Arnold, who caused an upset to reach the semi-finals of the Asian Championships in Kuala Lumpur a week ago, followed it with the best win of her career in the first round of the British Open on Tuesday.

The Malaysian qualifier overcame the fifth-seeded Alison Waters, a player more than good enough to influence the destination of this year’s title, by 11-8, 11-5, 11-4 – a result as startling for its manner as its outcome.

Arnold trailed 3-6 in the first game yet outplayed Waters almost totally thereafter. 

She relentlessly took advantage of the many strange errors made by the Englishwoman, who clinched the world team title for her country in December and has risen to a career-high world number three.

There was no doubting the focus and level-headedness of Arnold once she saw her chance, but Waters’s ineffectual performance –- possibly affected by a collision to the back of her leg early on — remained a mystery. 

She departed the arena in Hull, northern England, quickly without speaking to reporters.

Meanwhile a level-headed Arnold said afterwards: “I just wanted to go on there and see what I could do, without pressure. But I was definitely helped by what happened at the Asian Championships. That gave me confidence.

“I am quite surprised  by what has happened though. I had played the qualifying, but it was Alison’s first match, and it was before her home crowd, so obviously there was a lot of pressure on her.

“I don’t get to play on a glass show-court like this very often, so I’m even more pleased with this result, but I shall have to see how it feels tomorrow,” she said, sounding a warning note.

That may be because she next plays Annie Au, the 11th-seeded Hong Kong player, to whom she lost in a close five-game semi-final in the Asian Championships.

– El Weleily scare –

The winner of that match could have a quarter-final with Raneem El Weleily, whom some people are tipping to become the first Egyptian woman ever to win the British Open, but who had to survive a first round scare.

The gifted second-seeded Alexandrian was twice within a point of being taken to a fifth and deciding game by a qualifier, before prevailing 11-6, 11-5, 7-11, 13-11 against Line Hansen, the world number 28 from Denmark.

El Weileily had let slip a lead of 9-4 in the fourth game before both she responded with a closer focus and the skills to snatch the two points, at 9-10, and 10-11,  which turned the match.  

“It was my first tournament for a while. So I can kind of understand why I played the way I did today,” El Weleily said. 

“I was playing good for the first two games. Then I made too many errors and she was getting a lot of things I wasn’t expecting her to get.

“In the fourth game I was happy with my focus, and I tried to be more sharp and accurate. I was at 9-4 and she came back to 10-9.  Credit to her of course, but it was not my best match.”

El Weleily will hope to play better when she takes on the winner of the match between Yathreb Adel, her talented young compatriot, and Rachael Grinham, the veteran four-times former British Open champion from Australia.

She also hopes to fulfil a seeding which says she should play a final on Sunday against Nicol David, the top-seeded defending champion from Malaysia. – Agence France-Presse

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