Controversial calls as Kiwi double miss bronze
IAN ANDERSON IN GLASGOW
It wouldn't be a classic trans-Tasman clash without a few moments of controversy.
New Zealand's Martin Knight and Joelle King saw hopes of a mixed doubles squash bronze medal disappear during a debatable finish to their 11-8 9-11 8-11 loss to the Australian duo of Cameron Pilley and Kasey Brown in Glasgow today.
The tournament top seeds from across the Tasman were on the right side of two critical calls in the latter stages of the third game.
With the deciding game tied at 7-7, it appeared Brown made minimal effort to get out of King's way when chasing a forehand.
But rather than a let being called, the Australians were given the point, much to the surprise and disagreement of their rivals and the crowd, who voiced their displeasure.
With the Aussies holding match ball at 10-8, their opponents felt they could have had a stroke awarded against Brown for a similar incident, but this time a let was called and Australia won the next rally to seal victory.
Knight and King though were reluctant to peg the decisions as the decisive factor, despite their importance.
"I wouldn't say it was a turning point," Knight said.
"They were consistent all the way throughout and they just got a couple of key points right at the end."
He said she felt the calls were "generous".
"But it seemed to be one of those matches that because it seemed to be so tight, I think they wanted the match to be free-flowing and have the referee not dictate the score so much."
King, who was seeking to match her two-medal haul from the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, admitted it was tough to accept.
"At a crucial time in the match when you're getting those calls, you get a bit frustrated - a bronze medal's on the line."
There was no chance of getting the calls overturned either, with the video referee system in play for singles matches not used in doubles.
"I think the video referee system coming into the singles has probably helped people feel a little less hard done by," King said.
"It wasn't to be, that's how it goes."
"It goes both ways - there's always just one or two points in it," Knight agreed.
That left Knight and King - who won silver at the 2010 Games in Delhi when Pilley and Brown beat them in the final - without a doubles medal.
New Zealand's sole Commonwealth Games medal at the Scotstoun courts was King's bronze in the women's singles
The Australians looked like they had set out to replicate similar tactics used by England that succeeded against the Kiwi's in the previous day's semifinal.
King wasn't seeing a lot of ball on the forehand side of the court and they fell 4-1 behind, before a mixture of Knight's power and King's deft drop shots dragged them back to 4-4.
With New Zealand trailing 6-5, there was then a long succession of high-quality rallies that brought few points, with lets being called instead of points won.
When a Brown forehand finally saw the score change, it seemed that would be a pivotal moment.
But the Kiwis came back again, King's deft forehand touch gave them a game ball before Knight's serve defeated Brown and put them one game away from a medal after 21 taxing minutes.
When Knight and King raced out to a 3-0 lead in the second game, they must have sniffed a triumph, but their rivals responded with their best spell.
They picked up eight of the next nine points, highlighted by a wonderful rally that featured the entire array of shots until a lurching Knight sent his reply out of court.
New Zealand threatened again at 10-9, but Pilley's power ensured the deciding game would take place after 47 minutes.
The third game again featured long rallies and scores fluctuating, before the critical calls helped prove decisive.