New Zealand Squash Open: Day two wrap

Photo: NZ Squash.

England’s Lucy Beecroft came back from the brink to beat Aira Azman and reach a maiden Silver-level quarter-final.

Nineteen-year-old Azman made the quicker start, with the Malaysian settling well as she fired in a number of winners to take the first game 11-8.

Beecroft then responded, reading her opponent better to move into the lead with hard-fought 13-11 and 11-9 wins.

The No.5 seed had a golden opportunity to win it in four games when she earned two match balls at 10-8, but could not convert as Azman forced a fifth game with a 12-10 win.

In a gripping conclusion, both players threw everything at each other.

Beecroft made the first move, but couldn’t keep up the momentum as Azman went match ball up at 10-9. The Englishwoman saved it, but then went match ball down again at 11-10.

Once more, however, the World No.28 clung on, holding her nerve to final break the deadlock and end the match with an 13-11 victory.

“It’s just relief to get through it I think.” Beecroft said afterwards.

“A few match balls up and not converting – I was in a pickle.

“I probably should play like I’m match ball down more often! That’s when I become more disciplined.”

Beecroft’s opponent in the quarter-final will be Nele Gilis, after the Belgian No.1 seed quickly overcame Malaysia’s Wee Wern Low in straight games.

After quickly taking game one 11-4 in just five minutes, Gilis doubled her lead by taking the second 11-7.

Low battled hard in the third, but could not prevent what had long seemed inevitable, with Gilis moving through to the last eight with an 11-8 win.

In the men’s event, Marwan ElShorbagy put in a fantastic performance to see off Canada’s David Baillargeon.

No.2 seed ElShorbagy looked razor sharp from the first minute as he blew the World No.40 away with an 11-2 win in game one.

The Canadian improved after that, but still struggled to find answers to the England No.2’s dazzling attacking play, with ElShorbagy coasting to victory with 11-7 and 11-6 wins.

Facing ‘the Jackal’ in the last eight is England teammate Patrick Rooney after the 26-year-old came from behind to take down compatriot and No.7 seed Adrian Waller.

Results: Barfoot & Thompson New Zealand Women’s Open

[5] Lucy Beecroft (ENG) bt Aira Azman (MAS) 3-2: 8-11, 13-11, 11-9, 10-12, 13-11 (64m)

[1] Nele Gilis (BEL) bt Low Wee Wern (MAS) 3-0: 11-4, 11-7, 11-8 (24m)

Results: Lucino Vanities New Zealand Men’s Open

Patrick Rooney (ENG) bt [7] Adrian Waller (ENG) 3-1: 9-11, 11-4, 11-5, 11-5 (43m)

[2] Marwan Elshorbagy (ENG) bt David Baillargeon (CAN) 3-0: 11-2, 11-7, 11-6 (32m)

Earlier in the day a frenetic five-gamer saw Malaysia’s Aifa Azman hold off Marie Stephan’s comeback to set up a rematch with Hong Kong’s Ka Yi Lee.

Azman was able to clinch the first game 11-9 and then looked well on her way to victory as her improved accuracy was rewarded with a crushing 11-1 game two win.

Stephan, however, responded brilliantly, firing in volleys and disrupting Azman’s rhythm as she levelled the contest with 11-8 and 11-7 wins.

Now, though, it was Azman’s turn to respond, with the Malaysian recovering from the setback to clinch the match with an an 11-4 win in the fifth game.

Afterwards, Azman said: “I thought I played the first two sets OK, not too well but OK, but when I went into the third I zoned out a little bit and wasn’t really focused and it was the same in the fourth. 

“When I came into the fifth, I just tried to get into it again and reset and I was on the top of the bounce and earlier into the ball this time.”

Lee, Azman’s opponent in the next round, made short work of Australia’s Jessica Turnbull in the opening match of the day.

World No.47 Lee, the tournament’s No.8 seed, began rapidly against the World No.64, taking advantage of the attack-friendly court conditions to take the first game 11-6.

The 30-year-old continued to dominate in the second, hitting her targets perfectly to move 2-0 with an 11–5 win up before wrapping up the contest with an 11-6 victory in game three.

In the first men’s match of the day, France’s Baptiste Masotti put in a dominant performance to see off India’s Abhay Singh in straight games.

In the second men’s match, Wales’ Joel Makin marked his return from injury with a 3-0 win over Scotland’s Rory Stewart.

In an even opener in which Stewart tested Makin’s movement with some excellently deceptive effort, it was the Welshman who was able to get out in front, pulling away from 5-5 to take the first game 11-7.

Game two followed a similar pattern, with Stewart initially causing the No.3 seed problems until Makin was able to win the key late-game battles, moving from 7-7 to claim another 11-7 win.

In the third, Makin played some of his best squash, dominating from the beginning as he wrapped up the contest with an 11-5 win.

Results: Barfoot & Thompson New Zealand Women’s Open

[8] Ka Yi Lee (HKG) bt Jessica Turnbull (AUS) 3-0: 11-6, 11-5, 11-6 (22m)

[4] Aifa Azman (MAS) bt Marie Stephan (FRA) 3-2: 11-9, 11-1, 8-11, 7-11, 11-4 (38m)

Results: Lucino Vanities New Zealand Men’s Open

[5] Baptiste Masotti (FRA) bt Abhay Singh (IND) 3-0: 11-8, 11-5, 11-1 (24m)

[3] Joel Makin (WAL) bt Rory Stewart (SCO) 3-0: 11-7, 11-7, 11-5 (48m)


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