Wednesday , 16 April 2014

2008 Event

Nicol gets her third,
David his fourth …

12-May 2008, Finals, Liverpool Echo Arena:
[1] Nicol David (Mas) bt [5] Jenny Duncalf (Eng)   9/1, 10/8, 9/0 (40m)
[5] David Palmer (Aus) bt [4] James Willstrop (Eng) 11/9, 11/9, 8/11, 6/11, 13/11 (112m)
Toggle

Denied a third title at the death last year, world number one Nicol David reclaimed the British Open title with a wonderful performance against Jenny Duncalf.

The Englishwoman matched David in a fine comeback from 7/2 down in the second, falling just short, but for the rest of the match the Malaysian was in the form we’ve come to expect of her …

And what a men’s final followed. David Palmer took a two-game lead against home favourite James Willstrop and looked to have it in the bag in the third, but a tremendous fightback from the  Pontefract man levelled the match,

In a tense decider first Palmer took the lead, then Willstrop led 9-6 but missed a dropshot that would have given him match balls. Palmer levelled, then Willstrop edged ahead 10/9 on a stroke. He thought he’d won it on a another stroke, only to hear the call “yes let”.

James got a second chance at 11/10, couldn’t take it, then David earned, and took, his first opportunity – on an outrageous mishit – to his utter delight …

 

Full coverage from Liverpool

[hr]

EXTRA-ORDINARY

How on earth do you expect me to describe a 112 minute match that end up 13/11 in the 5th on a fluke??? Do you have all night????

A few stats to start with. They both made only 9 unforced errors the whole match, and if the average length of each game was 15 minutes, the last one lasted 35…

”We’ve been working on that shot for the past 10 years, and we kept it for the right moment,” apologised Aussie’s way Shaun Moxham, David’s coach, as David raised his arms in the air, and James buried his face in his hands in complete disbelief and despair.

But let’s rewind an extraordinary evening, which started extremely well for the Australian, moving in that backhand corner like he was 20, volleying at his best, taking the initiative to set up his first game ball at 10/5. We knew we had a match on our hands when he could only take it 11/9…

And Dig In James came back much more offensive, and took control of the T, volleying much more than previously, stepping up the pace, to take what seemed a comfortable lead, 8/3. But again, thanks to that backhand volley drop shot, the Marine clawed back to 8/8 then 9/9. A perfect length backhand boast and a forehand drive kill later, David was up 2/0, looking pretty good…

He still looked extremely good up 5/1 in the third. But that’s when Dig In James came into real action. Playing with the same precision and utmost control he used against Thierry the night before, he volleyed his way back to the T, making David run, but most of all, making him doubt…

And it worked beautifully. The Australian lost length, lost control of the Mighty T, made a few wrong choices, and James, astonishingly, if you think about what the boy’s been stringing as hours on court in the past 15 days, forced a decider.

Now, it was him that was looking pretty good, and David, pretty tired…

2/2. 3/3. 4/4. 5/5. 6/6. At that point, we had been playing for exactly 100 minutes, and we didn’t have the slightest clue who was dominating who. The rallies were massive, nothing, absolutely nothing was given away, they both clanged in there, attacked, retrieved, throwing themselves at the four corners of the court, some of the most gutsiest rallies I’ve seen since the John White madness era…

And James suddenly finds a new strength, the “energy of despair”, we call it in French at 6/6. An uncharacteristic tin for David, a stunning forehand straight that glues to the wall, and an extraordinary backhand volley redrop later, James is about to clinch his first title, 9/6.

David feels the danger, and just goes for everything he’s got in the tank. “I didn’t want to be down 10 years down the line, and ask myself what if I’d gone for it”, he admitted. And at the end of a monstrous rally, he forces the error out of James, who from that point on, looked like he went a tiny itsy bit conservative, giving the initiative to his opponent.

And we arrive at 9/9. A call that seemed very harsh against David gave James his first match ball 10/9. A call that should have given him the match, took it away, only a let instead of a stroke. “One all,” I heard a spectator shout…

10/10. James forces another match ball 11/10. The tension, the suspense, is absolutely incredible. A long rally, that ends with a lucky bounce off the backwall for David, back at 11/11.

Follows a rally that we still will talk about in 10, 20 years, where James covered the diagonal so many times, forcing David to volley, and volley and volley. Surely the Marine was going to put it in the tin, James so deserved that rally, that match, that title. But nope. He just found a backhand drop shot yet again.

12/11. First match ball for David. And you know the rest. A crosscourt, out of the frame, that seems down, which is actually good. The crowd goes quiet. Nobody is sure of what’s really going on. But the ref declares it good, and awards David his fourth title. Incredible happiness and relieve in the Palmer’s camp. Disbelief and utter despair in the Willstrop’s. So close. So close. So close.

On a personal note, I truly believe that James has reached another level of game on this tournament. He came from a flashy going for shots no matter what stunning player to a stunning controlling accurate mind strong digging in true champion. This week, he was number one material, a position that he will be soon able to claim. And I stand by my words I said four years ago.

And David? David, has confirmed his membership to the World Giants of Squash Club…