Nicol wins 1st in 11 Months
NICOL STOPS SHABANA IN DRAMATIC SECOND GAME
It was a day of great squash in Dayton, Ohio today — where Peter Nicol ended his 11 month drought without a tournament win by defeating Amr Shabana in three straight games.
The entire story of the match this afternoon was contained in a span of ten points, in which Shabana went from a deficit of 10-5 in game two, to tie the game at 10-10, and then both players elevated their games to the highest level through a four point tiebreakers, won eventually by Peter Nicol at 13-11.
Shabana and Nicol were both playing confident inspired squash, and attacking squash was the word of the day. More for Shabana than for Nicol, but Peter did his share of attacking. The difference through the first game and a half was that Peter Nicol made no errors, and Shabana made just a few. Shabana also produced some wonderful attacks, but they were largely defended by Peter Nicol, who constantly rescued himself with some timely lobs.
By the time Nicol had built a commanding lead of 9-5 in game two, it looked like Shabana might have lost his edge, and I was about to conclude that this match was going to be an advertisement for the downside of the new scoring system. At nine - five, Shabana's eyes said he was ready to make a run for the game. The next point ended in a daring Shabana drop that clipped the top of the tin. He was down 5-10.
As only a confident, fearless attacker like Shabana can, he put together a series of inspired points that brought him back to 8-10. At which point, Nicol was wondering what had happened, and was doubtless counting on at least one more Shabana tin shot.
But Shabana brazenly attacked on, continuing his run of devastating shotmaking. Even a volley to length from Shabana, hit so severely, can appear to be an attacking shot. Suddenly the score was knotted at 10-10.
The next point quite quickly ended on the forehand, for both left handers, with Nicol out of position and a stroke for Shabana.
The next point, as one spectator told me, "was worth the entire trip to Dayton, the entire weekend, just to see that one point." It was a point in which both players attacked, both players retrieved, the entire court was covered over and over again by both players. It was electrifying squash. Both players had at least three winning shots that the opponent somehow retrieved. The point ended, finally, with Amr Shabana hitting a drop to the backhand, that Nicol retrieved but that Shabana was unwilling to answer. 11-11, and the match was essentially over at that point.
Peter Nicol said, "When Shabana didn't go after that dropshot, at that point I knew I had him."
Amr Shabana played on, but he had been mentally worn down by Peter.
"The thing about these hot courts," Peter said, "is that you would think that the match would go on and on. But it doesn't. I find that it comes to a point where one player or the other becomes convinced that he just cannot win the match on that court on that day. So often the matches are actually shorter on a hotter court."
It was fine squash from two competitors, who respect each other's games and stuck to the business of highest-level squash. And the win gave Peter Nicol visible optimism about the next six months of his campaign leading to the Commonwealth games.
EBS Dayton Open PSA Finals,
Sunday January 29th
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