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New Year
Schmoo Year
!
…Nicol David…Egyptian Jrs… New DVD supplier…
Phoenix … NY more

Global Gallery, Jan
20, 2005

Martin Bronstein, writes this month from his
home in London.

© 2005 All rights
reserved.
Vanessa- Rachael photo© 2004, Fritz Borchert


THE JANUARY GALLERY

What is all
the fuss about the new year? It’s just another day, another week
another month. The world doesn’t change colour, the continents don’t
swap around and day doesn’t turn in to night.

But things
will change in the world of squash. To start with look for lots of activity
at the top of the women’s rankings. Vanessa Atkinson has finally
got her head together and is now fulfilling the promise she has shown
for at least five years. Her new status as world champion – and
the way she disposed of world number one Rachel Grinham in the World Open
– shows just how deadly she can be when she is totally focused.
She is now number two in the rankings and chewing at Grinham’s heels.
She will almost certainly get the number one spot if she keeps that focus.

DAVID
TO SLAY THE FEMALE GOLIATHS
But
it won’t be easy; Nicol David for one will soon be chewing at her
heels. The diminutive Malaysian is making the progress up the rankings
that we all predicted after winning the world junior title twice in a
row. She cleverly took six months off last year to give herself some breathing
space and regain the hunger for the court.

She came back
refreshed and playing better than ever shooting up to fourth place in
the rankings. It was a pleasure to see her in action in the women’s
world team champs in Amsterdam. Her marathon 5-game battle against Ireland’s
Madeline Perry was a memorable squash spectacle with David just pipping
Perry 10-9 in the fifth. It showed that she also had fitness and guts
to go with everything else for she is a most complete player with near-perfect
movement around the court – and very, very fast. She has a comprehensive
arsenal of shots and, most of all, a serene temperament. At the moment
she is a whole bunch of ranking points behind the leader, but I fully
expect her to be in contention for the top spot before the year is out.

Omneya Abdel
Kawy has dropped to number ten, but she is gradually acquiring the hard
mental resolve that she lacked in previous years. The Egyptian number
one acquired some very good results towards the end of last year and if
she is not in the top five by the end of 2005 I shall give up coconut
ice-cream for six months…well, three months.

[I shall be
in New York for the Tournament of Champions from February 15 to 28. Does
anybody know where I can get coconut ice-cream in that wonderful city?]

FUTURE
WORLD CHAMPIONS (2)
A
couple of years back I wrote that in the year 2020 the men’s world
champion will probably bear the name El Borolossy. Omar had married Salma
Shabana, sister of Amr and she had produced a baby boy. With genes like
that the kid has to become a contender.

Now I can
safely forecast that around 2028 there will be a world champion bearing
the name Ryding. That’s because Graham Ryding and his lady of four
years, former Canadian champion Marnie Baizley, will be getting married
in the summer in Winnipeg. (They are both natives of Winnipeg although
Graham moved to Toronto 18 years ago).

Now, Marnie,
I don’t want to interfere with your married life, but it would be
nice if you could produce twins, one boy, one girl, so that Canada will
hold both world championships at the same time. Come to that, try that
new-fangled fertility treatment that results in four or five kids at a
go. You could produce the entire Canadian team in just nine months.

ENGLAND?
WHERE’S THAT?
The
British Junior Open is regarded as the most important junior event outside
the world champs. They give a fine indicator of things to come. In which
case things look bleak for England; this year the championships ended
with England bare of titles. Not one title! A huge playing base, more
courts than the rest of the world combined and a countrywide junior coaching
scheme that is supposed to be the envy of the world, and England could
not produce one winner. Not even a finalist.

In the eight
boys and girls categories!

In the Boys’
events Pakistan took three titles and had a finalist in the fourth. Egypt
took the Under 17 title and supplied runners-up in the other three categories.

In the girls’
events, the Egyptians, as expected, cleaned up; three winners and two
runners-up. It was only in the Under 19 tournament that Egypt was shut
out,

Joshna Chinappa
of India beating Tenille Swartz from South Africa.

What is this
incredible, unique squash gene that makes almost every Egyptian player
an artist as well as an athlete? I have tried for years to analyze what
makes their approach so different. Try this: the rest of the world concentrates
on using the ball while the Egyptians concentrate on the racquet. They
see the racquet as more than an implement to thump the ball into the back
corners: to them it is a magic wand which can produce wondrous results.
Egyptians seem to be born with the perfect drop shot in their wrist while
the rest of us have to spend hours understanding how to do it. I can tell
you that at least two English fathers are keen to send their talented
offspring to Cairo to train for a month or two, in the hope that this
magic rubs off. It certainly worked for Rachel Grinham who moved to Egypt
and within a year or two became world number one.

