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Nicol and Shabana Win in Semis
Jan 29, 2005, by Ron Beck, SquashTalk,
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Dayton Juniors were riveted on the pro squash action this weekend.
(Photo © 2005 by David Barry)

POWER HAS TO STOP WITH BACK SPASMS


(click Button for AUDIO INTERVIEW)
Amr Shabana talks about the semifinal win and the upcoming finals. [other Dayton interviews]
(Photo © 2005 by Debra Tessier)

The Dayton Squash Center was treated to world-class squash tonight in the semifinals of the EBS Asset Management Dayton PSA Open, though both matches were over quickly - one in three games and one in two.

Peter Nicol and Karim Darwish came out first in front of a packed house in Miami (Dayton) Ohio. The first few rallies were almost flawless.

Peter Nicol was looking comfortable and fluid, in contrast to his more labored approach against Simon Parke.

Peter told SquashTalk, "It was going really well out there. My game was all there, as opposed to last week. I can always tell when my game is on when I can execute in the front of the court instead of having to crash it crosscourt."

Peter Nicol wants to know what Karim Darwish is up to. (Photo © 2005 by David Barry)

For the first half of the first game, Darwish was with him shot for shot, move for move. After a half a dozen points, Peter Nicol uncharacteristically questioned Darwish' get. "I did that more for myself than anything else." Nicol said. "It helps me to remind myself to stay on edge and focused."

Early in the first game, Nicol signalled to Darwish that he wasn't going to surrender even a single point, chasing down even the best executed attacking shots and making it clear to Darwish he was up to the physical and verbal battle if necessary.

On this day, Darwish wasn't all the way there. His sometimes magic with the racquet was nowhere in evidence. As the unforced errors mounted, Darwish's enthusiasm and resolve visibly flagged bit by bit. By the third game, Darwish was in full surrender and Nicol had demonstrated to a new audience what had gotten him to the top position for much of five seasons. The match was over in under 30 minutes.

ELECTRIFYING VARIETY OF SQUASH

Jonathon Power and Amr Shabana electrified the crowd. (Photo © 2005 by David Barry)

Jonathon Power and Amr Shabana came out to show the Dayton crowd an entirely different variety of squash. It was fast, furious, attacking, and electrifying. Power and Shabana, who like each other and respect each other's games, nonetheless were both all business and out there to reach the finals.

For one game it was an exciting and electrifying contest at the highest level. Then Power's back spasmed. He spent the break on his back in the court - there not being a spare square foot of space anywhere in the club - and winced as he readied himself for the next game.

He then exhibited some admirable reserves of courage and determination that he is not always credited with. Those observers who are quick to criticize Power on occasion would do well to examine his performance on this hot court on this snowy evening in Dayton. Power was motivated. He was all business. And he was hurt. But he motored on. Point after point, Power wanted it. He put everything into it. And he produced a string of remarkable points under pain.

Jonathon Power kept attacking even as his back woes intensified. (Photo © 2005 by David Barry)

There were a few exchanges that demonstrated creativity, reaction, and reflexes from both players that were dazzling.

Later Power told SquashTalk. "I could feel the back spasming in the first game. But I really wanted it out there today. I was ready to play and I wanted to win. I pushed on, you never know, sometimes my back loosens back up suddenly and it's OK. But today it was not to be."

After a surprisingly well played game two, Power signalled the referee his surrender and retired to the locker room, with a loss but the respect of the crowd.

As for Amr Shabana, he put on a great exhibition of attacking squash and concentration. When he is on, Shabana can go on the attack in devastating fashion. If he brings the same game to the finals tomorrow, it will be a wonderful exhibition of high leve professional squash at its best.

EBS Dayton Open PSA Semifinals, Saturday January 28th
(1) Peter Nicol (ENG) def (4) Karim Darwish (EGY) 11-7 11-6 11-4
(2) Amr Shabana (EGY) def (5) Jonathon Power (CAN) 11-8 11-6 retired, injury.


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