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PACE Canadian Squash Classic -
2nd Round, Final: Iskandar beats Shabana
Jan 9, 2007 by Martin Bronstein
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Izlan Iskandar score his best win with an upset over Shabana (photo © 2006 Debra Tessier)

In the biggest upset of the tournament so far  Mohd Azland Iskandar, the world ranked number 18 from Malaysia, knocked out world number one Amr Shabana from Egypt in four games, playing superbly  to dominate the talented Shabana for most of the match.

Iskandar has been working with Peter Nicol, the former world champion, for the last year and the determination he showed in sticking with Shabana  is evidence of the effect Nicol is having on his game. 

The first game found Iskandar fast and focused while  Shabana seemed a little slow and sluggish. Shabana's usually sharp shooting was not working and errors at crucial times gave Iskandar the psychological edge in taking the first two games  - the second 11-5 in just six minutes.

After losing the first two points of the third game, Shabana finally settled down and took the next eight points in a row to lead 8-2. Iskander tried to stage a mini comeback but crashed the ball into the tin at 4-8 to put Shabana back in charge and the Egyptian made no mistake  finishing the game  with a winner to win 11-6 and get back in contention.

But Shabana's  ascendancy and  Iskander's crumbling did not happen as expected. The Malaysian was still full of fight and  from 5-8  down in the fourth game ran to an 11-8 victory, helped by  four unforced errors from Shabana.  It was by far Iskandar's best victory since he unseated Ong Beng Hee as Malaysia's national champion.

Cheers rang out for the first time in the John Bassett theatre tonight when Graham Ryding, the Canadian number one, took a long third difficult game from world number two David Palmer of Australia. The spectators reclining in the red plush seats had not really been involved in a nationalistic way in the first two games which Palmer, who has been in the world  top ten for 77 continuous months, took with his usual faultless playing, using his strength and reach to nullify  Ryding's best shots.

But in the third game  Ryding swapped point for point and the lead changed hand four times up to 10-10 which is when the crowd started to urge him on. With that  encouragement Ryding saved two games points and went on to  win the 23-minute game 14-12, finishing with a  crashbang reaction shot that left Palmer standing at the front of the court. Ryding left the court to huge cheers  as the home crowd smelled a home victory. But Ryding could not sustain the challenge into the fourth game which  Palmer won 11-6 to finish the 66 minute match.

Ryding, 31, who now spends more time studying than playing, said he was happy with his performance.

"Yeah, I think I played well.  I took the third game by playing tighter and straighter. It may have been a matter of inches but it felt good. My plan was to concentrate on his backhand and  keep away from his strong forehand. I also felt pretty comfortable taking him short at the front," Ryding said afterwards.

He's only 19 and totally fearless  but he's cutting his way through the senior ranks  like no other player since the great Jansher Khan back in the eighties. Tonight he flashed his racket in wondrous ways and moved his legs faster than you can imagine. It's a combination that few other players can  handle and tonight countryman Mohammed Abbas, a vastly experienced player,  could just about take one game before going down 3/1 in a 42 minute contest.

Ashour won the first two games in just 17 minutes of play, and then seemed to get a little careless to allow Abbas to take control and win the third game  11-7 in just eight minutes.  Ashour calmed himself in the fourth and his speed and shot selection forced an increasing  number of errors from Abbas, The 11-6 final scoreline reflected the play perfectly. Ashour will now move into the quarters to face surprise winner Mohd Azlan Iskandar.

Gregory Gaultier had  few problems in continuing his winning run when he beat England's  Lee Beachill  in straight games in 40 minutes.  Gaultier, who has climbed to number three in the world,  still argued most decisions with the referees, most of them futile and with little ground for debate.  Someone remarked that he was trying to replace Jonathon Power as "the mouth" but Gaultier does not have Power's wit and his constant whining  begins to irritate. He was little troubled by Beachill who seems to have lost the drive he had two years ago when he was in the number one spot for three months. Indeed in the third game he almost gave up  and on two points didn't even try for the ball.  This is a fine, world class player: I hope he does better in Chicago.


[12] Mo Iskander (MAS) bt  [1]Amr Shabana (EGY) 11-10(2-0) 11-5, 6-11, 11-9 (48mins)
[6]Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt  [14] Mohammed Abbas (EGY) 11-4,11-5,7-11,11-6 (42mins)
[3]Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt [9]Lee Beachill (ENG) 11-4, 11-8, 11-3 40mins)(
[5]Anthony Ricketts (AUS) bt [15] Ong Beng Hee (MAS) 11-4, 11-2, 11-3 (32mins)
[8] Karim Darwish (EGY)  bt [10] John White (SCO) 10-11(0-2) 11-8, 10-11(1-3), 11-5, 11-9  (69mins)
[13]Wael el Hindi (EGY) bt Hisham Ashour (EGY) 8-11, 5-11 11-9, 111-10 (2-0) 11-9 (45mins) 
[11]Stewart Boswell (AUS) bt [7] ]James Willstrop (ENG)10-11(3-5) 11-4,11-10(2-0) 8-11, 11-8 (91 mins)\
[2]David Palmer (AUS) bt [16] Graham Ryding (CAN) 11-3, 11-9,11-10(2-4) 11-6. (66mins


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