Upsets abound at Dutch Open
It was a day of upsets in final qualifying for the Dutch Open at the Victoria Club in Rotterdam, as five of the eight matches - and all four men's - saw the lower seeded player prevail.
Women's Qualifying Finals:
Today's first qualifying final, the all-English matchup between Lauren Selby, 26, and Emily Whitlock, the recently re-crowned British U17 champion, looked interesting after both enjoyed swift wins in round one. It was a good matchup too, Selby had more power to call on, but Whitlock compensated with some determined retrieving and her usual precise shot placement. Selby led all of the games, but it was the youngster who ended up winning al of them. "I didn't expect to win that one," Whitlock admitted, "but I didn't expect to win yesterday either, and I'm not normally very good at putting in back to back performances! I watched Lauren in February when she had a massive match against Carrie [Ramsey] so I knew it was going to be really tough. I though I played well though, I'm pleased with that."
Victoria Lust provided a second English qualifier as she proved too strong on the day for Milou Van Der Heijden, who made too many mistakes for her own good, saving her best run of points until she was already match ball down.
In the evening session women's top qualifying seed Nicolette Fernandes eased into the main draw with a solid win over Leonie Holt. Fernandes, just back from the Pan-Am Championships in Guatemala, was quickly into her stride and in good control for the most part as she won 11/3, 11/9, 11/4. Nicolette, who has been sitting at the top of the centre court watching all today's matches, was happy enough with her performance: "I thought I played well there. She played better at the start of the second and I dropped off, but you always get those games. There's been some good squash today, I've enjoyed watching it, now I'm looking forward to seeing who I get to play in the main draw."
Milja Dorenbos, the last Dutchwoman left in qualifying, couldn't pull off another upset against Sina Wall, but my didn't she try. The German didn't have too much difficulty in the first game, with Dorenbos struggling to find her game, but she had to work very hard to take the next two. Dorenbos did a lot of running, some spectacular retrieving and some heavy hitting. It wasn't quite enough though as Wall closed out the match in three. "I'm very happy to win that three-nil," said a relieved Sina, "she played much better after the first game, I just wasn't focused enough and she took advantage. At 10/5 down I just told myself to play my own game and win as many points as I could.”
Men's Qualifying Finals:
The first men's match was the longest of the tournament so far as Jens Schoor prevailed in an up and down contest against Robbie Temple, ranked some 40-odd places higher than the German. It's not as if there were an inordinate amount of lets, and yes Schoor took a few minutes to get a cut elbow seen to by 'Nurse' Sina Wall, but essentially they slugged it out with long rallies, neither able to dominate for long spells but then one or the other would make the breakthrough and win a rush of points. In the fifth Jens quickly raced to a 10/3 lead, but hit the tin five times and extra points loomed. One more attempt at a winner off his opponent's serve did the trick though, and with a scream that seemed more in pain than ecstasy Jens was through. "I was cramping up at the end of the match," he revealed afterwards. "It started in my right toe and spread to my calves, I was in agony at the end but I was trying not to let Robbie or the referee see it. Luckily I had enough points in hand and eventually got the winner I needed!
Another upset result followed as Joel Hinds came through against Scott Arnold in three close games. It was a closely-contested match, with both players hitting the ball crisply with intent, but the Australian simply found the tin too many times (seven times in the third game alone). "I felt I was overhitting a lot, especially on the forehand," said Joel after the match, "and he was trying to crack it back, sometimes for a winner but he hit the tin a few times too. I'm very pleased with that, especially since I struggled yesterday."
The Victoria crowd was out in force to support the last Dutch hope Piedro Schweertman as he took on Kashif Shuja. There was nothing to choose between them for a game and a half, Schweertman just edged the first but then caught a dose of tin-itis from 5-all in the second as the Kiwi levelled. The tables were turned in the third as the Dutchman ran away with it from 4-all, then turned again as Shuja quickly went 4/0 up in the fourth. As Schweertman fought back the crowd got more and more involved, and the match developed into an entertaining, but tense, battle. 6-all, 7-all, 8-all, 9-all, Kashif got a game ball but couldn't retrieve Piedro's dropshot. In extended extra points Kashif would have two more game balls at 14/13 and 15/14, but it was the Dutchman who prevailed on his fourth match ball as Kashit tried to feather a volleydrop but saw it clip the tin. "I played him last month in a league match and lost 3/2," said the victor, "I ended up playing him at his own game then, so I knew I needed to try to keep the pace high today. It was a funny match, I made a lot of errors in the first two games, the third was much better but the fourth was up and down, very tense in the end, I think I just wanted to win too much!"
There was just no stopping Steve Finitsis today as the big Aussie made it four out of four upsets in the men's matches in beating Julien Balbo in four games. The Frenchman took the first, pulling away from 8-all, but everything went wrong for him in the second, from lucky nicks from Finitsis to missed sitters from his own racket. 11/2 and it was quick too. The third was much the same, but this time it was all down to Finitsis' play, he was firing in winners from everywhere, covering the court like lightning with those huge strides and reach, and getting better of the drop exchanges that he liked so much and Balbo was unable to extract himself from. To his credit Balbo fought back and made a real game of it in the fourth, and up to 6-all and 7/8 it was anyone's, but an error and a stroke gave Finitsis match ball and another stroke left the Frenchman fuming and Finitsis very happy. "I played a bit too cautiously at the start, maybe I was a little nervous, but I got it together in the second and third. The fourth was very tight, but I knew I had to keep on trying to mix it up, and rely on my movement to dig me out of any trouble. Those shots in the second, sometimes they work, sometimes they don't, but it's nice when they do, especially to win a game!"