Shabana can be focused or distracted, serious or game-playing. The risks for Shabana were especially elevated as he was facing the bulldozing Australian, Anthony Ricketts. Ricketts, who doesn't give an inch, is the type of intense competitor who can pry loose Shabana's mental focus.
It started in the warmup — really.
The assigned referee for the match was Mohammed Abbas, the loser of the preceding contest on the same court. The complication was that Abbas is also Egyptian, and Ricketts objected to Abbas taking the referee's chair. So the match was delayed while the tournament desk struggled to find another referee.
Over 40's player, and qualified referee Paul Ansdell (a regular referee at the PSAs US Open and TOC in NY) volunteered to fill the void.
Ricketts still wasn't happy, but the match proceeded. Shabana was all business, as he has promised us ever since the British Open in October. The conventional ASB court also suited Shabana's game. His shots sat down, his drives hugged the walls. And his deception gave Ricketts complete fits.
Twice in the first game, Shabana had Ricketts so twisted around that on the first occasion, Ricketts hit himself with the racquet, on the second Ricketts stood riveted while the ball hit him in the stomach.
It was all over except for the score keeping. Shabana kept his focus and Ricketts didn't have any. It was an excellent performance for Shabana.
INTRAMURAL BATTLE GOES TO DARWISH, BARELY
Karim Darwish and Mo Abbas were drawn to meet each other in the quarters. There wasn't much to choose between these two players. They each move gracefully, vary the pace, introduce deception, and attack.
And know each other's game.
The match went back and forth. It was the most interesting and entertaining of the men's quarters, though drew a diminished crowd, because everyone wanted to watch Parke and Nicol who played concurrently on the adjoining court.
The match see-sawed and neither player really held an advantage. Darwish just had that smallest of marginal edges that gave him each game, barely. Mo Abbbas played very well.
FEW VINTAGE MOMENTS
From the first point of the match, it was pretty clear that Simon Parke wasn't going to beat Peter Nicol tonight. It was hard to put your finger on exactly what was the telltale sign, but Parke was just weary enough from his five game contest the prior evening that his movement was just a bit slow and his usually completely reliable length was falling short.
The courts at the Dayton Squash Center play quite slow. It is a challenge even for the pros to generate the pace to ensure consistent length. Compared to the glass show court in use in Chicago, we're talking night and day.
Consequently, both Nicol and Parke were leaving openings. This was more dangerous for Parke than for Nicol, since Parke's short game was just slightly off.
All the same,
the end of the first, third and fourth games were film clips from vintage
Nicol-Parke contests. The last three points of the third game, won by
Parke, and the fourth, won by Nicol, could have been copied from the end
of the fifth game between Parke and Nicol in
the Superseries 2000.
Then, at 6PM they took the court. Jonathon was moving well and was also all business. No funny business or gamesmanship. It was all high quality squash. As Jonathon himself has been saying, he looks like he did in 1999 and 2000.
Though he's a bit lighter than he was then, which makes him a very dangerous opponent. There was nothing wrong with Laurens Jan's game plan for today. It's only that his game play depending on Jonathon making some mistakes, and Jonathon didn't make any. If Laurens Jan wanted to play a long point, Jonathon showed him he could too. If Laurens Jan wanted to attack, Jonathon attacked.
In the end, Jonathon's strength — the ability to wait for that tiny crack that gives him the counter-punch opportunity — gave him the clear advantage, and he wasn't really threatened today.
With both Shabana and Power at ease, focused, and playing well, and with the court suiting both of their games, it should be a terrific contest. My money is on Jonathon for tomorrow.
EBS Asset Mgmt Dayton Squash
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