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Tuominen Dumps Palmer
Aug 17, 2005, Martin Bronstein at Sheffield, The Crucible.
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[Complete English Open Draw]

DRAW OPENS UP FOR WHITE

MARTIN BRONSTEIN REPORTING FROM THE CRUCIBLE THEATRE

KNEIPP PLAYS HIMSELF IN

Joe Kneipp shook off a slow start and rallied past Alex Stait (photo © 2005 Fritz Borchert)

Joe Kneipp opened the 2005 Mamut English Open against qualifier Alex Stait and showed his usual first round nerves. He seemed to have the first game all wrapped up at 10-7 when Stait hit some good length, deceptive winners and a forehand boast to win 12-10. That first game was evenly matched with most of the play being into the back corners, Kneipp choosing to use his shots only occasionally.

Having lost the first game Kneipp came back for the second with a no-more-Mister-Nice-Guy attitude and simply blew Stait off the court 11-1 in 4 ½ minutes. Stait was expecting his tight lengths to come back down the wall as they were in the first game, but Kneipp was stepping in and volley-dropping them, leaving the young Englishman flatfooted. Kneipp was using some fine hold and deception and Stait could win just one point when faced with this sort of skill.

Kneipp wasn’t allowed to retain this domination in the second as Stait kept the action as tight as possible with the result that Kneipp made four errors allowing Stait to keep within fighting distance at 6-5. A beautiful disguised backhand boast put Kneipp at 7-5 and with help of two winning drops plus two errors from Stait. Kneipp was home 11-6.

The fourth game followed the same scenario with Staitt still being caught by Kneipp’s skill and losing heart at not being able to compete on equal terms as he did in the first game. Kneipp won the game 11-7 in llminutes to take the 50 minute match.

“I*’m a notoriously bad starter,” Kneipp told me after the match. “I’m terrible in first rounds especially when I am supposed to win easily. I would much rather play Lincou in the first round than a low-ranked player.”

His brother Dan, who acts as coach and advisor chipped in: “He gets very nervous and loses confidence in his shots. Once he gets over the nerves, he’s OK.”

AND NOW FOR NICOL

Peter Nicol didn't give opponent Simon Parke any openings. (photo © 2005 Fritz Borchert)

Well,he’s over those nerves now and ready for his second round opponent, Peter Nicol, who beat Simon Parke in three but had to work very hard to do it. The build-up for Nicol’s attempt at winning his own tournament had been big. This year he had left the organizing to his Eventis colleagues and was concentrating on playing squash. He looked sharp but no sharper than Parke who matched him all over the court – in errors. The first five points came on errors. In fact at 4-4 Nicol missed the ball and fell over. And I thought I was the only person to play squash like that.

There was a lot of good length but Nicol was not doing a lot with loose balls. Parke was his usual constantly moving self and got to everything that Nicol hit. But as usual he was doing more work and it became apparent from his pauses between rallies that Parke was not in the best of condition.

Nicol pushed ahead to win the first game 11-8 but it took 18 minutes which obviously took the legs away from Parke and sharpened up Nicol’s shots. The second game was over in 8 minutes due to Nicol’s accuracy and winners. Although Parke was showing signs of wear in the third game, Nicol could not run away with the score. Even when he led 7-4 Nicol found Parke still fighting and running well enough to recover and keep within one point. Parke got his last point on a stroke at 9-8 after a well constructed rally but his race was run and Nicol made no mistake with the last two points to win the 43 minute match.

PALMER GETS ROUGH REFFING
David Palmer was this year’s victim of some rather incompetent refereeing. Each year since its inception, there has been some of the worst decisions on record. Palmer has every right to feel aggrieved: while Olli Tuominen was getting strokes by waving his racket in the air, the referee decided that Palmer should not get a penalty stroke regardless how obvious the situation was. Indeed in the second game marker Peter Kramer called a Tuominen shot ‘not up’; Palmer half stopped, then the rally continued, until he hit a winner. Palmer said the call of ‘not up’ had given him the point. Referee Wendy Danzig – who had heard the call as clearly as Palmer, myself and two hundred spectators, refused to acknowledge that Palmer had won the point on Kramer’s call and called a let instead. This was bumbling inefficiency of a very high order.

Olli Tuominen stood fast in upsetting #2 seed David Palmer (photo © 2005 Fritz Borchert)

This is not to detract from Tuominen’s performance. He played squash of a high order indicating that he should be much higher ranked than his present 17th status. His drop shots on both sides of the court were giving Palmer constant problems and he won almost every dropping duel against an increasingly frustrated Palmer who could find no chink in the Finn’s armour. On top of that Tuominen’s error rate was as low as you could wish for in a squash match played at this pace.

Tuominen won the first game 11-8 and then he and Palmer battled through 30 rallies in the second game. Tuominen had four game balls and Palmer three until Tuominen finished the game with a backhand drop to win 16-14 after 34 minutes of tough and sometimes frustrating squash.

In the third game Palmer took the upper hand, hit some fine shots, used deception well and started getting strokes on situations that had been given as lets in the first two games. He won that game 11-7 with Tuominen finally showing signs of fatigue.

But they were false signs and he revived in the third to push to 8-8 at which point he was awarded two penalty strokes, the second one very doubtful. On match ball Palmer, by now resigned to losing, hit a forehand drop into the tin and Tuominen had upset the form books by beating the world number three. If he can maintain this form, Tuominen should end this coming season in the top ten.

WHITE STARTS BADLY, FINISHES WITH A FLOURISH
Mansoor Zaman started superbly in his match against John White and didn’t let up until he had won it 11-9 – having been 10-5 up before allowing White four points in a row before finishing the game off by punishing a loose shot by White.

White started the second as though he wanted to banish all thoughts of an upset and simply ran away with the game to win 11-4. As good as Zaman was at the front of the court, White showed him just what long arms and legs can do, performing some amazing pick-ups by the front wall, either counter dropping or slamming them so hard an inch above the tin that the hapless Zaman barely saw the ball.

The third game went the same way and White won by the same score. Zaman was now learning the difference between top twenty and top four players. In the fifth game Zaman showed his lack of fight by hitting too many errors to lose the game 11-7. White hits the ball too hard, too low and too accurately for someone like Zaman who has yet to meet the standard of opponent on a regular basis.

Mamut English Open, Sheffield UK

1st round results (Day One - Bottom Half of Draw):

[8] Joseph Kneipp (AUS) def [Q] Alex Stait (ENG) 10-11 (0-2) 11-1 11-6 11-7 (50 min)
[3] Peter Nicol (ENG) def Simon Parke (ENG) 11-8 11-2 11-8 (43 min)
[6] John White (SCO) def [Q] Mansoor Zaman (PAK) 9-11 11-4 11-7 11-4 (38 min)
Olli Tuominen (FIN) def [2] David Palmer (AUS) 11-8 11-10(6-4) 7-11 11-8 (80 min)





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