Fri, Nov 24, 2006 - Page 22 News List

Defending squash champ starts title fight with solid win

AFP , BELFAST

Defending champion and top seed Nicol David made a solid start on Wednesday in her bid to join a distinguished list of only three women who have made successful defenses of the world squash title.

The 23-year-old Malaysian adapted well to halt a brief second game wobble while overcoming Lauren Briggs, an English qualifier, 9-4, 9-5, 9-4 in the first round of the women's World Open at the Belfast Boat Club.

Briggs appeared to have benefited from her two matches in qualifying, being well used to the conditions on conventional plaster courts and taking her opportunities to attack David in the second game in which she led 5-1.

But after that the exceptional speed of the champion was too much, and once David had her nose ahead again, there was no doubting the outcome.

"Laura played well and took her opportunities when they came," the champion said.

"I'm glad the first round is over, and glad to find my focus, and I'm excited at the prospect of playing at the Ulster Hall on the all-glass court," added David, referring to yesterday's transition to a transparent show court.

"It's also nice to be part of the biggest ever WISPA event," said David, referring to the fact that this World Open has a record US$112,500 prize fund.

David will now have a surprise opponent, another qualifier, Samantha Teran, the Pan-American champion from Mexico, who won 9-5, 9-5, 9-1 against Engy Kheirullah, the 12th seeded Egyptian who reached the British Open semi-finals in September.

Earlier another Egyptian, the 17-year-old Raneem el-Weleily, showed exactly why she is being touted as a future world beater when she had one of the front-runners in trouble.

The rapidly improving world junior champion earned herself a point to go to a fifth and final game against former world No. 1 Rachael Grinham. El-Weleily led 8-6 in the fourth game against the third-seeded Australian before losing 9-1, 9-5, 8-10, 10-8, leaving Grinham thankful to make it to the last 16.

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