KINGSTON UPON HULL: Nicol David and Laura Massaro gave the British Open the dream final widely hoped for when the legendary Malaysian and the surprising Englishwoman survived minor scares in their respective semifinals on Saturday. Malaysia’s top-seeded David, who has been world number one for almost eight years, overcame Alison Waters, the British national champion, 8-11, 11-5, 11-4, 11-2, after recovering from a edgy start to score points with an increasing and pleasing variety.
Second-seeded Massaro, who has succeeded David as World and British Open champion, had a difficult beginning too, but found ways to slow down the hustling creativity of Raneem El Weleily, the third-seeded Egyptian, in an 8-11, 11-5, 11-4, 11-2 victory. For Massaro, this was repeating much of what she had done in the previous five encounters against a hugely talented opponent who sometimes lapses when denied openings or tested with changes of pace.
For David it was different. Her start was care-worn, shackled, and worrying. But her game blossomed luxuriantly after she had worked her way back into it in the second game with a steady and determined second effort. That built a crucial platform for what followed – a relaxing of the tension, an increase in the sidewall angles which took Waters forward before pinning her to the back with immaculate lengths, and eventually a transforming of the psychology of the match.
‘Mix of variety’: Massaro, who has never had the pressure of defending a big title before a home crowd before, began tensely too. After losing the first game she was 3-0 down in the second and appeared to be drifting into trouble until three balls into the tin from El Weleily helped her back into the match. The third game saw a shift of balance as Massaro’s accuracy grew and El Weleily’s rhythm became disrupted. Once in charge Massaro’s mind was pegged down tightly and she looked the winner from the moment she surged to 3-0 and then 7-2 in the fourth game.
David believes the pressure in Sunday’s final – which is a repeat of last year’s match – will be off her for once because Massaro is the defending champion. However, Massaro believes the pressure is off her because she became world champion for the first time last month. Either or both women could be right but whoever achieves the more relaxed mindset is likely to be the winner.
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