KUALA LUMPUR: Defending champion Nicol David was stretched to the limit by Alison Waters of England before reaching the semi-finals of the Australian Open squash championships in Canberra.
The Penangite dropped the first set before winning 10-12, 11-1, 11-7, 15-13 in a gruelling 68-minute clash.
Waters, who was runner-up in 2010, came out with guns blazing to take the first set.
But Nicol, the world No. 1, struck back to win the second easily and then managed to hold off an inspired Waters in the third and fourth sets in a high quality match.
“It was really tough,” said Nicol. “I decided I had to be more aggressive after losing the first set.
“I started to hit the ball much better and everything fell into place as Alison began to make errors. But she kept fighting for every ball and I had to play my best to win the third and fourth sets.”
It was Nicol’s seventh win over the Englishwoman and she will face another tough opponent, Madeline Perry of Ireland, for a place in the final.
World No. 5 Perry, who won the Australian title in 2010, did not have any problem beating local player Kasey Brown 11-4, 11-5, 11-6 in 33 minutes.
Nicol has played Perry 16 times, losing only once to the Irishwoman in the quarter-finals of the 2009 British Open.
In their last meeting in the Cleveland Racquet Classic in Ohio in January, Nicol won in straight sets in the semis.
There was heartbreak for world No. 18 Donna Urquhart of Australia, who upset compatriot and world No. 9 Rachael Grinham in the second round on Thursday. She was forced to give a walkover to world No. 4 and third seed Laura Massaro of England after suffering an ankle injury in the match against Grinham.
Massaro will take on India’s Dipika Pallikal in the semi-finals. Dipika ended the excellent run of Amanda Sobhy of the United States in the quarter-finals.
World No. 26 Sobhy, who scored the biggest win of her career by stunning world No. 3 and second seed Jenny Duncalf of England in the second round, was unable to raise her game against Dipika, losing 5-11, 7-11, 10-12 in 32 minutes.
“I have been competing here for a couple of years and never gone beyond the second round. It’s great to reach the semis,” said Dipika, who is ranked 15th in the world.
Malaysia’s challenge in the men’s competition ended when national No. 2 Ong Beng Hee lost 11-13, 5-11, 10-12 to second seed Omar Mosaad in the quarters.
The Egyptian will face third seed Tom Richards of England in the semi-finals.
Quarter-finals: Tom Richards (Eng) bt Alan Clyne (Sco) 11-7, 11-6, 11-4; Omar Mosaad (Egy) bt Ong Beng Hee (Mas) 13-11, 11-5, 12-10; Cameron Pilley (Aus) bt Omar Abdel Aziz (Egy) 11-9, 9-11, 11-7, 4-11, 11-6; Ramy Ashour (Egy) bt Nicolas Mueller (Swi) 10-12, 11-4 9-11, 11-8, 11-1.
Quarter-finals: Nicol David (Mas) bt Alison Waters (Eng) 10-12, 11-1, 11-7, 15-13; Madeline Perry (Irl) bt Kasey Brown (Aus) 11-4, 11-5, 11-6; Laura Massaro (Eng) bt Donna Urquhart (Aus) w/o; Dipika Pallikal (Ind) bt Amanda Sobhy (US) 11-5, 11-7, 12-10.