England’s top mixed doubles pair bounced back from their opening defeat at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi yesterday with two confidence-boosting performances ahead of their quarter-final clash with Australia’s Kasey Brown and Cameron Pilley tomorrow.
Jenny Duncalf and James Willstrop were downcast after yesterday’s loss to New Zealand’s Joelle King and Martin Knight but the two singles silver medallists returned to the court today full of renewed determination.
They were rewarded with a swift 11-3, 11-4 demolition of Kenyan duo Safina Madhani and Hartaj Bains in their final preliminary game before knocking out Guernsey’s Zephanie Curgen and Henry Birch to qualify for the quarter-finals.
“It’s been good to regroup after yesterday’s defeat and have a couple of easier matches today,” said Willstrop.
“It would have been hard to go into the match tomorrow after a loss so it’s good for our confidence to win a couple today.”
The 27-year-old Yorkshireman lost the men’s final to his team-mate Nick Matthew on Friday after a long hard singles campaign last week, while Duncalf took silver in the women’s after losing to world number one Nicol David.
“Going straight into the doubles has been hard,” Willstrop said. “Jenny and I both played right through the singles and that has to be a disadvantage.
“I felt quite tired, mentally more than physically, but I’m definitely up for tomorrow’s game.”
It’s been a case of suck it and see for many of England’s doubles duos following Alison Waters’ Achilles injury which called for some hasty rearranging of the planned pairings.
The introduction of Laura Massaro didn’t seem to affect Duncalf’s chances of a second Delhi squash medal, however, as the English pair bagged a semi-final spot thanks to an 2-0 win over New Zealand’s Tamsyn Leevey and Kylie Lindsay, 11-4, 11-9.
“We’ve never played together before, but we’re looking good,” said Duncalf. “That was a good test for us. The Kiwis are good and like playing doubles, and practice a lot, so I’m chuffed to win 2-0.
“It doesn’t feel difficult with Laura because we know each other so well and know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”
Duncalf and Massaro, who earlier beat India’s Anaka Alankamon and Surbhi Misra in their final group game, also have a tough semi tomorrow against Australia’s top seeds Brown and Donna Urquhart.
“We want to win the doubles as much as the singles. It’s a different dynamic because we don’t play it that often but a game is a game.”
Tania Bailey and her new partner Sarah Kippax went out in the quarter-finals against New Zealand’s Jaclyn Hawkes and Joelle King, losing 2-1.
Kippax substituted for Waters in the mixed doubles too, but the Kippax-Grant partnership lost 2-0 to Malaysia’s third seeds, Nicol David and Beng Hee Ong.
“Sarah had to step in because of Alison’s injury and not too many people have the courage to do that,” said Grant. “It shows her character and her belief, which many don’t have.”
Nick Matthew remains on course for a second squash gold after he and Grant booked their semi-final place with a 11-5, 11-10 win against Malaysian pair Mohd Adnan and Mohammed Iskandar today.
“Losing in the mixed earlier gave me even more drive to push in this game,” said Grant. “We had to just dig in, the ball was really flying around the court.
“We knew the Malaysians would be really tough and they came back from 10-6 to 10-all in the second game. I’m just very happy we didn’t have to go to a third game.”
The top seeds, who won their first knock-out match 2-0 against Canadian pair Robin Clarke and Shawn Delierre, will play Australians Pilley and Ryan Cuskelly.
The chance of another all-England final evaporated, however, when Peter Barker and Daryl Selby lost their quarter-final match with Scotland’s Alan Clyne and Harry Leitch.