Malaysian qualifier Delia Arnold scores third British Open sensation

Delia Arnold (left) in succession dispatches the third seed, 11th seed and second seed and world number two Egyptian Raneem El Weleily to reach the semi-finals. — AFP file pic
Delia Arnold (left) in succession dispatches the third seed, 11th seed and second seed and world number two Egyptian Raneem El Weleily to reach the semi-finals. — AFP file pic

KINGSTON UPON HULL, UK, May 15 — Delia Arnold, the Malaysian number three and a qualifier here at the British Open, completed a trio of some of the biggest sensations in British Open history when she upset the seedings for a third time to reach the semi-finals.

Bold, imaginative, risk-taking and ambitious, Arnold also scored the finest win of her career, saving a match point to beat Raneem El Weleily, the world number two from Egypt, in five pulsatingly unpredictable games.   

El Weleily had been some pundits’ tip to win the title, but after twice having points to take a two-game lead, her level slipped disappointingly, enabling Arnold to sneak through from 7-9 and 9-10 down in the decider to steal a stunning 4-11, 16-14, 10-12, 11-6, 12-10 victory.

It followed Arnold’s victories over Alison Waters, the world number three from England, and Annie Au, the 11th seed from Hong Kong, and made it hard to believe that during an already lengthy career she has never made inroads beyond 20 in the world.

“I didn’t think I would even make it through the qualifying competition,” said Arnold, who had to come from two games down against Ireland’s Aisling Blake to do so.

“I can’t believe I am standing here, I feel speechless,” she added.

“The first game was pretty quick — I didn’t know where the ball was going. So I tried to prolong the rallies and be patient.

“But I am really surprised with the win. I’ve not been doing anything different.”

Penalty point winner

Arnold did not appear to worry if she made mistakes in the cause of attack, and as a result often scored well with fast, well-timed, and unexpected low boasts off the side wall, to which El Weleily was sometimes slow to respond.

Despite this important shortcoming, the world runner-up fought back well from 6-10 down in the third game and, although her length was often indifferent and her attitude oddly subdued, still looked the likely winner.

But on her match point El Weleily played rather conservatively — not normally a fault with her — and was scuppered by a tremendous fast low boast winner out of the blue by Arnold.

Arnold then reached her match point with a similar stroke and won the match on a penalty point when El Weleily played the ball to the back too close to her own body, thus impeding Arnold’s view.

“I was very nervous at the start,” El Weleily admitted. “I managed to win the first game so I felt calmer after that.

“I don’t remember the second. In the third I came back well. I should have been more aggressive at the start of the fourth.

“But I couldn’t get my length to the back of the court today, and I was always missing a step when I was looking to get to the ball.”

There is now bound to be an unheralded finalist because in the same half Nour El Sherbini, the fourth-seeded Egyptian who was the runner-up three years ago, was also beaten.

Her conqueror, by 6-11, 11-7, 7-11, 11-9, 11-9 was Camille Serme, the sixth-seeded Frenchwoman who came from 5-8 and 8-9 down in the fourth game and from 3-5 down in the decider to pinch the win.

“From the start I felt like I was playing really well,” she said. “I felt I had nothing to lose so that helped me. Now I suppose anything is possible.” — AFP

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