Nicol David and Ong Beng Hee clinched the WISPA and PSA titles at the Chennai Open squash championships here on Sunday. The Malaysian top seeds beat English second seeds Jenny Duncalf and Jonathan Kemp in surprisingly one-sided finals.
World No. 1 Nicol David came into the women's final holding a 14-2 head-to-head record against World No. 3 Jenny Duncalf. The two matches won by the Englishwoman, however, were their two most recent meetings, in the U.S. Open and the Qatar Classic last year.
If Duncalf had turned a corner in her career, it didn't show here. Even in her first couple of matches here, against Annie Au and Laura Massaro, her reaction speeds had appeared a little suspect in the opening games.
Such was the case here too, and David took full toll, zipping low drives into the back corners past her opponent's outstretched frame.
Rattled, Duncalf served up a weak serve at 4-6, at just the right height for David to chop a remorseless backhand kill. Successive errors from Duncalf at 6-9 and 6-10 gave David the first game.
By now, the top seed was in full flight, and conjured telling strokes even when off-balance. At 6-2 in the second game, a forceful Duncalf drive hurtled into David's body, shin high. Instantaneously, she twisted her forearm to take the point with an inside-out shot into the right corner.
Far from wilting, Duncalf seemed to have upped her resolve at the start of the third, winning two early points with wristy trickle boasts. However, she couldn't fight her own increasing error-count. She hit the tin twice to take David from 4-3 to 6-3.
Soon, it was 10-6 thanks to a mishit backhand crosscourt from Duncalf, who had till then controlled the rally. At the next point, an attempted drop into the left corner dipped well short of the front wall, to give David the title in 2010's first WISPA gold event.
Ong Beng Hee's straight-games win over Jonathan Kemp in the men's final was a much tighter affair. Only two points separated the two in each game — the difference lay in the fact that Beng Hee played the way he always plays, while denying Kemp his preferred style and tempo.
Left-handed, long hair pouring out of his headband, Kemp has something of John McEnroe about him, down to his desire to volley at every opportunity.
Giving no room
Here, Beng Hee's bread-and-butter backhand rails ran so tight against the left wall that Kemp seldom had any room to swing early forehands at the ball, having instead to wait till the ball made contact with the back wall. This meant that he seldom surprised Beng Hee with unpredictable changes of angle.
Rarely therefore was Beng Hee forced into the sort of whirling chases that Kemp put Saurav Ghosal through in the semifinals.
Beng Hee achieved vicious underspin on his right-handed forehands, and picked up numerous points thanks to the ball dropping sharply off the front wall. Despite hitting them low and quite close to the board, he committed only scattered errors.
Kemp stayed close to the top seed in every game, only for Beng Hee to find inspiration at critical points — a crosscourt forehand flick at 9-all in the second, and successive backhand boasts at the left corner, struck powerfully around Kemp's body, facing the wrong way in anticipation of the drop shot, to go from 3-3 to 5-3 in the third.
The results (finals):
Men: Ong Beng Hee (Mas) bt Jonathan Kemp (Eng) 14-12, 11-9, 11-9.
Women: Nicol David (Mas) bt Jenny Duncalf (Eng) 11-6, 11-4, 11-6.