Paul Coll and Joelle King through to the semifinals

Paul Coll and Joelle King have put in top performances to reach the semifinals of the New Zealand Squash Open in Tauranga. Both scored straight game victories in front of a capacity and enthusiastic crowd at the Trustpower Arena.

In the Robertson Lodges men’s draw world No 2, Coll from Greymouth faced off against the sixth seed and tour veteran, English lefthander Adrian Waller. 


Both players took the first game to settle into their stride but Coll, familiar with the court after several matches in the last week, took it comfortably enough in the end, 11-7, 11-6, 11-9 in 37 minutes.


The second game went the way of the first, Coll prevailing after some deft touches from both and while the third was tighter, Coll had just that extra touch of class, especially in his front court game to take the win.  


After the victory Coll, 30 said he relished the atmosphere. 


“I”ve got a whole row of family here from Greymouth, about 24 here tonight and 35 are coming tomorrow, so th

ere’ll be five people left in Greymouth.  It’s one of my tactics to focus on the left-handers’ backhands, and the backhand is now one of my favourite shots, especially on the glass court.  He was good, played some lovely lobs, very accurate and with his big wingspan he managed to whip a few past me.  Hopefully I’ll get a five minute ice-bath, some kai and will chill out in the rest of the evening,” he said. 


“With or without the squash I’m having a great time on and off court.  I’m very happy with my skills.  I had a game plan tonight, I knew what I wanted to do and I stuck to that.  I’m very happy with how the game went and I’m ready for the semi-finals with physically no damage done and I’m used to the court.  I feel I’ve built on my Nations Cup performance and know how to play on the court. I wanted to focus on myself, mainly, for this week: it’s a tournament I want to win so I’m feeling good.”]


Coll takes to the court again in the semi-final on Saturday night against seventh seed Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi (Qatar)  who won 11-5, 11-5, 11-5 over Canadian David Baillargeon. 


In  their eighth encounter, King managed to take advantage of the 25 year-old American Sabrina Sobhy carrying a possible injury.  The New Zealander imposed pressure in the front court, forcing her opponent into a speculative but high risk attacking game.  King made the most of her opportunities and achieved a decisive victory in three games, 11-2, 11-6, 11-6. 


For King her victory was a continuation of top form on the court where she has yet to lose a match over the two weeks. 


“Anyone who knows Beans [Sobhy] knows she wasn’t fully fit today.  When someone’s slightly off you know you have to keep your focus, and I did that today.  Yes I tried to impose myself like  [men’s no. 2 seed] Mohammed ElShorbagy: we’ve had the same coach for a little while now and we’ve trained together a fair bit.


“Like a fine wine I’m getting better with age; using my brain now and enjoying my squash.  I was pretty focussed today.  I was actually pretty nervous this morning when I woke up and I think that’s always a good thing.  It’s not always enjoyable to go through, but all day I was a bit nervous.  I guess that’s because I knew I was coming up against a quality opponent in the quarter finals of a tournament at home.   I’m very pleased with how I played out there.  I thought everything came together nicely, I was hitting my targets well.  


“Even when the ball got a bit dead I changed what I was doing.  I’m most happy with the mental performance; I seemed to keep good focus.  I haven’t lost on this court, but let’s not jinx that. 


For King, 34 her next match will be against Tinne Gilies from Belgium who is 12 in the world.


“We’re into the semi-finals of a $70K tournament.  I’m playing Tinne [Gilis, Belgian no. 1], a very good friend.  We both play to win but once we come off we’re still good friends.  Paul and I certainly get the crowd revved up.  The crowd were great tonight; they were clapping when we both hit winners.  They’re really loving top flight squash in New Zealand.”


Gilis was a straight game winner over Satomi Wantabe (Japan)  12-10, 6-11, 11-5, 11-9 in her quarterfinal.


Friday’s matches start from 6pm with (4) Nele Gilis (Belgium) against Commonwealth Games silver medallist (7) Hollie Naughton, followed by (2) Mohamed ElShorbagy (England) v Leandro Romiglio (Argentina), 8pm (2) Sarah-Jane Perry (England) v (6) Tesni Evans (Wales) followed by (3) Victor Crouin (France) v Andrew Douglas (USA).