SquashTalk>Features>Global Gallery>December 1999 Gallery

The Global Gallery: Views on the world of squash by Martin Bronstein

December Gallery: Focus on the British Open.

Global Gallery For December:   ©1999 SquashTalk

[Who is Martin Bronstein?]

December 15 1999, London England



Peter Nicol showed just how tough he is and what it takes to be a top squash player.

Despite spending the night before the final throwing up and suffering from acute diarrhoea which completely dehydrated him, he was still able to take the first game from a nervous Jonathon Power and was actually leading the second game 12-9 when he finally caved in.

He staggered from the court and slumped in a chair. Manager Neil Harvey took one look told him it was all over and Nicol almost fell to the floor.

The problem was he couldn’t keep anything down, even water, so the dehydration was severe and the situation was looking dangerous.

They got Nicol back to the hotel and called the hospital for a drip so that they could put liquids and glucose back into his system. The drip never arrived. I was standing in the foyer waiting for a taxi and watched as Harvey, Sally (Nicol’s girl friend) and Andy Bunting, the Prince squash man, scurried around, making telephone calls and waiting for the drip to arrive. The hospital then said they didn’t think they could get a drip to the hotel.

Nicol’s crew were then looking very worried, a couple of them on the edge of tears.

An ambulance was ordered which arrived in five minutes and Nicol was carted off to hospital where the doctors said he had acute gastro-enteritis, probably from some bad food, and would be keeping Nicol in hospital for four days.


The ironic thing is that Nicol travels all round the world and has never been affected by stomach problems big enough to affect his game. Yet he goes home to Scotland and gets laid low by the local food. Well, not quite local…it was probably caused by some suspect pasta. So, dear friends, my gourmet tip of the millennium is never eat Italian food in Scotland.


When I met Simon Parke at the Post House hotel in Aberdeen, I immediately asked him how tired he was before he played Jonathon Power in the final of the US Open, having beaten Peter Nicol in the semi-final after a marathon five-setter. He said he felt fine, adding that the secret was ice baths.

It seems that American physio David Kennedy has a new manta for athletess, immersing your body in ice cold baths for ten minutes at a time. According to Simon, it stops swelling and has other great benefits. It obviously worked: he went on and took the first two games from Power, lost then next two but came back to take the fifth 15-13, the second such victory in two days.


On the first day of the British Open women’s tournament the shuttle service between hotel and the Aberdeen Squash Club had not been sorted out. So a Dutch referee loaded five players into his car and set off for the club. He didn’t know the town, got lost a little and made the mistake of looking behind him at the street sign and BANG!! He rear ended another car.

Not just a little bang, you understand but a BANG of such proportions, that the car was a write-off. Senga Mcfee banged her knee and pomptly lost to Natalie Grainger, Suzanne Horner, who was in the passenger seat got off with no injury and beat Shabana Khan of the US for the loss of two points and Vanessa Atkinson got a badly bruised finger on her left hand (she’s right-handed and took five games to overcome Egypt’s Maha Zein. I bet the organisers had a few heart tremors thinking about the possible public relations nightmare if the results had been more serious or the top stars had been in the car!


That foyer/reception area of the Post House Hotel in Aberdeen – the official hotel of the British Open, – will not fade from my mind too quickly. At 5.30 in the morning we assembled there when a fire in the kitchen caused a four truck fire alarm.

Thirteen hours later, I’m standing in the same place, waiting for a taxi to go to the allegedly best fish & chip restaurant in Britain, when I see two cops walk in. They take Clive Pollard, the tournament referee, to a quiet corner to get a statement about a road accident earlier in the week involving a referee and four players. (See last Global Gallery). And while this is happening an ambulance arrives with lights flashing to take Nicol to hospital. Fire, police and ambulance all in a 13 hour time span. Who needs action movies?


There was only one American man in the British Open: Ron Beck, a guy from Boston who happens to own the best squash site on the web.(No prizes). Ron is a serious squash player who lost 35 lbs in his preparation to play in the Over 45 tournament. It was his bad luck to get a notoriously erratic player as an opponent and a referee who must be the worst judge of character in the game.

When I use the word ‘erratic’ I refer not to the player’s game, but to his mental control.

The fact was that the players were evenly matched but Beck’s opponent took every minor incident as a personal affront. At one point, after losing a point, he held the ball an inch from Beck’s nose and said "If you cheat again I’ll beat the sh*t out of you." The action was clear from the gallery (although the words were not) and the referee told both players to stop talking.(Beck had not uttered a word). At no point did the referee reprimand Beck’s opponent.

Cut to the chase: fifth game, Beck leads 8-7. In an attempt to get to the ball he charges into his opponent. The referee awards the point to the opponent and then announces a penalty point against Beck for roughness. The score is now for 9-8, match ball for Mr Erratic. The ref – you are not going to believe this – then explains that as the score had reached 8-all Beck had the choice of no set or set two! As the score was 9-8 against him, what was he going to do? Ron called set two and was so apalled by the turn of events that he lost. His opponent ignored Beck’s hand and refused to shake hands. So much for British sportsmanship. Beck went on to win the plate (consolation event) easily.

I discussed this with organiser Alan Thatcher and when I mentioned the name of Beck’s opponent he laughed and said the guy was notorious in squash circles and had a nickname that we cannot use here because of the libel laws. Two other referees were watching the match and confided to me later how upset they were at the way it had been handled.

I spoke to Roger Bolden, the referee, later and asked why he had not given Beck a conduct warning first. He replied defensively that he didn’t have to give a warning first. He also doesn’t have to referee squash matches.

Despite this experience, Rob Beck vows to return next year.


The new British Open Champion, Jonathon Power, can be as fast with his tongue as with his racquet. During his match with Barada, he heard Barada utter an oath after hitting the tin. The oath was in Barada’s mother tongue which the referee did not speak. Power was on to it like a flash. "That could be the worst word in the world but because it’s in another language he gets away with it. If I said it in English I’d get penalised." There was no answer to that and wisely, the referee, said nothing.

After Bolden’s handling of the Beck match I believe refs should be given courses in recognising psychotic behavior, but I think making them learn all the naughty words of the world’s languages is asking too much of people who give up their own time and holidays to perform the thankless task of refereeing.


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