ILKESTON’s Manor Health & Racquets Club was the venue last weekend as female squash players from around the world converged on the town.
They were taking part in the Sage Solutions Ltd Women’s Squash Open, a three-day tournament which forms part of the Women’s International Squash Players Assocation (WISPA) tour.
Day one on Friday saw Austria’s Birgit Coufal, top seed for the tournament, get things up and running with a confident display, winning in straight sets against Heidi Walters who hails from the Ilkeston area.
Lincolnshire’s Tania Bailey was next up and was always in command of her clash with Argentina’s Belen Etchechoury, dominating the ‘T’ and making her opponent do the hard work as she progressed through.
Another local girl, Laura Hill was next on court against England under-19 prospect Catherine Finlayson, and despite a tough challenge the Belper player’s solid ball control eventually took over and she closed out the match in three games.
Egypt was the next nation represented as Nada Elkalaawy challenged England’s Rachel Willmott, Elkalaawy eventually progressing through in three sets in another tight affair, before Norwegian Lotte Eriksen eased past Selina Sinclair.
England’s Julianne Courtice was too strong for France’s Chloe Mesic, a result which was something of an upset given the two girls’ respective world rankings of 245 and 99.
The day was rounded off with an all-England clash between Carrie Ramsey and Nottingham University student Sophie Lemom, Ramsey easing through in three sets, before Sarah-Jane Perry also progressed through after a pulsating match against South Africa’s Cheyna Tucker.
Saturday’s quarter-finals began with top seed Birgit Coufal again showing her class by going through, though it took four games to do so against Carrie Ramsey.
Number four seed Tania Bailey was up against eighth-seed Nada Elkawaaly, who at just 16-years-old is one of the youngest players on the tour. But Bailey never looked too troubled and progressed through to the semi-finals to take place later in the day.
Also through went Laura Hill who got stronger the longer her match with Lotte Eriksen went on, while Sarah-Jane Perry proved too good for Julianne Courtice who couldn’t follow up her shock result from Friday as Perry progressed.
The semi-finals later in the day saw Bailey up first against Coufal.
Bailey, once ranked four in the world, took the opening game quickly but despite a strong lead at one point in the second saw the Austrian level things up.
But Bailey’s quality soon shone through as she took the final two games in style to reach Sunday’s final.
There she would face Perry, who denied Derbyshire champion Hill the chance of glory in her home county by winning in four games.
Hill won the first, but the tide soon turned and recent injuries appeared to take their toll as Perry began to look more comfortable as time went on, ultimately winning through.
Sunday’s final produced the hardest-fought and most competitive match of the entire weekend, but one which ended in disappointing fashion for Tania Bailey.
Her encounter with Sarah-Jane Perry was played at a high tempo throughout, Bailey winning the opening game 11-8 after some fast rallies and excellent pressure play.
Perry levelled matters by the same score in a more scrappy second game which saw let after let called by both players as their movement patterns began to clash more regularly.
But the rallies continued and the third game again finished 11-8, this time to Bailey who then got all the way to match ball in fourth game, and despite being convinced she had won with a tight backhand drop, Perry was given a controversial let for interference, a decision which seemed to unsettle Bailey who then lost the next three points and the scores were level.
The deciding fifth game saw an out-of-sorts Bailey quickly fall 4-1 behind, before an injury she had sustained at the end of the fourth proved too troublesome and she was forced to concede the match to her opponent for fear of making the injury worse.
So Perry was crowned champion at the end of a tremendous physical and mental battle, the Warwickshire player sealing her first WISPA title.