Home hero David Palmer defied a tenacious opponent and an ankle injury in the fifth game to claw his way into the second round of the Viridian Australian Open after upsetting Malaysia’s Mohd Azlan Iskandar 14-12, 11-9, 5-11, 9-11, 11-8 in today’s first round of the third PSA World Series squash event of the year in Canberra.
Palmer, the 2009 champion, won the first two games only for the eighth-seeded Malaysian to fight back and level proceedings. The top-ranked Australian got away to an early lead in the decider before falling awkwardly at 7-5 and twisting his ankle.
He took a brief injury break and when he came back the 35-year-old went for his shots, quickly bringing up match ball and then closing out an epic first round encounter after 106 minutes with a forehand drive deep into the back corner.
Palmer now has a day off before he plays Englishman Tom Richards in the last 16 round, and said he would use the time to get his ankle assessed and have some medical treatment.
Richards earlier downed Australia’s Ryan Cuskelly 11-9, 11-8, 11-5 to book his place in the second round.
World number one Nick Matthew made an impressive start to his title defence when he beat South Africa’s Stephen Coppinger in straight games 11-7, 11-8, 11-9.
The Englishman only looked in trouble briefly in the third game when he was behind 5-9, but stepped up the pace to storm home and wrap up a hard fought match.
“I knew it would be a tough match from the moment I saw the draw,” Matthew said. “I’m delighted to get off in three because it could have got tough out there if I’d have lost that first game.”
The Yorkshireman, who turned 31 last month, now takes on Ong Beng Hee after the Malaysian overcame a slow start to beat New Zealand qualifier Martin Knight 5-11, 11-8, 11-9, 11-4.
In the day’s other major upset, Dutchman Laurens Jan Anjema played some superb squash to down seventh-seeded Frenchman Thierry Lincou.
Anjema came back from losing the first game in a tiebreak to record his 14-16, 11-9, 14-12, 11-5 win over the former world number one.
The Dutchman played some breathtaking squash throughout the match, but he was matched most of the way by the 35-year-old Lincou, who only began to fade towards the end as fatigue and lack of match play began to catch up with him.
It was Anjema’s first win over the Frenchman and he was delighted to finally break the hoodoo.
“I had to wait for 10 years until this guy was 35 years old and could hardly walk anymore, and I could just about beat him,” said the world No15 from The Hague.
Anjema next takes on American number one Julian Illingworth, an 11-6, 11-7, 7-11, 11-9 winner over Switzerland’sNicolas Mueller.
Hong Kong’s Max Lee was the first player through to the second round when he came from a game down to beat New South Welshman and fellow qualifier Matthew Karwalski 6-11, 11-8, 12-10, 11-8.
In the last match of the night, third-seeded Egyptian Karim Darwish saw off a brave challenge from Australia’s Zac Alexander, winning 11-8, 11-13, 11-2, 11-6.
1st round (top half of draw): Nick Matthew (ENG) bt Stephen Coppinger (RSA) 11-7, 11-8, 11-9 (48m)
Ong Beng Hee (MAS) bt [Q] Martin Knight (NZL) 5-11, 11-8, 11-9, 11-4 (60m)
Julian Illingworth (USA) bt Nicolas Mueller (SUI) 11-6, 11-7, 7-11, 11-9 (70m)
Laurens Jan Anjema (NED) bt  Thierry Lincou (FRA) 14-16, 11-9, 14-12, 11-5 (80m)
David Palmer (AUS) bt  Mohd Azlan Iskandar (MAS) 14-12, 11-9, 5-11, 9-11, 11-8 (106m)
Tom Richards (ENG) bt Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) 11-9, 11-8, 11-5 (49m)
[Q] Max Lee (HKG) bt [Q] Matthew Karwalski (AUS) 6-11, 11-8, 12-10, 11-7 (59m)
 Karim Darwish (EGY) bt [Q] Zac Alexander (AUS) 11-8, 11-13, 11-2, 11-6 (49m)
Remaining 1st round matches:
 James Willstrop (ENG) v Chris Ryder (ENG)
[Q] Alan Clyne (SCO) v [Q] Muhd Asyraf Azan (MAS)
Adrian Grant (ENG) v Simon Rosner (GER)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v Cameron Pilley (AUS)
 Peter Barker (ENG) v Aaron Frankcomb (AUS)
Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS) v [Q] Dick Lau (HKG)
Stewart Boswell (AUS) v Saurav Ghosal (IND)
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) v [Q] Ivan Yuen (MAS)
Official event website: www.australiansquashopen.com