She had a great win in the first round over Kasey Brown (Aus). But the physical work of that 5 game match meant she had little left in the next match against Nicol David. In these large Gold events, it's would be a stretch to expect that Dipika will get to the later rounds. From the round of 16 matches are already tough, so it's not likely for anyone to arrive in the quarter finals without having expended some measure of energy. And Dipika doesn't appear to have the gas tank to go the 3 or 4 hard matches needed to contest a major title.
Joelle King (Nzl): Excellent strategic win over Omneya Abdel Kawy (Egy) in the first round, and a good fight with Raneem El Weleily (Egy) while going down in three games. Joelle is really a solid player now, deservedly in the top 10. Needs to get in as much top level match play as possible expand her experience, so that she can start to make the players at the very top start to 'sweat'.
Jenny Duncalf (Eng): Solid player, very good all around game. Lots of experience. Makes her one of the 'gatekeepers' of the top rank. Absolute stalwart of the English National Team. But with the current group of players ranked above her, with youngsters Low Wee Wern (Mas) and Camille Serme (Fra) climbing fast, one can not see her returning to her former career high of #2.
Low Wee Wern (Mas): Good win in the first round over Nicolette, showing solid nerves, handling the fighter from Guyana, and coming out with the win that was expected, against someone playing some of the best squash of her career. Lost in the second round to Laura Massaro, but definitely not a 'bad' loss, even though it was in three games. Definitely continues to show an improving game. And her attacking tactics and techniques are beginning to gel. Will continue to have some tough matches against players from #5 - #15, but she's going to gradually start winning these with growing ease and confidence. As she starts to win these matches by scores of 3-0, then she'll start taking games off the very top players, and making them suffer. Her overall game is still adjusting to the top echelon of the rankings.
Laura Massaro (Eng): Wow, she's been on an awesome run, taking the tour by storm. Multiple titles, big titles, and several wins over Nicol David. And it's all been due to her phenomenal attack tactics on the backhand side of the court. She's really come into her own in the past year and half or so. But now, the others are starting to attack her. For awhile it seems the strategy was to push her around a bit, try to keep her away from the backhand midcourt. But recently her opponents are attacking, and it appears to be down the forehand side. This is keeping her away from where she's dominant, and at the same time building pressure that starts to create some time and distance between Laura and her optimal T position. With losses in the semifinals of both the Malaysian Open, and here at the Carol Weymuller Open, it might be time to evaluate how to handle players who are attacking her forehand. Question is: 'Is there time enough before the US Open'?
Raneem El Weleily (Egy): Currently the top women's proponent of the 'Egyptian game'. And this takes her through so many opponents. Her ability to attack from anywhere on the court, simply overwhelms most of the women, no matter what their ranking, and that even included some matches against Nicol David. Until now.... With the recent Malaysian Open, we've witnessed a new Nicol David, may we say Nicol 2.0 ? Whereas in the past year Raneem had a couple of excellent wins over Nicol, that has been reversed in the first two Gold events of this season. Nicol 2.0 is now an attacking player, with the same or improved fitness levels of before. And Raneem has simply been unable to keep up. In the semifinal here, on the cement wall court, Raneem did better score wise than in the Malaysian Open, but the result was the same. With Nicol now attacking, every rally is a sprint, and by the time the first game is over, Raneem was starting to physically struggle. With her racket skills and the bouncy court the second game score was still respectable, but the end result was not in doubt. Raneem is going to have to raise her fitness level, if she really wants to consistently compete with Nicol.
Camille Serme (Fra): Can we say it? Simply put, this is likely to be Camille's 'break out' tournament. She's taken down England's top three women in her three rounds, on the way to the final. I don't know just how much a jump in the rankings will take place when the November rankings come out, but Camille has just beaten the world's #4, #7, and #2. Next week in the US Open, she is unseeded, and her draw will have her possibly playing Nicol David in the second round, that's tough. But, if in November her ranking goes from #10 up somewhere into the top 8, then her future results should start looking very good, as in the big events the top 8 always get seeded. Camille being only 24 years of age, is now performing at a level that should bring her solidly into the top ten, and keep her there for quite awhile. Considering Camille's results last year in the Malaysian (R2-Loss), Carol Weymuller (R1-Loss), and US Opens (R1-Loss), one would expect that this year's results will vault her into the top 8.
Nicol David 2.0 (Mas): Fantastic, Nicol has followed up her resounding Malaysian Open win with another masterpiece of attacking squash that the women's game has likely never seen in the past. Her attacking game that is now riding high, on top of her relentless level of fitness, as a spectator it looks like Nicol physically finishes off her opponents in the first game. It is reminiscent of Jahangir Khan, who often played extremely long, fast, physically exhausting first games, that had close scores, only to have the opponents break down before the end, and thus the next games were simply not competitive. Nicol's game is now so complete, I'm not sure if there is anyway to counter what she's doing. Opponents really have no choice but to try and run with her at this attacking pace, or they'll simply lose the games quick smart. But trying to keep up, is wearing out her adversaries faster then ever. One has to wonder if Nicol has ever felt so comfortable in her wins as she's likely starting to feel now. Even if someone does take the first or second game off of her at some point, the expended effort to have achieved that, will likely empty out the energy reserves, and then they'll have nothing left to finish the match.
So the finals how did they go? The first game was an absolute slugfest. Up until 6-6 both players were full-on with the attacking deep drives and fast drops. At that point it looked like Camille started to fall behind a bit, and Nicol was breaking away. Camille responded with a bit more height on the front wall, which gave her extra time to recover to the T, and she caught up. Still Nicol takes the first game in extra points, maintaining her attack at full speed.
The second game, in the early rallies it looked like Nicol was forcing Camille to overstretch to shots, and this is where Camille's errors creeped in. Where in the first game Camille was getting to virtually every shot on balance, in game two she was falling half a step behind, and once she had to lunge to the ball the rally's result became predetermined, and thus the game as well.
In game three, Nicole came out playing slightly higher on the front wall for her deep drives, setting a pace, then she'd change up playing something quick and short. This worked extremely well, as she built up a large lead. Camille came up with some nice shots to get a few points back. But in the end Nicol's subtle in-rally shifts in this game were too much for Camille, and Nicol takes the third game comfortably.