GRAND CAYMAN, Cayman Islands: Titleholder Nicol David showed how much she likes the music and warmth of the bay-side venue at Grand Cayman on Monday with an in-tune performance which carried her to the quarter-finals of the World Open in less than half an hour.
The six-time champion from Malaysia looked as strong a favourite as ever as she won 9-3, 9-2, 9-3 against Annie Au, the Hong Kong player who has become a regular in the world’s top ten, but was allowed no chance to show how.
David struck the ball rhythmically and well, gave little away, and kept pressure on so relentlessly that it was easy to forget that the tournament had undergone a major shift of playing conditions.
“They made the ball bouncy, but at the same time this is a glass court so if you play your shots, it goes in,” said David referring to the more favourable chances of putting the ball away compared with the first round which had been played on conventionally walled indoor courts.
David, occasionally a tense starter, seemed to be relaxed by the idyllic courtside view and sociable evening ambience and comfortably swept aside one of the tour’s most improved and promising younger players.
“It’s such a good vibe and everyone is in such a lively mood that I feed off the energy of it,” she said happily. It was easy to see why, in three previous tournaments here, David has never been beaten.
She now has a rest day before taking on Madeline Perry, the tenth-seeded Irish woman who beat David back in 2009 en route to the final of the British Open in Manchester.
The oldest player in the top ten, Perry won 11-2, 11-9, 11-9 against the youngest, Nour El Sherbini, the 17-year-old Egyptian who still combines school with professional squash.
By contrast, Perry has been on tour for much of a decade and a half, though it was hard to tell that she was fully 18 years senior during this effective performance.
However, her opponent was not quite the same Egyptian who contested this year’s British Open final against David.
Instead, El Sherbini became frustrated by her slow start, and not until the third game, when she had her nose ahead for a while, that the teenager looked like the player touted as David’s successor.
Earlier, two English players, Alison Waters, the fourth seed, and Jenny Duncalf, last year’s runner-up, also reached the last eight, where they will play each other.
Waters saved a game point in the second game to beat Samantha Teran, the 15th-seeded Mexican, 11-5, 12-10, 11-5, while Duncalf saved a crucial game point in the first game of her 12-10, 11-6, 8-11, 11-8 win over Camille Serme, the 14th seeded French woman.
That swung the match almost irrevocably, for Duncalf went on to take 11 out of 12 points, and by the time Serme had recovered it was well into the fourth game and too late to pull the deficit all the way back.