Evans' precision lands Open title

Going by his ability to wrong-foot an opponent, one can only speculate just how great an outside-half Wales lost when David Evans chose squash ahead of rugby.

Going by his ability to wrong-foot an opponent, one can only speculate just how great an outside-half Wales lost when David Evans chose squash ahead of rugby.

Yesterday the 25-year-old from Pontypool, who once wore the coveted No 10 shirt for his country's Under-16 rugby team, ensnared his Australian opponent Paul Price in a web of trickery to become the first Welshman to win the British Open, regarded by most players as the most prestigious tournament in world squash.

At 6ft 5in Evans is the tallest player on the circuit, and in winning 15-11, 15-6, 15-10, he used his reach to superb effect to counter Price's speed around the court.

Having established control, he repeatedly deceived Price with cross-court drop shots of gut-ripping accuracy. The Australian fought hard, producing some fine winners of his own, especially on the forehand drive, but he also hit the tin far too often.

"I made a good start and got more comfortable as the match went on," said Evans, currently ranked World No 11. Both he and his coach, Chris Robertson, stressed that there is considerable improvement to come.

If the men's winner was, in the context of the tournament as a whole, something of a surprise, the winner of the women's final was not.

The New Zealand Maori Leilani Joyce had not dropped a game on her way to the final and England's Sue Wright never looked like denting that record, going down 9-7, 9-4, 9-2.

The 26-year-old Joyce is by some margin the most athletic player on the circuit, and knowing she was up against a younger, fitter player, Wright did her utmost to keep the rallies short, constantly looking to hit winners and, in the first game at least, using every trick in the book to slow the game down.

Joyce refused to be knocked off her stride, chasing down Wright's drop shots and using the lob to keep her 30-year-old opponent at the back of the court. "The plan was quite simple - to weather the storm and keep her moving, never let her settle into a pattern," Joyce said. She executed that plan to perfection, and in doing so moved from a world ranking of two to No 1.

That Wright was unable to threaten the New Zealander should not, however, detract from her achievement in reaching the final. A former World No 3, she missed most of last year after falling dangerously ill with viral pneumonia. In some respects she is still recovering - inner ear damage means she is still unable to fly - and to work her way through the qualifying rounds to the final, beating seeded players in every round, was a remarkable effort.


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