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Jonathon Power, Back at #1, Retires
and a Magical Era Ends

By Ron Beck and Martin Bronstein, March 3, 2006
Squashtalk Independent News; © 2006 SquashTalk LLC

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Charistmatic Squash star and champion, Jonathon Power of Montreal Canada, announced his retirement in New York this morning.

He made the announcement at 9AM today to CBC (Canadian Broadcasting) and to SquashTalk.

A touch of magic disappeared from professional squash today.
photo © 2006 Debra Tessier.

A touch of magic disappeared from professional squash today when Jonathon Power announced his retirement at the age of 31. It is an announcement that even his fellow professionals will find sad because Power brought to squash talents that had not been seen before, using the racket and his brain in a dazzling way that quickly had him dubbed ‘The Magician’.

"The Tournament of Champions in New York is where I won my first tournament. It is where I wanted to retire." Jonathon told SquashTalk. "I wanted to finish my journey back up to world #1. I reached #1 in the February rankings, and now it is time to step aside from the figors of the PSA tour and contribute to squash in other ways."

With his ready wit and sharp tongue Power earned a bit of a ‘bad boy’ reputation, one that had people calling him squash’s John McEnroe.

But McEnroe was nowhere near as funny or witty as Power and his “Are you serious?” line is the only one remembered, whereas everyone has their own favourite Power line, usually delivered at lightning speed when disputing a call with a referee.

What will be universally recognized is Power’s immense contribution to making softball squash more popular in North America. A decade ago the idea that a Canadian would head the ranking list, or become world champion, or win the British Open was laughable.
Even though he reached the final of the world junior championship in 1992, the year he won his first PSA title, it took him another eight years to make his mark. in late 90s Power decided to train properly and couple his enormous talent with a professional level of fitness.
Power had the reputation of a maverick, a man who beat his own drum to a very different rhythm. It was his penchant for partying that prevented him from making a serious dent in the professional game, although his reputation as a enormously talented player was known throughout the game.

In 1997, under the guidance of Canadian coach Mike Way, Power started to put in some serious training. He won three tournaments beating Peter Nicol, who was at the height of his game, twice. The following year saw him win the world open to become world champion, the first Canadian and North American to reach win that title. From that moment on his rise was meteoric and in 1999 he was ranked number one in the world.

His fellow professionals enjoyed Power’s emergence as much as the fans and they all spoke enviously about Power’s ability to read the game, his disguise and his speed around the court.

Au revoir Jonathon. We shall all miss you. photo © 2006 Debra Tessier.

His ongoing battle with Peter Nicol for world supremacy became an enduring attraction of the world circuit and some of their battles have become folklore. They had enormous respect for each other and their matches never descended into acrimony, unlike some other players who resented Power’s popularity and ongoing dialogues with the referee.

Although a Canadian, squash fans in the United States claimed him as one of their own, and whenever and wherever he played on the burgeoning North American circuit, he attracted full houses. Power could do no wrong and this was demonstrated in one of final appearances, at the Pace Canadian Classic in January. Power had reached the final after a hard semi-final and when his back went into spasms, a recurring ailment of his, he was unable to offer more than one game’s resistance against Amr Shabana. There was a packed house – 750 spectators – in the John Bassett Theatre some of whom had paid $150 for a ticket for a final that last 31 minutes. Power was acutely aware of the disappointment of the ticket holders and went centre stage and told the audience that if he earned the same sort of money as a tennis player, he would give them all their money back. Only Jonathon Power could have said that – and meant it - and as one the audience gave him a standing ovation.

There are mountains of statistics and achievements that would normally be included on a tribute like this, but they are meaningless when compared to the man himself; his contribution to growing the sport in North America, his wit and his endless creativity with a racket. In my 30 years as a squash writer I have been privileged to see most of the great shotmakers of the game, from Qamar Zaman to Rodney Martin, but in my opinion Power was better than all of them. Some players could hit more outright winners but no one had the range and speed of thought that Power had. He was able to call on a seemingly endless arsenal of shots, using spin, cut and finely honed angles.

Power was a breath of fresh air. photo © 2006 Debra Tessier.

Jonathon Power said that the decision has been at the back of his mind for some time. He had already told Squash Canada some weeks ago that he would not compete in the Commonwealth games, and wanted to see what happened in terms of world rankings and his performance in New York before making the final decision.

"I want to thank my wife, Sita, my parents, Graham Ryding, and Mike Way, for the wonderful success I have enjoyed as a professional squash player. It is those five people to whom I owe a world of gratitude. They are the ones who have helped and supported me along the way," Jonathon said.

“Retiring has been a very difficult decision for me,” said Power, “but I recognize that with my health being strong, I can use this next phase of my life as an active ambassador and catalyst for the growth of squash.”

He added, “There are plans for an increase in exhibitions, club outreaches, educational sessions, clinics and a farewell tour to give more back to the fans that have been so great to me around the world."

When asked what he felt his greatest achievement was, Jonathon said that it was having risen to world # 1 without a mold to follow. "I didn't have any mold or path to follow, no traditions to guide me. I had to figure it all out on my feet and on my own. I want to now help other North Americans to have an easier way to the top."

For journalists, Power was a breath of fresh air, and no matter how many times you interviewed him after a match, he rarely uttered a cliché or said the same thing twice.
Only Jonathon Power would announce his retirement two days after regaining the world number one spot. Au revoir John. I shall miss you.

Jonathon Power giving back to the future of squash at the TOC. photo © 2006 Debra Tessier.



 








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