Natalie Grinham Grabs New Zealand Open Glory

Dutch squash star Natalie Grinham grabbed the biggest WISPA World Tour title of her life when she upset top seed Natalie Grainger in the final of the A1 Homes New Zealand Women’s Open at Mount Maunganui in New Zealand.

The $55,000 WISPA World Tour Gold event at the Bayfair Shopping Centre marked the first staging of the New Zealand Open since 1993.

The world No3 from the Netherlands gained her first Gold star victory of the year with a straight games win over US favourite Grainger in a dominant display 11-9, 11-5, 11-8 in 28 minutes – while, in the all-kiwi final of the New Zealand Men’s Classic, third seed Campbell Grayson edged out his training partner Martin Knight, the second seed.

Australian-born Grinham finished a successful four-event tour with a superb display over Grainger, her eighth win from 17 head-to-head clashes with the England-born American citizen.

The diminutive Grinham never let Grainger into the game, showing lots of deft touches at the front of the court and using her sublime speed around the court to good effect.

“At the beginning of the year, I was quite sick,” explained 31-year-old Grinham later.   “To get back really fit and to win a gold star event is just great.

“The plan was to move Natalie around today.  She loves to dominate the centre of the court although she did put a few balls down today.  I tried to keep it away from her volley.  I was hitting my drops well again today and overall I am really happy with my game.

“All the girls are happy with this event.  We have had a great week and been looked after so well.  To come out and win is the icing on the cake for me.”

Grinham – who now boasts 14 WISPA titles, including three Gold – will bypass the British Open and return to the Netherlands to prepare for the world championships later in the year, where she hopes to come up against world No1 Nicol David who beat her in two finals in Asia before New Zealand.

“I wish Nicol had come here actually,” added the NZ Open champion.  “I want to keep having another go at her until I get her.  It’s nice to win a tournament but I kind of wish she was here.”

Grainger, in her first tournament back since May, said she was unable to get into the match today.

“She just never let me into the match.  I made some mistakes early and tried really hard but could not get going.  I thought if I could get one game I might be able to put some pressure on,” Grainger said.

“She has come off three good tournament results and I am just coming back to the game.  Natalie was really far too good for me today.  I am disappointed obviously but pleased with my progress after a layoff.”

Both Grainger and Grinham said they plan to return next year to the A1 Homes New Zealand Open.

New Zealand’s four-time world squash champion Dame Susan Devoy believes the successful revamped A1 Homes New Zealand Open can form a crucial part of the sport’s future in this country.

Dame Devoy said she was delighted to play a role in re-establishing the event which she won eight times in her illustrious career.

“The New Zealand Open was a really important part of my squash career. I spent most of the year travelling overseas and it was a great chance to play at home.

“The men’s and women’s tournament this week on the glass court here at Bayfair, coupled with attracting the world’s best players down here, is great for the profile of the game in this country.  It shows our young players where they need to get to, and it’s been a real boost for the likes of Joelle King and Shelley Kitchen who have played so well this week.”

Earlier Campbell Grayson impressed with his effort in beating Knight 12-10, 11-5, 10-12, 11-7 in the 79-minute final of the men’s $10,000 PSA World Tour event.

It was a top performance from the 23-year-old who had to dig deep after a five-game quarterfinal victory and four-game win over top seed Kashif Shuja in the semi-final.

“I felt really good at the start but, as the match wore on, it got tougher.  He is such a good receiver and I missed match ball in the third, and felt really tired,” said Grayson, after his second PSA Tour title success.

“I just got through on adrenalin.  I’ve worked so hard in the last four months on my fitness and got a second wind and came through with the win.”

Grayson said the pair, who train together and will travel to Europe together tomorrow night, always have tough battles.

“We are good friends and we know each other so well.  But when you step on to the court you are another rival really.  When you have played each other so many times, it feels like normal now.”

The world No57 was thrilled with what he believes is his best career performance:  “This is the best tournament I have ever played in. I am so happy to win it. This tournament is just so amazing. The atmosphere here, the court, having your friends and family here is just so awesome.

“Martin and I are both travelling away for three months, based in Cardiff.  I am confident we can push our world rankings up.  This is a good way to start.  I am in good form and I am fit, so it’s exciting.”

A1 Homes Women’s New Zealand Squash Open, Mount Maunganui, New Zealand

[2] Natalie Grinham (NED) bt [1] Natalie Grainger (USA) 11-9, 11-5, 11-8 (28m)

Men’s New Zealand Classic, Mount Maunganui, New Zealand

[3] Campbell Grayson (NZL) bt [2] Martin Knight (NZL) 12-10, 11-5, 10-12, 11-7 (79m)