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Nicol escapes, ousts Ricketts
Mar 10, 2005, by Howard Harding
SquashTalk Independent News Service © 2005 all Rights Reserved;





England's defending Kuwait champion Peter Nicol saved himself from the jaws of defeat in a dramatic quarter-final of the Sheikha Al Saad Kuwait Open Squash Championships today (Thursday) on Green Island, Kuwait.

The fourth seed led 2/0 against seventh seed Anthony Ricketts, the Australian who beat him en-route to winning the Tournament of Champions title for the first time last month in New York.

And it looked as if history as going to be repeated as Ricketts levelled the match and held match-ball at 10-4 in the decider. But Nicol's powers of recovery are legendary - and the 31-year-old former world No1 saved six match-balls before converting his first in the second point of the tie-break to record a stunning 11-6 11-9 8-11 10-11 11-10 victory in 85 minutes.

"I was in real trouble at 2-8," Nicol admitted. "Anthony was playing with real force and dominating the front court firing short shots in behind his heavy driving that I was having trouble getting round him for. I was flapping about a bit really. Then he just took his foot off the gas a bit. Perhaps he thought it was as good as won and he just had to play in a relaxed way until the last point fell his way.

"But it let me into the rallies again and I found a few points reaching forward to drive one ball through him down the middle of the court, push another across the face of the frontwall while he was looking for a drop to the other side and then a good long backhand drop that slipped nicely into the nick."

Nicol now meets top seed Thierry Lincou who, in the last match of the evening, fought back from a game down to beat Egypt's eighth seed Karim Darwish 7-11 11-6 11-6 11-6 in 57 minutes.

The other men's semi-final will also feature the two players in the bottom half of the draw expected to reach the last four - with second seed Lee Beachill taking on third seed David Palmer.

In fact, Beachill was only mid-way through his quarter-final clash against Egypt's fifth seed Amr Shabana when 'rain stopped play' on the all-glass showcourt on Green Island - and play for the remaining men's matches had to be transferred to the Salmiya Club in Kuwait City! After a gap of more than 100 minutes, the match was resumed on the club's conventional courts and Englishman Beachill soon celebrated his 11-8 11-9 11-7 win in 44 minutes of playing time - thus avenging his two defeats by the Egyptian earlier this year.

In the other quarter-final, Australian David Palmer beat James Willstrop 11-6 9-11 11-3 11-5 in 58 minutes to repeat his US Open victory over the Englishman late last year.

There was a notable upset in the women's event when USA's sixth seed Natalie Grainger pulled off a straight games win over Australia's No3 seed Natalie Grinham. Grainger's 9-6 9-6 9-6 victory in 31 minutes resulted in Grinham failing to reach her expected place

in a WISPA semi-final for the second event in a row.

Washington-based Grainger will now take on second seed Vanessa Atkinson for a place in the final.

The older of the two Grinham sisters will contest the other semi-final after top seed Rachael Grinham recovered from a game behind to beat fifth seed Linda Elriani 7-9 9-0 9-5 9-5 in 54 minutes - gaining revenge for her first loss to the Englishwoman in three years last month in New York.

Grinham senior will face fourth seed Nicol David, the Malaysian who ended the run of English qualifier Laura-Jane Lengthorn with a 9-3 9-1 9-0 scoreline in just 24 minutes.RESULTS: Sheikha Al Saad Kuwait Open Squash Championships, Green Island, Kuwait

Men's quarter-finals:   [Complete men's draw]
[1] Thierry Lincou (FRA) bt [8] Karim Darwish (EGY) 7-11, 11-6, 11-6, 11-6 (57m)
[4] Peter Nicol (ENG) bt [7] Anthony Ricketts (AUS) 11-6, 11-9, 8-11, 10-11 (0-2), 11-10 (2-0) (85m)
[3] David Palmer (AUS) bt [6] James Willstrop (ENG) 11-6, 9-11, 11-3, 11-5 (58m)
[2] Lee Beachill (ENG) bt [5] Amr Shabana (EGY) 11-8, 11-9, 11-7 (44m)

Women's quarter-finals:   [Complete women's draw]
[1] Rachael Grinham (AUS) bt [5] Linda Elriani (ENG) 7-9, 9-0, 9-5, 9-5 (54m)
[4] Nicol David (MAS) bt [Q] Laura-Jane Lengthorn (ENG) 9-3, 9-1, 9-0 (24m)
[6] Natalie Grainger (USA) bt [3] Natalie Grinham (AUS) 9-6, 9-6, 9-6 (31m)
[2] Vanessa Atkinson (NED) bt Jenny Duncalf (ENG) 9-0, 9-5, 9-7 (37m)

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