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

Column Number One, March 8, 1999   ©1999 SquashTalk

[Who is Martin Bronstein?]

[Read Global Gallery # Two, from April 4, 1999]

POWER VS NICOL:The battle for supremacy

The fight for top dog in the PSA between Power and Nicol is as engrossing as the historic battles between Hunt and Barrington, and, in later years, Ross Norman's single minded pursuit of Jahangir Khan. I've compiled the complete history of their meetings from October 1995 when they first met to their last encounter at the Tournament of Champions in New York in January of this year

POWER vs NICOL: The complete stats.

1) THE CANADIAN OPEN BURLINGTON OCTOBER 1995
Final: NICOL, 10-15, 15-11, 15-8, 15-11.
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2) CATHAY PACIFIC HONG KONG AUGUST 1996
2nd round: NICOL, 15-10 15-9 15-9

3) TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS October 1996 New York
Semi-final: POWER, 15-4 15-7, 13-15, 15-13

4) HUNGARIAN OPEN MARCH 1997
Final: POWER, 15-11, 11-15 , 15-3, 15-5

5) CATHAY PACIFIC HONG KONG OPEN AUGUST 31 1997
POWER, 15-11,15-10, 15-6

6) US OPEN Minneapolis September 1997
Semi-final: POWER 15-14, 15-9, 15-8

7) QATAR INTERNATIONAL NOVEMBER 27 1997
Final: POWER, 17-16, 15-13,14-17, 9-15, 15-8

8) CATHAY PACIFIC HONG KONG OPEN AUGUST 30 1998
Final: POWER, 15-14, 15-11, 15-14

9) COMMONWEALTH GAMES, MALAYSIA. SEPTEMBER 1998
Final: NICOL, 3-9, 9-2, 9-1, 2-9, 9-2

10) HELIOPOLIS OPEN NOVEMBER 1998
Final: NICOL, 15-12, 12-15, 15-5, 15-9.

11) US OPEN BOSTON NOVEMBER 1998
Final: NICOL, 10-15, 15-12, 15-11, 15-3

12) WORLD OPEN DOHA DECEMBER 1998
Final: POWER 15-17 15-7 15-9 15-10

13) TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS, NEW YORK JANUARY 1999
Semi-final:POWER, 15-10, 15-4, 15-5.

SUMMARY

POWER NICOL
Matches85
Games2920
Points602544

Although Power seems to have a comfortable lead over their last six meetings, the score is 3-all. Nicol was very upset after the way he lost in New York and has several months to think and stew about it. Their meeting in Hong Kong in August should be very interesting. We can be sure that Nicol will be working on his short game in an effort to dispose of his earlier opponents quicker and keep his energy for Power.

GETTING OUR ACT TOGETHER and taking it to the world

A journalist has to have a few tricks up his sleeve as well as strings to his bow (in fact a bow has horsehair, it's the fiddle that has the strings). One of mine is photography and it seems I was the only man at the delightful Tournament of Champions in New York's Grand Central Terminal trying to capture the magnificence of it all. In desperation the World Squash Federation has requested one of my masterpieces of point and shoot to use in their presentation to the Olympic bosses in Lucerne in late March.

The object is to show how squash can be presented in exotic and wonderful locations such as The Pyramids and the exquisitely refurbished Grand Central Terminal. This follows on from the great impression that the squash facilities in Malaysia (for the Commonwealth Games) made on all who were unaware of the huge technological advances squash has made in viewing capabilities.

It is generally accepted that squash's future growth as a global sport relies on two things - getting into the Olympics and growth in the USA. The fact that Australia foolishly did not include squash for next year's Olympics (they were almost certain of at least one gold medal) will always be a black mark against them and should be resented by all the great Aussie players who made such an enormous contribution to the game, from Hiscoe, through Geoff Hunt and Rodney, Brett and Michelle Martin.

So now we're aiming for Athens, but there are a few things we have to get sorted out. The scoring system to start with; club players use the hand-in system as do the pro women on the WISPA circuit. They also use a 19 inch tin.

