Tuesday 20 February 2018

Racquets: Dutch triumph a timely boost for buoyant Blake

Paddy Hickey

AISLING BLAKE is set to improve on her career-best world ranking position after triumphing at the Hemubo Squash Trophy in Almere, Netherlands.

Currently, the 28-year-old Sligo native is placed at No 25, a position she has held since last March, and now she is poised to close the gap on Irish No 1 Madeline Perry, who is ranked at No 7.

The Dutch victory represented Blake's fourth title success since joining the pro circuit, and it bridged an eight-month gap since her last outright victory in the NSC Series in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last August.

Coincidentally Blake had to get past Britain's Lauren Sidall in the finals of both the Dutch and Malaysian contest.

On this occasion, Amsterdam-based Blake, the top seed, accounted for No 2 seed Siddall in a comfortable three games, 11-9, 11-3, 11-7.

Blake seemed at ease from the start against the taller Siddall, dominating the play and never relinquishing control of the match. In addition to forcing numerous errors out of her opponent, she hit many winners of her own. The Connacht ace faced her toughest tests in the first round and the semi-finals where she was pushed to four games in each case.

In the opening round, Dutch qualifier Milja Dorenbos caused a stir when she took the opening game, before Blake regained her composure to pull through 7-11, 11-7, 11-6, 11-4.

And at the penultimate stage, the Irish player recovered from losing the second game against the No 3 seed, Netherlands' Orla Bloom, to prevail 14-12, 9-11, 11-4, 11-7.

In the quarter-finals, Blake romped to an 11-2, 11-6, 11-2, win over the No 8 seed, France's Laura Pomportes.

In further good news for Irish squash, a recent bid to host the 2011 European Club Championships in Belfast has been successful.

The Irish Squash Association has also announced that the Irish Open, postponed in April because of the volcanic ash cloud, has been re-scheduled for August 30-September 4 at Dublin's Fitzwilliam Club.

On the table tennis front, Ireland's men's team will have to campaign once again in the Third Division of the World Championships after missing out on promotion, as a result of finishing in 64th position in last week's event in Moscow.

Ireland succeeded in winning only one of their five ties in the group section -- beating Moldova 3-1, but losing to Indonesia (0-3), Algeria (1-3), Ecuador (0-3) and Dominican Republic (2-3) -- before subsequently going down to South Africa and Switzerland -- both by 1-3 margins.

Despite the failure to clinch a place in Division Two, it wasn't all doom-and-gloom for the Irish, with World Championship debutant Paul McCreery confirming his rich promise by winning eight of his 15 matches.

The Belfast player's performances were additionally commendable as he sat one of his A-Level examinations during the course of the championships in the Russian capital.

Irish Independent

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