Malaysian squash star Nicol David won her fourth successive CIMB Singapore Women's Masters title on an all-glass court seen for the first time at Kallang Leisure Park in Singapore - but her English opponent Alison Waters can take credit for having given the world number one her toughest test in today's (Saturday) final of the $53,500 WISPA World Tour Gold event.
Top seed David, looking for her fifth Tour title in a row this year, went onto the court with a 14-0 career head-to-head record over her third-seeded opponent.
In truth, Waters had her chances and the first game was in many ways the decider. With both players at their freshest, the game settled into a battle of attrition with David conceding an early 5-2 lead, giving up five straight points with uncharacteristic loose shots.
With Waters 9-5 up, the officials were called for a let decision which ended with the point being replayed, and Nicol staved off disaster by pushing the Londoner to 9-9. Waters had her first game point at 10-9 which she failed to convert. And she went on to have five more, not succeeding in winning any, as David found her way to level off each one of them.
At 17-16, David got her second chance, and closed the door. After a 27-minute struggle, instead of being a game up, Waters was instead one down.
"That's why Nicol is the World No1," said Waters after the 18-16, 11-9, 12-10 defeat. "She just doesn't stop running and she plays those big points just a little better."
Make no mistakes, the results show a straight games win to David - but it was no walk in the park. 9-9 in the second game, and 10-10 in the third, gave Waters plenty of positives as she looks forward to recording her first career win against the Malaysian: the record now stands at no wins after 15 meetings!
"Each time I play her I feel like I am getting a little closer," added the world No4. "But Nicol's so good at retrieving, she is so fast and gets to everything. You just have to play so many shots to get a winner."
Commenting after the game, WISPA President Natalie Grainger complimented both players on a high quality match: "These girls are at the top of their games. But Nicol's just a bit better than the rest at the moment and Alison showed here today that she can get to game points. She needs now to go and think about how to go from 10 to 11, how to convert those chances when they come."
As for Nicol, it was hard work at the start, but she knew she was in control, helped by a partisan crowd in Singapore. "It's great to play in Asia with the crowd behind you. I was feeding off them throughout the match and they helped to put that extra spring into my step."
Bringing the tournament to the people has been a great hit - the glass court is not a new idea but it is certainly one that needed to be repeated in Singapore. With S$300,000 invested in a lease-to-buy deal for the glass court, squash fans can be certain there would not be another 12-year absence before the court is seen in public again.
Some 400 spectators enjoyed the action this year, which also went out 'live' on television across Southeast Asia. And Grainger sees the potential for the event to grow.
"The reception this year has been tremendous and the SSRA can certainly grow this event," said the former world number one from the USA. "Perhaps the success this year could see a bidding war from the shopping malls in Singapore for the next edition. And I understand there is a huge complex with a casino in town which can certainly accommodate this event," Grainger said with a twinkle in the eye.
The Marina Bay Sands integrated resort hosted a glittering first class fencing event just the night before, and they could certainly do with a little bit of magic from the ladies. "Success guaranteed," added an event spokesman.
photo Getty Images
photo Getty Images