The men's pro PSA uses the point-a-rally (PAR) system and a 17" tin. PAR scoring is also used in hardball and softball doubles and in US college competition. And when it comes to handicap tournaments, all clubs change to PAR.

Furthermore we hold world team championships using a loaded two-tier system that means even if a team in tier two wins every match, it cannot win the title. At the world junior championships in Princeton last August, there was a unanimous vote to change to the same system used in the soccer World cup. It would mean the top two teams from eight pools go into a 16-team knock out draw. This would entail one extra match in a tight six day schedule, but they all agreed that would be no hardship.

When the WSF finally addresses these contradictions and anomalies we will be able to present an image of an organised global sport.

DISAPPEARANCE OF THE BRITISH OPEN

When the English SRA announced the postponement of the British Open (through lack of sponsorship), I don't think they realised the sort of shock wave that the announcement sent around the world of squash. This move said more about the sad state of the game than all the negative things brought on by the recession of the early nineties. The announcement had the same ring as those notices that go up in store windows:'Closed for refurbishment' and you somehow know that they will never open again.

One well informed source said that rather than asking potential sponsors for $225,000, they could have offered main name sponsorship for a third of that amount. He told me that the Open could be staged for $150,000; $75,000 would be recouped from ticket sales, Hi-Tec were committed to $25,000, so that $75,000 would more than have covered the shortfall.

It was bad enough that the German, Spanish, French, Dutch and Monaco Opens had disappeared from the calendar in the first three months of the year, but with the Open gone, there is no major tournament between the Tournament of Champions in New York in January and the Hong Kong Open in August. What are the players doing? Lookout for major exhibitions at a squash club near you, anywhere in the world.

TEST SERIES TO TAKE PLACE OF BRITISH OPEN

Andrew Shelley, who runs WISPA, and Dunlop came up with an attractive project to fill the British Open void: a series of three matches pitting England against the rest of the world. Dunlop put up some of the money and the SRA, from their lottery funds, pay the English team.

The Rest-of-the Wrold team consists of Jonathon Power, Australian number one Dan Jenson and world champion Sarah Fitz-Gerald who will playing Paul Johnson, ranked four in the world, Simon Parke, ranked six with England's top two women, Sue Wright, ranked three, and Cassie Jackman, ranked four sharing the duties.

The series will be played on three successive days, March 26, 27, 28 in London and the midlands. And the week before that the top four women, Michelle Martin, Fitz-Gerald, Jackman and Wright will play a round robin at the Cumberland Club in London.

NEVER MIND THE LENGTH, PUT ON THE SILLY WIG

I went to the august law courts in London in January to watch some squash-related litigation. The judge and the legal eagles - known as barristers or silks - still wear the gowns, the dickie shirts and the funny wigs. And if you earned what they earned, you'd quite happily wear the wig and dance the fandango while you're at it.

Sir Michael Edwardes, the former president of the Squash Rackets Association was suing The Times newspaper for libel over an article that appeared in the sports section back in 1994. He said the article defamed his reputation and wanted an apology, they refused. After ten days in court, the jury found for Edwardes, awarded him $30,000 damages and his costs. I have it on very good authority that Edwardes' legal costs were close to $750,000. This lack of a simple printed apology will cost The Times, once they have paid legal costs for both sides and the damages, in the region of $1.5 million. Now how many British Opens would that pay for?

DUNLOP'S NEW LOAD OF BALLS

Dunlop will soon be introducing a new a new range of squash balls. There will be balls with longer 'hang time' (don't even think about a double entendre) balls that will bounce without warm-up and balls that are bigger than normal, all designed to help spread the game of sqush among those youngsters whose mind hasn't been turned to pulp by endless soccer or basketball. I wait, as I have done for so long, for a ball that can find the nick by itself. Surely this is not beyond the race whose boffins have photographed the backside of Mars, created Prozac and Viagra and invented cereals that make percussive noises?

You can reach Martin Bronstein by email in the UK.

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