Madeline Perry (IRL) bt  Alison Waters (ENG) 11-5, 12-10, 6-11, 4-11, 13-11 (75m)
Madeline Perry became the first Irishwoman to win the Australian Open when she beat England's Alison Waters in today's (Sunday) thrilling five-game final of the $56,000 WISPA World Tour squash event - the sixth WISPA Gold championship of the year - in Canberra.
The 33-year-old from Belfast saved two match balls in the fifth game of the Grays-sponsored women's event to win the biggest tournament of her career 11-5, 12-10, 6-11, 4-11, 13-11 on the all-glass court at Canberra's Royal Theatre.
The 75-minute final was a wonderful advertisement for women's squash, with the match swinging first one way then the other until fourth-seeded Perry closed it out on a controversial no-let call, which caused Waters to throw her racket in disgust and the new champion to throw hers in elation.
The title also crowned a superb comeback for the 11-time Irish national champion who was hospitalised with severe head injuries after she was mugged in Italy three years ago, with doctors unsure whether she would ever play squash again.
Perry was dynamic from the start and caught Waters on the back foot with her court movement and precision.
But Londoner Waters, the third seed, stormed back to dominate the next two and level the match.
The deciding game went point for point - Waters had match balls at 10-9 and 11-10, which Perry saved.
Perry then got to 12-11 and closed out the match when she put in a drop shot and the referees ruled that Waters would not have reached the ball.
"I thought it was a let - they'd been giving those as lets the whole game, but what can you do?" Waters said.
Perry said was thrilled to have finally broken through for a major win. "Getting to the final was a big achievement, but winning it was huge for me," said the career-high world No6, whose ranking is now certain to rise.
"I won the first two but I wasn't feeling amazing, I felt a lot of tension in my body and then she really upped the pace in the third and fourth and I couldn't respond.
"The fifth was pretty even all the way through - you could see both of us were getting a bit tired and not doing that much.
"But I stuck in there and took my match ball when it came."
Perry said she was probably playing the best squash of her career and her win over Jenny Duncalf, the world No2 from England, in the semi-finals was as good as she had ever played.
The win marks Perry's seventh WISPA Tour title - but her first on foreign soil for more than five years.
A disappointed Waters said she had paid the price for her slow start. "I was feeling a bit off physically and she came out firing. I only started to get into it in the third and mixed it up a bit.
"The fifth was a bit of a battle really - I had my match balls but couldn't take them," explained the dejected world number four.
Perry and Waters now join the rest of WISPA's leading players at the Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Open in Hong Kong from 25-29 August. Both players begin their campaigns in the seventh WISPA Gold championship of the year against qualifiers - and again could only meet in the final.
Official website: www.australiansquashopen.com
photo Getty Images
photo Getty images