English No.1 Sarah-Jane Perry was pushed all the way by Wales’ Emily Whitlock in a tight five-game battle on day two of the CIB Black Ball Open as she advanced to the second round.
The last time the two players faced each other came at the March instalment of this event, which was also coincidentally the last time Whitlock had been in competitive PSA action. On that occasion, it was Perry who walked away with a comfortable 3-0 victory, but the Welshwoman gave a good account of herself this time around.
World No.5 Perry looked relaxed on court in the opener as she found her length and accuracy quickly to settle into a rhythm that Whitlock struggled to break down as she comfortably took the first.
Whitlock executed her game plan much better in the second though and varied her pace and play to cause problems for Perry, which worked as she drew level before a few errors in the third allowed the Englishwoman to get ahead once again in the match.
That's an absolute peach of a lob from
em_whitlock</a>! <br><br>How do you get that one back!?<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BlackBallOpen?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BlackBallOpen</a> <a href="https://t.co/rEUW8qbgAl">pic.twitter.com/rEUW8qbgAl</a></p>— PSA World Tour (PSAWorldTour) December 8, 2020
The World No.28 did not allow that to get in her head though as she battled back, saving two match balls to push the round one clash to a tense decider.
In the end it was the experience of the big points that made the difference as Perry held her nerve to close out, despite Whitlock saving two more match balls, and she will face India’s Joshna Chinappa for a place in the quarter finals.
“Physically I felt really good, I’ve had a really good training block,” said Perry afterwards.
“I had a bit of a shock at the last tournament, everything that could have gone wrong went wrong and I didn’t do myself any justice. In patches I did and at times I felt like I was in control and hitting good lines and then all of a sudden, I missed four shots.
“I’ve been working on the mental side and one day it’s going to come together. In between some of those games I was thinking about Nour El Tayeb’s interview [announcing her pregnancy] and how I still have so much more I want to achieve and to do that I’ve just got to go out there and do it. I’ve put a really hard block in and I’m probably moving the best I’ve ever moved, and I’ve just got to keep putting the balls in the right areas and bring it all together. Frustrated with that performance but there’s some excitement there about what can happen when it comes together.
“There’s been a lot to think about this year and your sort of identity as a person and as a squash player. While they are slightly different in essence, they need to complement each other to get the best out of both. I’ve been working hard on and off the court and I’m really excited about things to come. I got to the semi-finals here last time and I want to do better.”
Whitlock said of her own performance: “When I saw the draw, I was happy in a way, because the last time I played before the lockdown was here, against SJ. I was riddled with tendinitis; it was such a bad time for me. So, in a way, I wanted to see the progress I had made.
“I wanted to win so badly obviously, the positive is that it’s much better than in March, but I’m so disappointed I couldn’t hit my shots cleanly enough.
“Since 2017, I’ve had so many injuries, so many things happened. I moved to Wales in August and I have a much better physio now.”
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt Emily Whitlock (WAL) 3-2: 11-4, 9-11, 11-6, 11-13, 11-9 (55m)