and Abbas: An Instant Classic
WHITE LIGHTS UP THE WINDY CITY
He may have not played for a month and frazzled by a fruitless trip to Australia, but John White, that well-known Scottish Australian, is still one helluva squash player. His game against Mohammed Abbas in the second round must count as the best in the tournament so far.
Organiser John Flanigan will pray to have a final this engrossing and exciting.
I suppose you would expect some sort of fireworks when you put two shooters on court together and these two players can shoot. In the end it was John White who was still standing, blowing the smoke from the end of his racket while poor Mohammed Abbas was dead on his feet, unable to run another foot to pick yet another killer White drop shot.
What these two tall skinny guys did to each should be outlawed as cruel and unjust punishiment. Their ability to hit drop shots, crashing cross courts, fearsom drives and soaring lobs plus their determination to pick up everything regardless of where they were sited when the shot was hit, was phenomenal. I must say that this was the first time this tournament has caught fire because early rounds tend to produce predictable results and many of them in straight games.
White won the first game 11-6 with his usual relaxed mien, the ball flashing in all directions from the easiest swing in the sport. Abbas was not going to lie down and took the second game, despite trailing until 9-all. He was helped by two errors from White in the last three rallies, but that is going to happen when you have a player like White who says quite simply: "If the ball is sitting there, you've got to go for the shot."
And so to the third game, which in retrospect decided the match. It was a huge game with never more than one point separating the two players. it was neck and neck, shot for shot , point for point, lunge for lunge. White got to game ball at 10-9 and from then on it was almost another game as they continued to exchange points. White had game ball four more times but each time Abbas saved it to even the score. On his sixth game ball White finally put the ball away to win 16-14 and go to a 2/1 lead.
Abbas, ranked 21 compared to White's nineth ranking, was not finished and started the second on a streak to run to a 4-1 lead. White could no catch up despite some of the most creative squash seen in years. He jumped three feet in the air and while up there deftly caressed the ball into the nick. Abbas stayed ahead and won the game 11-7 to set up the big fifth. But the big fifth wasn't : it was obvious from the opening rally that Mr. Abbas was absolutely and totally drained. He no longer wanted any part of this running and hitting balls. What he wanted was to lie down and sleep for several months. White thankfully ran through the points to win 11-3 to win the 64 minute match.
More importantly the two players won a huge ovation from the packed hall. Even the angels in the stained glass windows were applauding. (Sometimes I imagine things).
as they call him, had a huge smile on his face when I spoke
him. He didn't seem the least tired and spoke animatedly about
his fruitless trip to Australia for the world doubles.
"There were a few rallies at the end of the fourth when I thought he was tiring. But in the fifth his breathing was all over the place and I knew he was gone. I felt fine and I knew he was doing most of the work. I played my most patient in the third game because I didn't want to lose it," said White who is seven years older than Abbas. He will be playing in Dayton and Virginia and then having three weeks off before the Tournament of Champions in New York at t he end of February.
TWO MAGICIANS DO IT IN THREE
Both James Willstrop and Jonathon Power earned 3/0 victories and demonstrated once again their superior skills. Willstrop was his usual amazing self: elastic arms, wonderful shots, fantastic retrievals and enemotional personality. He succeeded Karim Darwish as junior world champion, but has overtaken the talented Egyptian in the senior game. Darwish is playing some of the best squash I have seen and once more using the shots he had when he was a junior. But he was always a yard shot of Willstrop and even when he had the court and Willstrop at his mercy, he could not put the ball anywhere that Willstrop could not get it. In the third game leading 6-3 Willstrop was put on the rack by Darwish, who distributed the ball all over the court. Willstrop saved the point the point three times - you would have to see a slomo replay to appreciate what he did - and finally won the point. This rally must have taken the heart out of Darwish and Willstrop won the game 11-7 and finish the 44 minute match.
It was just a week ago that Power and Gregory Gaultier met in Toronto: Power won but Gaultier made him work for 67 minutes to do it. Today, an out-of-sorts Gaultier lost in 44 miinutes, complaining all the while at every referee's decision. In fact it should have been Power who complained, being the victim of the worst refereeing decision I have seen for several years. The perpetrator was Graham Waters, the Canadian World Class referee, a man whom I admire and like and have had several dinners with.
I still don't believe he called Let when Gaultier hit the ball down the center of the court and then backed into Power who standing the T and pushed him all the way to the side wall. It was an obvious, black-and-white, stone cold, 24 carat Stroke. And Waters called let. What he was saying to Gaultier was, "You can hit a bad shot and then push your opponent out of the way so he can't hit a winner." I still don't believe it. Neither could Power who might have expected the odd favorable decision for a fellow Canadian.
Power won that game 11-9 took the second 11-4 and was given the third by a petulant Gaultier who hits six balls deliberately into the tin. Bad show, mon ami, very bad show.
ISKANDER TIRES AFTER THREAT TO LINCOU
was an extremely tight , considering it was the first seed
playing the fifteenth seed, with the lower seeded player
leading thoughout the game. It was interesting to see Iskander's
strategy at work and waiting to see what Lincou what
do to combat it. It was surprising how many times Iskander's
boasts from both sides of the court found Lincou a yard short
at the front.
Iskander's attempt to continue the strategy foundered on his many errors in the second game; he made six unforced errors going for short shots and this helped Lincou gain control and win the very short game 11-7. Iskander opened the third game with a backhand boast (the worst shots in squash!) into the tin and made five more during the course of an even shorter third game. There were now signs that Iskander had really put most of his energy into that first game and that his tank was running dry. Lincou easily won the third game 11-6 . The final game was a repeat and a very tired Iskander could do nothing to stop Lincou's march to victory, 11-9 in seven minutes. What the match showed is that Iskander has the skill and brains to match the top boys but needs a whole lot more fitness to play the present game of explosive power and pace.
STILL SUFFERING FROM JETLAG LEGS
Another slow start from Anthony Ricketts who was outplayed in the first game by Graham Ryding who is playing his best squash this week. Ricketts still had trouble with his movement and could not find width on his cross- courts. Ryding stood in the middle and picked them off for winners to win the first game 11-8.
Ricketts picked up in the second, still had trouble with his width but was now moving better and getting to then hard stuff that Ryding was handing out. Ricketts won the game 11-6 and by the third was in full flow while Ryding subsided into near surrender virtually giving the game away 11-1 in six minutes. The last time I saw Ricketts he was heading for the whirlpool in the basement of the club.
WINDY CITY OPEN2006
SECOND ROUND RESULTS
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