CAIRO (AFP) – Malaysia’s seven-time world champion Nicol David’s bid to regain her crown progressed on Tuesday as she became the first player to reach the quarter-finals but she was forced to battle surprisingly hard in both the first two games of her match in Cairo.
The record-breaking Malaysian was 7-9 down in the first and 8-9 down in the second before prevailing 12-10, 11-9, 11-1 against Emily Whitlock, a 20-year-old English qualifier making a comeback after sickness and injury.
On each occasion David had too much consistency, speed and patience, but Whitlock, whose father-coach Phil, is a former England international, impressed with her vision of what was required and with her resilience.
She often moved David around the court well during plenty of long rallies in a 45-minute encounter, and by giving the top seed such a good work out may have done her a favour.
“It was a really good match and actually I enjoyed it,” David said.
“In these (cool) conditions the girls are going to take advantage if you leave anything loose and I was really pleased to get the first two games.
“I expect these kind of matches. I was prepared to attack, attack and stay in there.”
David repaired the two-point deficit near the end of the important first game with a deft volley-drop winner and then an unanswerable drive-drop combination, eventually finishing that game with a wall-clinging drive which Whitlock could not scrape to safety.
The later stages of the second game saw David come from behind with a drive to a fine length, a disguised volley drop winner, and then a concluding counter-drop winner after a tight rally in the top left corner.
In the third game Whitlock was spent, though this may also partly have been due to having played four times in four days, after coming through the qualifying competition.
“She doesn’t stop coming at you, it’s relentless,” she said of David. “It’s volley, volley, volley and she has variation, it’s at such a high pace, and it’s so controlled.
“You feel like you’re running yourself into the ground. But I am pleased with the way I played,” concluded Whitlock, whose chances of climbing from her ranking of 29 to somewhere above her career-best world number 23 look good.
David next plays Camille Serme, the world number six from France, who reached the world quarter-finals for the second time in nine months by beating Emma Beddoes, the fourth player in England’s world title winning team, by 11-5, 11-13, 11-4, 11-4.
The 25-year-old French woman attacked with skill and flair for much of the match, and might have won in straight games had not the tenacious Beddoes saved a game point at 10-11 in the second game.
But for all her spirit and mobility she could make little impression in the next two games in which Serme played well enough to suggest she might provide David with a test when they meet on Thursday.
Later the possibility of an all-Malaysian semi-final for the first time came closer when Low Wee Wern also reached the last eight, though she had to come from behind for the second time in two days to do it.
The seventh-seeded Penangite seemed to be drifting into trouble at 6-5 in the fourth game against Joshana Chinappa, the Indian national champion, but grittily struggled through many long rallies to a 6-11, 11-3, 11-13, 11-7, 11-8 success.
The day before Low had been 3-7 down in the fourth against Nicolette Fernandes of Guyana, thus winning matches of 80 minutes and 64 minutes on successive days despite hamstring problems which required extensive taping.
She now has an invaluable rest day before facing Omneya Abdel Kawy, the former world finalist from Egypt whose brilliant short game looks well adapted to the cool conditions, and who was a 13-11, 11-7, 13-11 winner against her compatriot Nouran Gohar.
Kawy saved three game balls in the third game, thus ending the run of the popular 18-year-old seed-beater who the day before had ousted yet another Egyptian, the fourth seeded Nour El Sherbini, a world finalist last time.