Cairo: Low Wee Wern, a heroine of Malaysia`s record-breaking run into the world team final at Niagara Falls eight days ago, made a wonderful recovery to avoid a startling let-down and a shock defeat in the women`s squash world championships on Monday.
Low, who scored a career-best win over world runner-up Nour El Sherbini in the team semi-finals, now slipped to within four points of a first round exit against Nicolette Fernandes, the world number 21 from Guyana.
At 3-7 down in the fourth game and trailing two games to one, Low appeared to have no way back to a fresher and more enterprising opponent, especially as she also appeared to be suffering with an adductor problem which was a legacy of her world team heroics.
However at the age of 24 Low has been acquiring experience, and her ability to think clearly, keep calm, and produce a well-judged response carried her gradually to a 9-11, 11-7, 9-11, 11-7, 11-2 victory.
"I was struggling with my movement," she admitted. "And with Nicolette you know she`s going to be so fired up and dangerous.
"But I also knew she was getting tired, and that if I played my game she would start to find it difficult.
"I am not old, but I am getting older!" Low half-joked. "I hardly play people younger than me now, and I am pleased I knew enough to make the right choices today."
Low kept the ball tight to the walls, slightly increased the pace when she tried to apply cross-court pressure, and gave little away.
On the match-changing point at 3-7 down in the fourth game she insightfully read a Fernandes sidewall boast the instant it was struck, moving forward early and responding with a disguised backhand cross kill.
She followed that with a winning backhand drop to a clinging line, and with three more rallies played patiently and economically, after which the danger had mostly gone. By the end of the fourth game Fernandes no longer had the resources to run down every ball.
The seventh seeded Low`s ability to recover between matches may be seriously tested though, for her second round encounter tomorrow is against Joshana Chinappa, the in-form Indian national champion.
Chinappa`s progress came in an opening session during which there were defeats for two seeds - the 13th, Jenny Duncalf, a world finalist three years ago in Rotterdam, andthe 12th, Madeline Perry, a former British Open finalist.
These seeding upsets were also setbacks for the older generation, with the 32-year-old Duncalf losing 11-8, 11-5, 11-5 to her up-and-coming English compatriot, Emily Whitlock, and the 37-year-old Perry, from Ireland, losing 14-12, 11-7, 5-11, 11-7 to Chinappa.
It became another good day for India, with Chinappa`s fellow Commonwealth gold medallist, Dipika Pallikal, later making a great comeback to win 9-11, 10-12, 11-6, 11-4, 11-7 against Samantha Teran, the former world number 11 from Mexico.
Pallikal was within four points of defeat at 7-7 in the final game, though by then she had established a more consistent, hard-hitting pattern which gradually, but only narrowly, wore down her 33-year-old opponent.