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PACE Canadian Squash Classic -
2nd Round, First Report: Boswell Breaks Through
Jan 9, 2007 by Martin Bronstein
Squashtalk Independent News; © 2007 SquashTalk LLC

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Toronto, Ontario

John Nimick the promoter and Mike Riley, the tournament referee have come up with a slightly modified system of refereeing. The referee and marker still sit behind the back wall – in the John Bassett Theatre this mean in row E of the stalls, about 30 feet behind the back wall, with a third official sitting on the left wall. If the referee feels he is unable to judge a call clearly, he will ask the left wall referee to give the decision. Well, it’s a start ….


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Stewart Boswell puts on a strong performance (photo © 2006 Debra Tessier)

Action started at noon with Stewart Boswell and James Willstrop playing in front of about 100 people sparsely populating the red plush theatre seats. Boswell ranked just four places below world number seven Willstrop, and still looking to get back into the top five, is playing well and controlled the first game to lead 10-7. Not that there was a lot in it and this first game indicated that there would be no easy points for either player.

Willstrop saved that game point and attacked well to keep Boswell on the defensive. He kept his foot on the pedal to force a tie-break and saved one more game ball at 12-11 before going on to win the game 15-13.

In his younger days, Boswell was more of a runner than a shotmaker but now attacks whenever the occasion arises and between the two of them, they were providing an entertaining all-court game. There would be the occasional left wall duel but that would last about six shots before somebody sent the ball cross –court or tried a volley drop.

Boswell seemed to run away with the second game and it was all down to his excellent length on both sides of the court. He was striking the ball very well indeed and balls were hitting the front wall a foot or two above the tin but were still bouncing behind the service box. Willstrop’s weak replies were being quickly punished and the lanky Englishman showed his frustration at his own lack of ability to take charge.

The third game should have gone to Willstrop as he upped his attack to keep Boswell at bay despite the Aussie’s inch perfect drops and all round accuracy. They were playing at a breakneck pace and Boswell was determined to keep Willstrop bending his long frame double to pick up his drop shots. Nevertheless a determined Willstrop still reached game ball first helped by his special shot of the day, a low backhand drive that wasn’t just good length, it was winning length, dying before Boswell could get to it.

It may have been at this point that Willstrop lost the match. A backhand drop that was meant to give him the winning game point hit the tin, giving Boswell his eighth point. Boswell hit two winners to get to 10-all and then won the next two points to win the tie break and take a 2/1 lead.

Despite the disappointment of losing that third game, Willstrop took charge from the beginning of the fourth and ran to an 8-4 lead and wobbled again as Boswell simply would not lie down and took three points in a row on his own winners to get to 7-8. Willstrop hit huge backhand cross court slam to stop the run and then was relieved as Boswell hit two rare errors to give him the game 11-8 and so force a fifth game.

Boswell seemed tireless and kept up a cruel pressure on Willstrop, the dropshots raining on both sides of the court and keeping Willstrop constantly stretching on the move.

Boswell led 9-6 and Willstrop mustered one final effort to take the next point with a backhand volley drop. He totally controlled the next rally and had Boswell on the end of a piece of string. When he had played him out of position Willstrop went for the kill with a backhand drop and hit the tin. His howl of anguish at this costly error could be heard across the lake in Buffalo. His error had put Boswell at match ball and although Willstrop hit another winning backhand drive to get to 8-10 he was unable to get to a ball in the next rally, asked for a let and was denied by the referee, giving Boswell the point and the match after a 91 exhausting, cruel minutes.

Boswell just about deserved the win but it was a terribly close thing. The match however, set a yardstick for the day, and I doubted if other matches would match it in intensity and quality.

The second match of the day also went to five games with Karim Darwish just upsetting the rankings by beating John White, ranked eight, just one position above the talented Egyptian.

Somehow this match lacked the intensity of the first one and White will lose a little sleep tonight if he looks back on it. He won the first game in a tie-break, lost the second and then led the third 10-8 only to commit to crucial errors to allow Darwish back in, but in a long tie break finally managed to win 13-11.

Darwish wasn’t looking particularly dangerous and White seemed to have the measure of him. But he relaxed in the fourth and allowed Darwish an easy 11-5 win in six minutes.

The fifth was a much harder slog for both players and although White led 6-4, Darwish was playing with more determination, picking up White’s drops and finally taking the game 11-9 to win the 69 minute match.

In an all-Egyptian battle (there were five Egyptians in the last 16) Hisham Ashour, wonder boy Ramy’s big brother, played the handsome and personable Wael el Hindi (dressed in sleeveless singlet to show off his tattoos) in an encounter that proved that the new reffing system was really not that much of an improvement on the old. There plenty of appeals from both players but the referee would only refer to the third official when he felt like it. If he felt his original decision was good, the third man was ignored! Why not get another opinion? If it were a good decision then the third man would almost certainly agree with it and thus silence the complaining player.

Strangely, because it is rare, this match also went to five games, albeit fairly fast games. Ashour, fearlessly using his racket skills won the first game in ten minutes, and the second game in just five minutes. It was then that El Hindi, ranked 12 points above 27 ranked Ashour, decided he would rather win than lose. He won the third game11-9, led 10-7 in the fourth only to lose the next three points and to face a tie break which he won with two quick points , the whole thing taking seven minutes.

So to the fifth game where tempers were a little bare and a lot of barging was in evidence, which always seems to happen when el Hindi is on the court.

Although Ashour hit some stunning kills he was just a step behind El Hindi and came out on the losing end of an 11-9 scoreline after 45 minutes of carefree squash.

Jonathon Power, complete with jaunty trilby was at the press launch, relaxed, affable and talkative, his phone ready to hand waiting to get the call from his wife that their first born was on the way. It is due any time in the next few days.

Nick Matthew hobbled into the John Bassett theatre on crutches and said that the x-rays showed nothing was broken in his ankle and it was probably severe damage to his ligaments. As he was due to play in Chicago next week, he has to re-arrange his flight home, so that he can get to his own physio as fast as possible. He doesn’t know how long he will be out of action.



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