LIVERPOOL: Karim Darwish, who has lived in the shadow of his compatriot greats for all his tennis career, was struck down with injury just when he seemed likely to reach the final of the British Open.
The world number seven from Egypt appeared to be on top against David Palmer, the former world champion from Australia, when he suddenly and unexpectedly quit with an achilles tendon injury.
Even Palmer, who was relieved and slightly confused by his victory by 11-7, 3-11, 4-8 retired, admitted that he was fortunate to escape against an opponent who was close to his first major final.
I saw him slip and thought he caught his knee but I didn t realize that it was anything like that, he said.
I was in trouble there. I was under pressure and starting to panic a little at how quickly he was running away with it. I would have had to fight really hard to get out of that trouble.
An even greater curiosity about the result was that Darwish was not going to leave the court until the match marker noticed there was blood on his knee and advised him to get it patched up.
Darwish did so and never reappeared on court. After an eight-minute delay the match was awarded to a surprised Palmer.
I slipped at the front and it sort of cracked, Darwish explained, referring to the hamstring. We stopped because of the blood, but when I came out I couldn t walk any more.
After that the man from Cairo was too disappointed to talk any more about the demise of his dream, which had emerged before of him only to crumple like a pricked balloon.
He had been so on top that he had hurtled to 8-1 in the third game before Palmer picked up three quick points. The three-times former British Open champion was not at his best, and Darwish was finding all sorts of gap into which to project winners, with drops and disguised drives.
The day before, Palmer, well into his 32nd year, had admitted that his move to Boston, Massachusetts, to take up a coaching appointment, had made it a hard last six months.
Despite having just beaten Amr Shabana, the world number one from Egypt, he was, he said, slower than before, but had come hoping to try to prove to himself that he could still play at this level. The 26-year-old Darwish is still aching to prove that he can reach it.
Earlier Isabelle Stoehr failed to become the first qualifier to reach a British Open final when she was beaten 4-9, 9-3, 9-6, 9-6 by Jenny Duncalf, the fifth-seeded Englishwoman.
The 28-year-old from Montpellier nevertheless had moments when she seemed capable of causing an upset, leading 3-1 and 5-4 in the fourth game, before Duncalf found enough of a good length in a scrappy match to pin her back before making winners.
It was a career-best achievement by the home hope, who the day before had scored her career-best win, also in four games, against Rachael Grinham, the British and World Open champion from Australia. -AFP