Ricketts Comes Down to Earth
LINCOU CAGES THE CANARY
It has been a long time between champagne drinks for Thierry Lincou. The former world number one and world champion has not won a tournament since the middle of last year. On top of that he was toppled as French champion by Gregory Gaultier.
Tonight he went into the final knowing that he had a good chance of breaking the run because his opponent, Anthony Ricketts, had played twice as many games -and probably twice as many minutes – on his way to the final. Both quarter-final and semi-final went to five games so Ricketts would surely finally have to run out of steam.
Well, he did, but he still managed to push the Frenchman to five games before doing so. Ricketts didn’t look like a tired man – except when it came to his drop shots. As he has been doing all week, he was constructing clever rallies, working his opponent out of position and when it came to the coupe de grace, he would find the tin. But this did not stop him going for the short shots and in the course of the five games he did hit a few golden winners. This was one area where Lincou had the upper hand, the ability to hit an unplayable drop shot to finish a rally.
The match started with a Lincou backhand drop shot after just six strokes, giving the wrong impression that Lincou was going to keep Ricketts going to the front to tire him out. Lincou finished the next rally with a backhand drop into the tin to make it 1-1 and then started the slow careful rallying that had characterized both semi-finals.
Ricketts looked far from tired and just managed to take the upper hand to lead 8-6. There was no discernible rhythm, nor could I detect any definite game plan. The rallies were long with the odd flurry of drops at the front.
Ricketts then hit a bad patch, one that cost him the game as he hit four unforced errors in a row, the last one hitting the ball at himself for a stroke to Lincou. From 8-6 ahead he was now 10-8 behind and looking very annoyed. He smacked the next serve into the nick to get to 9-10 but Lincou finished the game as he started with a long low forehand that eluded Ricketts. The 25 minute game was Lincou’s 11-9.
Ricketts was ready for the second game; a couple of winners and a stroke put him 3-1 up and although Lincou caught up, Ricketts, still playing slow measured strokes always kept ahead, constantly testing Lincou’s forward movement, which is supposed to be a weakness in his game. True enough, on three occasions a short boast from Ricketts found Lincou slow off the mark and unable to get to the ball in time.
Ricketts’ led 6-4 at which point Lincou hit the ball out of court, Ricketts followed this with a winning trickle boast at the front of the court and then Lincou hit the ball out of court again. Suddenly it was 9-4 and there was no hope for Lincou to get back into the game which Ricketts won 11-6 in ten minutes.
If there was an indication Ricketts getting tired it came at the start of the third game with three errors. It was now Lincou’s turn for ascendancy and he was playing with a purpose, patient at the right time and when the loose ball on the forehand came along, a beautifully weight volley drop earned him the point. At 7-4 he played a ball that reach the back wall in the middle of the court. Lincou still went to the T, Ricketts raced to the ball, played it and hit Lincou. This was a stroke, and the referee gave it as such. But Ricketts’ sporting instinct didn’t allow him to take that sort of point and he asked the referee to change the call to a let, which the referee wisely did. Lincou won the replayed point to reach 8-4, quite a different situation to 5-7 if Ricketts had accepted the stroke. Sportsmanship lives!
Ricketts made a mini comeback fromd 4-9 to 7-9 but then two disastrous errors gave Lincou the game 11-7. This now really appeared as though the tough Aussie was finished but he once again confounded our observations. Although Lincou lead up to 6-6 Ricketts was far from exhausted as he showed in the next rally. Lincou had him all over the place, racing, darting and lunging - just hanging in until he got back into balance at which point it was Lincou who hit the tin. A couple more errors from Lincou and a penalty stroke to Ricketts and the game was over 11-7 to Ricketts, putting him into the third five-game battle in three days. What is this guy made of ?
Well, the fifth game finally showed that Anthony Ricketts is human, just like the rest of us. He tried all sorts of gambits to keep Lincou off balance and at one point upped the pace to overdrive, slamming every ball just like the Ricketts of old. But Lincou could not only handle it went 5-1 up, at which point Ricketts went back to the measured pace. Now he was definitely tired andd the errors rolled off his racket as his brain told his racket hand to put an end to all this running about.
Lincou sensed Ricketts condition and now found his delayed flicks were reaping dividends. And so the game ran to its conclusion, Lincou finishing the match with a lob to length which Ricketts could not return. After 84 minutes, Lincou had broken his trophyless run to win the Canary Wharf Classic. He had said yesterday that he had gone back to basics and this win may well be the start of his comeback towards the number one spot that he held for a year.
Ricketts on the other hand, had earned the sympathy and all the admiration for his marathon week-long performance and his refusal to give up. Good on yer, mate!
CANARY WHARF CLASSIC
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