MADRID, Oct 25: Nicol David, the highest profile woman player in the history of the game, suffered her second startling upset within five weeks when her hopes of a hat-trick of world titles were shattered in the second round.
The world number one from Malaysia lost 9-0, 9-1, 2-9, 3-9, 9-6 to Shelley Kitchen, the tenth-seeded New Zealander, which followed David’s stunning five-game loss from match point up in the fourth game against Rachael Grinham in the British Open final in Manchester last month.
But whereas the Australian recovered from two games down on that occasion, the New Zealander won by frustrating a tremendous comeback by David from a similar deficit.
It was a thrillingly up-and-down match. The champion was rocked by Kitchen’s early blitzkrieg attack, became edgy in the second game, but survived long enough in the third to prosper as the storm blew itself out, advancing steadily to a 5-0 lead in the fifth game - and then still faltered.
A couple of David errors and a couple of questionable refereeing decisions got Kitchen back into the match, and when that happened the champion grew tense and edgy again. It helped Kitchen find a second wind and the energy for another series of fierce attacks, which this time they decided the match.
It was the first time since April 2004 and in 36 events that David had failed to reach the quarter-finals of a WISPA Tour event, and afterwards she looked as though a bomb had hit her.
“She’s always a strong opponent,” said David, who had also lost to Kitchen at the Commonwealth Games bronze medal play-off in Melbourne 19 months ago. “I knew it was going to be a really tough game. She had nothing to lose and she really went for it.
“I tried to play off that, rather than forcing the issue myself upon her.
But I got going in the third and fourth games, but in the fifth my focus was up and down, and I knew I had to fight.”David mistimed an attempted kill to concede a penalty stroke to allow Kitchen back to 2-5 in the fifth, and then put a drop shot down with the court open to let Kitchen reach 5-5.
The champion was unfortunate on at least one occasion not to earn a let, but then hung on well to pull back to 6-6 as the rallies, long at the start of the match, and then sometimes shorter, lengthened dramatically again.
Kitchen then hit a fine forehand winner to regain serve, and kept the attacks going hard and consistently, driving well from both wings, first eliciting a drop shot down from David and then a sidewall boast down from the champion.
The final point saw David, clearly affected at how the match had lurched away from her, mis-hit a forehand drive into the floor, whereupon she dropped her racket and spun round in disappointment.
“I think she re-composed in the fifth,” David said. “I was still trying to work the ball. We both kept going on and on and on. But it was not my day.”David was suggesting that the hot and bouncy courts - used for the first three days before the tournament moves Thursday to the open air show-court in front of the Royal Palace - were a factor in the protracted nature of a 69-minute contest full of tortuous rallies.
“The ball sits up and she could hit it,” said David.
Kitchen agreed that the conditions suited her. “I just wanted to stop her volleying and I did that,” she said.
“And I could feel the momentum shift back to me at the end. But I’m speechless frankly. It’s hard to believe.”Kitchen next plays Natalie Grainger, the former world number one from the United States who beat Engy Kheirallah, the second best Egyptian, 9-2,9-0,9-0.
One of the Grinham sisters, either Natalie, the second-seeded Commonwealth champion, or Rachael, the third-seeded British Open champion, now looks likely to bring the world title back to Australia.
Second round results:
Natalie Grainger (USA x5) bt Engy Kheirallah (EGY x13) 9-2, 9-0, 9-0; Shelley Kitchen (NZL x10) bt Nicol David (MAS x1) 9-0, 9-1, 2-9, 3-9, 9-6; Jenny Duncalf (ENG x9) bt Vicky Botwright (ENG x6) 9-4, 9-6, 4-3 retd; Rachael Grinham (AUS x3) bt Alison Waters (ENG x12) 4-9, 9-6, 9-4, 9-5; Vanessa Atkinson (NED x8) bt Kasey Brown (AUS x15) 9-5, 9-0, 9-0; Tania Bailey (ENG x4) bt Laura Lengthorn (ENG x11) 8-10, 9-5, 10-9, 9-3; Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY x7) bt Annelize Naude (EGY x16) 4-9, 10-8, 9-5, 9-4; Natalie Grinham (AUS x2) bt Rebecca Chiu (HKG x14) 9-5, 9-5, 9-4.—AFP