Mixed success for Dutch in Round One in Rotterdam

18th November 2010

While hosts Holland have most players in the women's draw of the Dutch Open in 2010, home hopes in the men's event rest on the shoulders of national number one Laurens Jan Anjema.

Men's Round One
"He was so fast in the first two games," said Mathieu Castagnet after losing out to top seed and local favourite Laurens Jan Anjema. "He was pretty fast too," countered LJ, "and the thing with Mathieu is that his level never changes, he's the same throughout the whole match, so in the first you think 'this is not too bad', but by the time you get to the third you think 'this is getting hard now'." And that's exactly what happened. It was never easy, the rallies were tough, the hitting ferocious and the retrieving at times breathtaking, but LJ held the upper hand in the first two games. Far from staying at the same level, it seemed that Castagnet upped his game in the third, moved faster, hit harder, led 5/1, 6/4 and 8/6, but LJ picked his own game up for one final effort, levelled at 9-all and, much to his own relief, took the match on his second match ball. LJ, the only player in the men's draw to compete in every edition of the Dutch Open since 2002, was happy to be through in three games: "The first two games were very tough physically, the third was tough scorewise, I just had to keep my focus there, it was more of a mental game, that one."
Next up for Anjema is Egypt's Hisham Ashour, older brother of, who came through a noisy encounter with Davide Bianchetti. "I enjoyed it, but there was too much talking," claimed Hisham, who it has to be said is normally the instigator of such things.

After yesterday's heroics it was a quick return to Earth for qualifiers Jens Schoor and Joel Hinds as they both crashed out 3/0 in the opening matches of the day. Schoor only really got into a rhythm against seventh seed Chris Ryder when he was already 8/2 down in the third, but he couldn't delay the inevitable for long. "One match too many," he said afterwards. "Yesterday was tough and if I'd had a day's rest I might have done better, but Chris was too strong for me today."

Hinds lost to Alister Walker in a strange scoreline of 11/6, 11/0, 12/10, and he matched the third seed for over half the match - the first was even up to 6-all, but Walker then took the next sixteen points to establish a commanding lead. "Too many mistakes, and even when I did have opportunities I messed them up," mused Joel, "just not good enough." He came back strongly in the third though, and had a game ball at 10/9 to extend the match, but Walker again denied him.

Runner-up for the last two years, Cameron Pilley's 2010 campaign didn't get off to the greatest of starts as the second seed found himself 10/7 down to Dutch qualifier Piedro Schweertman in their first game. "He played well in the first, at five or six all he started going for crosscourt nicks and got most of them," explained Pilley. "I just had to try to weather the storm, tough out a few rallies and get back into it."

He did just that, taking the next five points and enjoying a more comfortable time in the next two games of which he was always in charge. "I train with Piedro quite a bit so I know he's a strong ld and that it was going to take a little while to tire him out." The Hague-based Aussie finished off the match in style with a powerful kill to the front corner, although to be fair it was about the tenth nick he'd tried for in that rally.

Steve Finistis predicted last night that his match with fellow-Aussie Aaron Frankcomb would be tough, and so it proved, 80 minutes for a 3-1 win and the first upset of the main draw. "It was more of a length game, the pace wasn't ridiculously high so I don't feel too bad physically," said a delighted winner. "At two-nil up I maybe thought I had a bit of a roll on and relaxed a bit, but he stayed steady to pull one back and we both fell back into a sort of safe mode in the fourth." It certainly was a tight finish as the fourth was level all the way to 9-all, five lets were played then Finitsis won a stroke as Frankcomb played the ball down the middle of the court then promptly tinned his service return.

The final pair of men's matches saw home hopes left to rest on LJ's ample shoulders as Stewart Boswell joined fellow Australians Pilley and Finitsis in the quarters at the expense of Dylan Bennett. He will meet Simon Rosner whose hour plus win over Chris Simpson left the English with just two players in the last eight.

Women's Round One
The women's first round kicked off with contrasting wins for two Irishwomen, guaranteeing that the Irish will be represented in the semi-finals. Second seed Madeline Perry was comfortable enough against qualifier Nicolette Fernandes, the only trick moment coming when she almost let a 10/4 lead slip in the first. "I always seem to find a way of making it hard," she commented.

