Pressure-Free Palmer Looks Forward To Commonwealth Games Quarters

Australian squash veteran David Palmer claimed one of the last slots in the men’s Commonwealth Games quarter-finals at the Siri Fort Complex in Delhi today – then admitted that the pressure is now off him.

“I’ve nothing to lose now – I’ve reached my seeded position, I’ve achieved my minimum goal here,” said the 34-year-old fifth seed after the 11-4, 15-13, 11-5 victory in 55 minutes over his Malaysian rival Ong Beng Hee, the No9 seed.

Palmer, from New South Wales, won a bronze medal in 2002 and silver in the last Games on home soil in Melbourne – and is the only player who could win a third medal in a row in the Indian capital.

“I’m relieved to get through today to put myself in a chance for the medals,” said the former world number one and two-time world champion.

“Beng Hee is a tough opponent and, although my head to head record is good against him, we always have close matches. So I was pleased to get off in three games – particularly on these bouncy courts, which suit his game.

“I’ll be fairly fresh going into tomorrow.”

Palmer will play England’s James Willstrop, the No2 seed from Yorkshire who beat unseeded Canadian Shawn Delierre11-7, 11-4, 10-12, 11-2.

“He’s a player in form,” said the US-based Australian. “We always have good matches – and he beat me the last time in Australia.

“It’ll be good to play him on the all-glass court.”

Willstrop felt his match was average: “I was a bit rusty today – I wasn’t very good. But that’s not unusual,” admitted the 27-year-old from Leeds who had to be persuaded to come back off court to talk to the media after he had returned there after his match to get some extra practice once the audience had cleared the arena.

When told that it was Palmer that he would next meet, Willstrop said: “He’s probably the worst of the eight I could have had – but I’m not complaining, I’ll just focus now on that match.

“But when it comes to the last eight, anyone can beat anyone.”

Asked about the prospect of an all-English semi-final, the world No4 stated: “I hope so – that’s we’ve all been aiming for. But it’ll be a hard day to go first.”

It is Daryl Selby that will be England’s representative in the other men’s semi-final decided tonight when the fourth seed takes on fifth-seeded Malaysian Mohd Azlan Iskandar. Selby beat fellow Briton Chris Simpson, representing Guernsey, 11-9, 11-5, 11-5, while Iskandar defeated New Zealander Campbell Grayson 11-8, 11-1, 11-3.

“I played pretty well and was happy to get through 3/0 to be honest,” said Selby, the world No10 from Essex. “Chris never stopped running and had great support from a large crowd of Guernsey supporters which created an excellent atmosphere in the arena.

“Winning the first game was crucial. I had to play really well and be totally focussed throughout.”

The only quarter-final without English interest will be the women’s clash between Northern Ireland’s Madeline Perry and Australian Kasey Brown. Fourth seed Perry celebrated her second successive appearance in the last eight after beating Australia’s Lisa Camilleri 11-4, 11-4, 11-5, while sixth seed Brown had to battle for 85 minutes to get the better of Malaysia’s 11th seed Delia Arnold 11-6, 8-11, 11-5, 11-5.

There was great audience reaction to the women’s all-glass showcourt match between the Indian number one Joshna Chinappa and Asian rival Nicol David, the world number one from Malaysia.

After dropping the first game, Chinappa led 8-2 and 9-5 in the second, and had game-ball at 10-9. But, incredibly, the 24-year-old from Chennai served the ball out of the court – a mistake which David quickly jumped upon to close out the game before moving on to beat the 15th seed 11-5, 12-10, 11-7.

“I feel awful about what happened at the end of the second game – I don’t want to think about,” said a crestfallen Chinappa to a swarm of local media hanging on her every word. “I’ve never had a lead like that against Nicol before – but I gave her too many chances to come back.

“But this has been the best tournament I’ve ever played in – and the support was even better than when I play in my home town Chennai,” enthused the world No34.

Nicol David, the hot favourite expected to win her first Games medal, admitted that Chinappa had been a tough opponent. “It’s the best she’s ever played against me – but every time we play, she’s improved,” said the 27-year-old from Penang. “I had to really push.”

David will now take on England’s Laura Massaro, the fifth seed who beat Alana Miller, the 16th seed from Canada, 11-7, 11-4, 11-3.

Miller, the world No35 from Winnipeg, revealed a week ago that she would retire after the Games.

“It feels so weird,” said Miller shortly after the completion of her final match. “I decided some time ago, but wanted to slip away unnoticed – I wanted to do it quietly. But it got out when people started asking questions when I didn’t put myself up for selection for this year’s world team championships.

“I’ve started at medical school at the NUIG (National University of Ireland in Galway) – and I just love it! I’m so happy to be there – I feel like I’ve arrived,” said the 30-year-old, fighting back the tears.

“It’s definitely the right decision – and I feel quite fortunate to have made the team here.

“I’m not playing in the doubles, so this is it – I’ve played my last match!

“I’ve got so many great memories about being a full-time squash player – perhaps none greater than when the Canadian team won the Pan Am Games title in 2007. We were the second seeds and beat favourites USA in the final. It was extra special!

“But my main memories are for all the great people I have met in squash,” concluded the three times Canadian national champion.

For more info, visit the WSF’s dedicated Commonwealth Games site

Men’s 3rd round:
[1] Nick Matthew (ENG) bt [10] Aamir Atlas Khan (PAK) 10-12, 11-3, 11-5, 11-5 (50m)
[7] Cameron Pilley (AUS) bt [14] Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) 11-6, 11-7, 11-8 (46m)
[3] Peter Barker (ENG) bt [11] Saurav Ghosal (IND) 11-5, 11-9, 11-13, 11-5 (76m)
[8] Stewart Boswell (AUS) bt [13] Farhan Mehboob (PAK) 11-9, 11-6, 11-8 (47m)
[6] Mohd Azlan Iskandar (MAS) bt [16] Campbell Grayson (NZL) 11-8, 11-1, 11-3 (44m)
[4] Daryl Selby (ENG) bt Chris Simpson (GGY) 11-9, 11-5, 11-5 (52m)
[5] David Palmer (AUS) bt [9] Ong Beng Hee (MAS) 11-4, 15-13, 11-5 (55m)
[2] James Willstrop (ENG) bt Shawn Delierre (CAN) 11-7, 11-4, 10-12, 11-2 (38m)

Women’s 3rd round:
[1] Nicol David (MAS) bt [15] Joshna Chinappa (IND) 11-5, 12-10, 11-7 (29m)
[5] Laura Massaro (ENG) bt [16] Alana Miller (CAN) 11-7, 11-4, 11-3 (26m)
[4] Madeline Perry (NIR) bt [13] Lisa Camilleri (AUS) 11-4, 11-4, 11-5 (25m)
[6] Kasey Brown (AUS) bt [11] Delia Arnold (MAS) 11-6, 8-11, 11-5, 11-5 (85m)
[12] Joelle King (NZL) bt [8] Donna Urquhart (AUS) 11-6, 9-11, 11-8, 11-4 (37m)
[3] Alison Waters (ENG) bt Stephanie Edmison (CAN) 11-3, 11-3, 11-3 (17m)
[7] Jaclyn Hawkes (NZL) bt [9] Low Wee Wern (MAS) 11-7, 11-6, 5-11, 11-4 (62m)
[2] Jenny Duncalf (ENG) bt [10] Sarah Kippax (ENG) 4-11, 11-3, 11-6, 11-2 (43m)