…AND
YET ANOTHER EGYPTIAN…
While
we are in the land of the Pyramids take note of the name Ramy Ashour.
This Cairo native went to Kuala Lumpur in December to play in the Malaysian
Open, ran through the qualifying rounds and fought his way to the semis
to be beaten by another Cairo player, the experienced Wael El Hindi. This
was a few weeks after Ashour had won the Athens Open, the first event
he had ever played!

And this
was just three months after becoming the youngest ever winner of the world
junior title in Pakistan. That’s right folks, Ashour is still just
17 years old.

Read it and
weep, you old 21 year-old has-beens.

SURPRISE
SURPRISE

I went to my club, Colets in Surrey, to watch our first team play in the
Surrey Cup leagues. And who should turn up at number one for Esporta,
our opponents? Bloody Peter bloody Nicol, that’s who. Esporta, who
hired him, at an alleged $2,500 per match, have got deep pockets and the
rest of the team was pretty useful too. We expected to get thumped 5/0
but lost 3/2. The surprise of the evening was that Nicol got beaten by
our number one Scott Handley.

Handley is
one of those maddening enigmas of the sport, a player who has everything
except confidence. He should really be in the top twenty but is now ranked
at a lowly 55. Handley’s win over Nicol was no fluke: the last time
they met in league play Handley lost narrowly in five, when by all accounts
he should have won. He seems to relax when faced with opponents he is
not expected to beat and so plays to his peak. But when a match is against
an evenly matched opponent Scott will lose that composure – and the match.

CANARY
WHARF GROWS
I
spoke to Nicol later and he was very excited about his Canary Wharf tournament.
Firstly because they have signed up ISS on a three year contract as sponsor,
which puts that much more money into the pot for prize money. Enough to
lure Jonathon Power as one of the eight players who will play in two pools
of four. More importantly, next year the Wharf will go PSA and become
a ranking 16-man knockout event, which is good news for everybody. Not
that these eight-man’s are without merit, we have seen some wonderful
squash at the Super-Series final and Canary Wharf last year. But somehow,
with no ranking points at stake, not all matches are taken seriously.
And anyway, the Wharf event is too close chronologically and geographically
to the Super Series, and detracts from it.

BUT….
I shall be in Canary Wharf in March to bring full reports for Squashtalk.

WHY
ENGLAND NEVER ENTERED THE WORLD DOUBLES
Australia
had a field day in the world doubles recently, an event which England
did not enter. Anthony Rickets, who teamed up with David Palmer (how’s
THAT for a team?) told me that even though the calendar in December was
full, they had to play in it to be eligible for the Australia team for
the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Australia next March (And a chance
to win a gold medal).

Peter Nicol
told me that England squash decided against entering teams in the doubles
because of the crowded calendar – they did not want their play to
suffer burn out. Instead they have put together an 15 month squad program
for men and women who to want to represent England in 2006. Nicol suggests
that for him 2004 was a bit of a rest year and that he will now be cranking
up his training this year because he wants a gold medal. Despite his reduced
training schedule over the last 2 months, Nicol still managed to hang
on to third spot in the rankings. I hope he makes it to Australia: a gold
medal for Peter Nicol would be a fitting end to his career.

UNASHAMED
COMMERCIAL PLUG

A guy called Allan Murray made a
superb recording of the great John White/James Willstrop match at
last year’s English Open. This has now been made into a DVD and
is available from
Squashtalk at the ridiculously low price of $28. This is a DVD worth
getting: the picture is crystal clear, the ball visible at all times and
there is a slo-mo replay of every rally (the final strokes) so you can
see just how the point was won – or lost. The squash is scintillating
and sometimes breathtaking. Liz Irving and I do the commentary –
she had a bit of a cough and I had a lousy cold, so make allowances please.

THE
FOUNTAINS WILL SPURT NEXT YEAR

Squashtalk’s great photographer Debra Tessier is a bit miffed with
the organizers of the Fountain Hill’s Squash Classic in Phoenix.
It was due to take place starting March 8 but
has been cancelled
. Although Deb lives in New Jersey, her home town
where she still keeps an abode is Phoenix. So she was looking to spend
some time at home and cover the tournament.

The first
story we heard was that the sponsorship collapsed, but Andrew Shelley,
chief WISPA bloke, tells me that the Kuwait Classic got moved back to
start on March 9 which made things impossible for Phoenix. It has now
been re-scheduled for April of next year.

[Watch out
for Deb Tessier’s super photos from New York’s Tournament of Champions
which starts Feb 19. I shall be there even before the qualifying so watch
out for all the news and results, including qualifying rounds on Squashtalk].