What would Aisling Blake have given for a lead like that - she struggled for three games to see of the determined young Egyptian Kanzy El Dafrawy who, despite a few trademark dives, narrowly lost out in the first and second games. The tables were turned in the third as Kanzy edged another too-close-to-call game, but Aisling finally gained some measure of control in the fourth, leaving her opponent sprawled on the floor as she tucked away the winning drive. “It was a good game for me to play, she has a totally different style so I had to learn how to deal with that and try different things myself. When I attacked straight she was under a lot more pressure but it took time. It will be nice to play Madeline, we haven't played in a while, but we both know each other's games very well so there probably won't be many surprises this time around."

Top seed Rachael Grinham encountered some strong early resistance from English qualifier Victoria Lust, but once her 'pull you here, twist you there' style of play started to take its toll it became easier for the Australian, and although Lust never stopped fighting there was only one likely outcome.

The outcome of the final match of the afternoon session was in the balance right until the death though, as eighth seed Manuela Manetta withstood the attacking play of local favourite Annelize Naudé to win a gruelling five-setter. "Her shots are so good," said the Italian, who now faces Grinham in the quarters. "You just have to make sure you get a good length, anything on the T she can chop it in and you're in big trouble. I tried to keep the pace slower, and I didn't feel any pressure, I just wanted to enjoy the match. It's not easy to play her but I thought I played well today, and it's nice to get a win too!"

First on the showcourt for the evening session was Natalie Grinham, continuing her comeback with six-month-old Kieran watching as ever. The junior theme was maintained as her opponent was 16-year-old qualifier Emily Whitlock, half her opponent's age. The English girl wouldn't have expected too much against the former world number two, but she gave an excellent account of herself. She was in contention for the whole of the first game, but two or three unforced errors contributed to her undoing. It was all Grinham in the second, floating the ball around and pushing in those soft drops, making her opponent work hard but still willing to put in the work herself when needed. The Dutchwoman continued to hold sway in the third, led 4/1, 7/4 and 10/7 but rather surprisingly didn't finish it off as Emily came back to force extra points with two lovely winners. That was as far as she got though, she was thoroughly worked out of position on the next point and wrongfooted by Natalie's drop on the match ball that counted, but she will be encouraged nonetheless.

Orla Noom was surprised to see so many supporters make the short trip over to court two once Natalie's match had finished: "I was quite happy not to play on the showcourt, there were a few people watching and then suddenly the gallery was packed!" They enjoyed the spectacle too as Orla fought out a tough battle with Latasha Khan. A good start for the Dutchwoman was cancelled out by the many-time US champion, but Orla managed to keep her nose in front for the next two games to cement a win which she was delighted with. "That was fun," she said. "Well, it was really hard actually, especially the third. I thought I was dying in that one so it's a good job I snuck it otherwise I'd have been in big trouble. We play a lot in training and I can count on one hand the games I've taken off her, so to actually win in this tournament is great - I don't usually play well in Holland so I was just hoping I didn't freeze or mess it up, and thankfully I didn't! It will be fun playing Nat, I play her a lot in training too and he's getting better and better every week, so nothing to lose I'll just give it a good go."

"It's a strange feeling knowing you're playing your last WISPA tournament in Holland," said twelve-time Dutch Champion Vanessa Atkinson after her opening match, "it could go two ways, a great way to finish or an absolute disaster - let's hope it's the latter!" She made a good enough start, wining in straight games against the all-action young Egyptian Heba El Torky, who confessed to be nervous at the prospect of playing a player with such a record. "She's such a great player," said Heba. "I would put in a good dropshot, she'd get there and at the last minute play a lob and I'd have to start the rally again!" For her part, Vanessa knew she had to be on her guard: "She's very bouncy, and I knew she could be very dangerous so I was prepared for it being difficult, but I felt pretty sharp, especially for a first round. Sharp she was, consolidating an early lead in the first and dominating the second as she moved ahead 9/1. Heba's nerves were showing as she made a few errors and berated herself for them, but she settled, got a few ppints back before losing the second and held her own in the third, getting as close as 8/7 before Vanessa stepped on the accelerator to finish it off. "This is the club I play league for, so it's nice to be on familiar ground," added Vanessa, "I know a lot of people here which always helps."

Atkinson now meets England's Sarah Kippax, who beat German qualifier Sina Wall in four games.