PACE Canadian Squash Classic -
from the John Bassett Theatre, Toronto
ASHOUR’S SPEED DEFEATS RICKETTS’ EXPERIENCE
My forecast was that Rickett’s experience coupled with the concentration he displayed in beating Gregory Gaultier yesterday, would overcome the youthful exuberance that Ashour sometimes exhibits.
I was partly right. But when Ashour started the first game in supercharged overdrive he was 7-1 ahead before Ricketts had got his eye in. It was a scintillating display of shotmaking and lightning racket work. Ricketts kept his head and started working the left wall and keeping the shooting opportunities away from his opponent. It worked to a degree but he could not close the gap and Ashour took the first game 11-7.
From the start of the second game Ricketts was in full flow of his extreme intensity. He was now reading Ashour’s game and he concentrated on elongating the rallies – the longer the better. The plan worked as Ashour went for winners (out of boredom?) only to make errors and put Ricketts in control. Not that Ricketts was hacking the ball down the left wall; he was mixing his length with well cut drops and Ashour was made to do a lot of work.
The marker was having trouble adding one to the score and on some occasions giving the point to the wrong player. It was an amusing series of mistakes but when Ricketts’ point was added to Ashour’s score, Ricketts, not very amused, asked the marker whether ‘he had an issue’. This didn’t deflect him from his game plan, which, helped by six errors from Ashour gave him the game 11-6.
The pace was startling and no matter how hard and fast Ricketts hit the ball, Ashour was there with a lightning react. Ricketts was putting in as many drops as Ashour, some of them soft as a feather, but still the Egyptian managed to get his racket under it to send it soaring to the back.
The third game started with more of the same, errors from Ashour and Ricketts dictating the course of the game. At 6-2 it looked like Ricketts had everything under control but for some strange reason, which I could not ascertain, the game suddenly reversed - it may have something to do with Ricketts’ increasing irritation (sometimes bordering on hostility) towards the referees.
The result was a run of points by Ashour that took him to 7-7 as Ricketts semed to lose all concentration, committing three strange errors and losing the game 11-7 when he seemed to have it all sewn up.
The fourth game was evenly balanced as they both attacked all corners of the court, cut for winners, made impossible gets and generally kept the packed auditorium cheering and gasping in disbelief. At 5-5 it was difficult to see who had the upper hand but as the game wore on Ashour’s blinding speed was gradually getting the better of Ricketts who simply could not produce the control that he had in the second game.
Ashour made one more error in going for a winner from service to put the score at 7-7 and a stroke on the next rally put him at 8-7. The final rallies saw Ashour putting Ricketts under extreme pressure and Ashour took the next three points for a well-deserved victory and a place in the final.
Ashour insisted that this match was not as fast as his match against Iskandar;“In fact my natural game is faster than that. I have had to slow down since my junior days.” We’ll just have to take his word for that.
PALMER PREVENTS AN ALL –EGYPTIAN FINAL
David Palmer had the weight of Australia on his shoulders and his job was to beat 15 ranked Wael el Hindi to make sure that Egypt didn’t totally dominate the tournament.
He too started slowly, as Ricketts did and lost the first game, looking sluggish and bemused. But as Ricketts did, Palmer got into gear in the second and contained the perplexing game of El Hindi who can hold the ball until tomorrow as well as hit shots. The match was played at a slower pace than the first semi-final but the same control and accuracy was evident and there rallies of marvelous quality. For once there was no barging match and Palmer took the second game 11-7. But el Hindi immediately played himself back in to win the ten minute third game 11-7.
Once again the match see-sawed as Palmer used his strength and length , mixed with some finely cut drops – to wrest control to win the fourth game 11-6.
The fifth game had its drama replaced by comedy as both players appealed to the referee and then counter appealed the appeal etc etc.
With Palmer leading 7-4 el Hindi twisted his leg but continued into the next rally which he won. He then asked for an injury break! Palmer quite rightly found this preposterous, pointing out that his opponent had played on with the apparent injury. The referee granted a three minute injury break and Palmer kept arguing. El Hindi interjected that his argument was wasting his three minutes, bringing a big laugh from the audience. El Hindi was late back on court, carrying a sock and shoe which he proceeded to put on while Palmer silently fumed. No penalty was exacted from El Hindi but Palmer made him pay for it by racing to match point 10-6. el Hindi’s last hurrah were two winners but on the final rally of the match Palmer was ruthless in pushing him all over the court before slotting in a drop shot. El Hindi dived for it, but missed and ended the match flat on his back. There’s a moral there somewhere but it is too late at night for me to find it.
CANADIAN CLASSIC SEMI- FINALS