Serme Subdues Perry To Make Tournament of Champions Semis

RESULTS: Women’s JP Morgan Tournament of Champions, New York, USA

[1] Nicol David (MAS) bt [8] Low Wee Wern (MAS) 11-5, 11-3, 11-4 (32m)
[4] Alison Waters (ENG) bt [Q] Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) 11-5, 11-6, 11-2 (28m)
[5] Camille Serme (FRA) bt Madeline Perry (IRL) 11-8, 11-4, 11-13, 11-8 (52m)
[2] Laura Massaro (ENG) bt [6] Joelle King (NZL) 9-11, 13-11, 11-3, 11-7 (52m)

French number one Camille Serme overcame a frozen ear and a mid-match case of nerves to thwart Irish champion Madeline Perry‘s effort to unseat a higher-seeded player at the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions for the second time.

Serme, making her maiden appearance in the Women’s Squash Association (WSA) Gold event at Grand Central Terminal in New York, admitted to being concerned going into the match because Perry held a 6-1 career record against her.

Walking the three blocks from the Westin Grand Central Hotel to the glass court in Grand Central Terminal in bitterly cold New York weather, without a hat, Serme – who has lost only to world No1 Nicol David since August 2013 – said her ears had literally frozen by the time she arrived at the tournament venue. By match time, the ear had thawed and the Frenchwoman was sufficiently warmed up to take an early 5-1 lead in the first game, managing to maintain her edge to win the opener 11-8.

The second game was all Serme, who took a 2/0 lead in the match by winning the game 11-4. In the third, the world No5 from Creteil, near Paris, had three match balls at 10-7 – and celebrated a premature victory on one of those when she gave a jubilant fist pump thinking she had hit a winner.

But Perry, the 36-year-old world No7, ran the ball down and won the point. “I got nervous,” said Serme after the match. “It came in my mind that I had only beaten her once.” Perry snatched the game 13-11 to keep the match alive.

The 14 times Irish champion from Belfast had pulled off an improbable, come-from-behind, victory after being down by a similar score in the opening round against Raneem El Welily, the third seed from Egypt. She thought she could do the same again.

Her top-ranked French opponent, however, had other plans: “I knew that I had to stick to my tactical plan,” Serme revealed later. The plan, which had worked in the first two games, was to slow down the pace. “I did not want to give her any opportunities to hit the ball hard which she does so well. And I had to play my shots when I had the opportunity.”

The agile and nimble 24-year-old executed her plan well and won the fourth game 11-5 to close out the match.

The “happy and relieved” Serme, whose coach and trainer are in NYC for the championships, is thrilled to be in the ToC semi-finals – as much because she is as eager to improve as she is to win. “It’s good to keep winning,” Serme said as she cooled down on the stationary bike after the match. “This way my coaches can see what I have to improve on.”

Serme’s semi-final opponent will be second seed Laura Massaro of England. A few millimetres and two tins by her New Zealand opponent Joelle King were all that stood between the English number one and a two-game deficit.

Kiwi King had played authoritative and confident squash to win the first game 11-9, and had game ball at 11-10 in the second. A drop shot from the sixth seed barely clipped the tin to even the game at 11 points each and Massaro managed to eke out the victory 13-11.

At the break between games, Massaro’s husband and coach Danny told her: “Just relax, enjoy being out there.” The world No2, who acknowledged having a strong self-critical nature, took the advice to heart. “After all, I won’t be able to do this forever, so I should enjoy it while I can,” said Massaro. The difference when she got back on court was stunning. She won the third game 11-3 and the fourth 11-7.

Alison Waters earned her trip to the ToC semi-finals when she ended the run of English compatriot Sarah-Jane Perry, a qualifier who upset England’s No7 seed Jenny Duncalf in the first round. “The key to the match was making sure that I stayed in front and didn’t allow SJ to play her shots,” said the fourth seed from London after her efficient and ‘never-in-doubt’ 11-5, 11-6, 11-2 victory.

Waters should be fresh for her semi-final match given that her match time for the two opening rounds combined totals less than an hour. The British champion will probably need as much energy as she can muster as she will be taking on top seed Nicol David who defeated fellow Malaysian Low Wee Wern in three games.

The world No1 had another busy NYC day: David participated in a photo shot with men’s world No1 Nick Matthew for the announcement of their appointment as official Laureus Sport For Good Ambassadors. The 30-year-old from Penang also attended the ToC Inaugural Women’s Leadership Luncheon honouring former WSA player Natalie Grainger before returning to her hotel to prepare for her evening match. None of these activities, however, distracted the Malaysian superstar from the primary reason for her presence in New York City – to win her maiden ToC trophy!

Super-focused and finely-tuned, David defeated her younger national rival 11-5, 11-3, 11-4 to record her 25th Tour match victory in a row since losing last May’s British Open final to Laura Massaro.

When asked if she ever gets bored with squash after so many years playing and being No1 (since August 2006), David’s answer was emphatic: “No. I just get more and more into it, especially these last few years when I feel like I truly understand the game,” explained the Malaysian who this month marked her 90th consecutive month at the top of the world rankings.

Semi-final line-up:
[1] Nicol David (MAS) v [4] Alison Waters (ENG)
[2] Laura Massaro (ENG) v [5] Camille Serme (FRA)

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