13 - 19 April 2000
Issue No. 477
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
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An Australian affairBy Nashwa Abdel-Tawab
Following in the footsteps of her illustrious compatriots, Australian Carol Owens won the Al-Ahram WISPA (Women International Squash Professionals Association) Grand Prix finals, retaining the title Down Under.
Honoured for service, from Top: Board Chairman of Al-Ahram Organisation, Ibrahim Nafie, (R), presents Red Sea Governor Saad Abu Reeda with a plaque in recognition of the efforts he made to host the double squash extravaganza; the "mermaid of peace" surrounded by frogmen; Fayez El-Zomor (L) and Nafie just one day before El-Zomor died of a heart attack
Owens produced brilliant volleys to outplay the world champion, England's Cassie Campion, in 63 minutes and continue an unbroken streak. Only Australians, in the persons of Michelle Martin and Sara Fitz-Gerald, the former No 1 and 2 in the world, had previously won the Al-Ahram Grand Prix. Though Martin and Fitz-Gerald were absent from Hurghada -- Martin after retiring, Fitz-Gerald because of injury -- Owens took up where they left off. In this, the third time the Grand Prix has been held, Owens sent Campion packing 9-1, 5-9, 5-9, 9-2, 9-2.
"It was a battle to reach the final and it became a dream to win," Campion said. "I really tried hard but she was convincingly the best. Carol really gave me a hard time." Owens, a 28-year-old who is fifth in the world rankings, celebrated her fifth victory against two losses to Campion. "You won't believe me if I tell you I really like Egypt for many reasons among which it's only here that I always beat Campion. Why? I don't know but I think I'm blessed here."
Owens' victory over Campion, in a glass court on an island in the Red Sea, was her second straight over the world champion in less than a week, having upset Campion in four games in the opening qualifying round. But this time Owens was hoping that history would NOT repeat itself. In last year's WISPA Grand Prix Finals, also staged in Hurghada, Owens reached the final after surprisingly beating the then world No 1 Martin in the qualifiers. Martin, however, reversed the result in the final.
Owens went around singing her carols after winning this week's event and pocketing $7,700 in prize money. Campion took in $6,300. Both prizes were awarded by Ibrahim Nafie, board chairman of Al-Ahram Organisation.
Despite the loss, Campion remains on top of the world rankings, followed by Leilani Joyce of New Zealand.
The eight best female players in the world gathered in Hurghada, making it arguably the strongest-ever women's squash event. They were divided into two groups according to their rankings. Pool A consisted of players ranked numbers 1, 4, 5, and 8 whereas Pool B included players ranked 2, 3, 6 and 7. Players in both pools played a round robin after which the first two players in each pool advanced to the semi-finals, then the final. The battle for third was played at the end of the tournament.
The first day of the $41,000 championship -- the last major WISPA world tour event of the year -- produced a resounding upset when Owens beat Campion in the first qualifying round. Campion started strongly to win the opening game but Melbourne-based Owens came back in the second to take the initiative, forcing her opponent into a series of unforced errors. The Norfolk-born, 27-year-old Campion served only three times in the third set and eventually went down 2-9, 9-3, 9-0, 9-2 in 35 minutes.
Top to bottom: The winner, Carol Owens of Australia, displaying the form that catapulted her to the top; Nafie congratulates the champion; tournament officials; the world's eight best female squash players -- plus one substitute -- pose in Hurghada
Both Pool A contenders then cruised to the top of the pool. Owens took 35 minutes to overcome England's Suzanne Horner 9-2, 9-2, 10-8 to claim her second victory and strengthen her chance of a semi-final berth.
Campion revived her chances of reaching the semi-finals when she beat compatriot Natalie Grainger, the world No 4, 9-5, 9-4, 9-3 in 29 minutes in the second qualifying round. Then she booked her place in the semi-finals after beating compatriot Suzanne Horner 9-6, 9-2, 9-7 in 25 minutes.
In the semi-finals, while Owens coasted to a 9-0, 9-2, 9-5 win over England's world No 3 Linda Charman in just 24 minutes, it took Campion 30 minutes to claim the opening set against world No 2 Leilani Joyce. Incredibly, Campion needed a further 47 minutes before finally overcoming the Hamilton-based New Zealander 10-9, 8-10, 9-5, 3-9, 9-0 to avenge her defeat by Joyce in last December's British Open final in Scotland.
Joyce bounced back to beat England's Fiona Geaves 9-3, 9-1, 9-6 in 23 minutes. Then she had to fight back from a 2-1 deficit to overcome Germany's Sabine Schoene 9-4, 7-9, 2-9, 9-5, 9-6 in a 50-minute clash. She needed 52 minutes to conquer England's world No 3 Linda Charman 10-8, 8-10, 9-3, 9-1 to remain unbeaten in Pool B before losing in the semi-final to Campion.
Towards the end of the tournament, all eight women presented Nafie and Red Sea Governor Saad Abu Reeda with a photo of some of the world's best players and praised the tournament's organisation and help of Abdel-Moneim El-Sawi and Ihab El-Sharqawi, members of the Al-Ahram Organising sports events committee.