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The location of a tournament is obviously very important. The Milo South African Open is only slightly smaller than the recent US Open yet many of the top players from Boston (e.g. Nicol, Power, Boswell) have decided against going to South Africa. Fortunately for South African squash fans ten of the world’s top twenty players including Palmer the victor of the recent US Open, have made the journey south. Perhaps if the missing players had looked a little closer at the tournament entry form they would have noticed that a day of golf and safari at Sun City was included in the tournament programme and would have had second thoughts about entering.
The venue for the event is a gigantic shopping mall in Pretoria, guaranteeing great exposure for the tournament.
It’s almost unheard of though to have both the qualifying and main draw both held at the same venue when a glass show court is being used. This means for players who go through qualifying they have two extremely different court conditions. It’s been accurately described as playing tennis on grass for qualifying then clay for the main draw. The game needed to play for the different courts is that different. Perhaps the abundance of South African players in the qualifying has been what has enabled it all to be played on the show court.
South Africa has a strong base of squash players meaning that playing a local qualifier isn’t such a great thing for the top seeds in the qualifying. This meant a number of different players particularly South Africans like Glen Whittaker and Craig Van de Wath could have made their way through qualifying. Whittaker lost a close and physical tussle agains El Hindi and Van De Wath had a cycling accident just prior to the tournament and has his arm in a sling. Simon Parke, Lars Harms, Wael El Hindi and local favourite Rodney Durbach are the four players to make their way through to the main draw. (see qualifying draw for all the results)
There will be some interesting main draw match-ups Thursday:
David Palmer versus Stefan Castelyn
Palmer is the former #1 and current US Open Champion against Belgium’s #24 who is trying to regain the form that took him to # 7 in the world. Joe believes that when Castelyn is in peak condition he is the best mover currently in the game for speed, flexibility and ability to get in and out of the front corners. Palmer is possibly the strongest guy when it comes to lunging for volleys from the tee and getting his body into the best positions. These two haven’t played each other in the past three years in a PSA tournament. This has the potential to be a wonderful match.
Amr Shabana and Karim Darwish
Shabana is currently ranked 20 in the world. Ranking is worked out so that all of your tournaments over the past year are added up and then divided by 8. If you play ten tournaments then your two weakest tournaments don’t count, and the remaining 8 are divided by 8 to get the average. Shabana has played 7 tournaments over the past year but two of them he has had to withdraw from (and therefore gets zero for it). So his five tournaments results are still divided by 8. Watch out for Shabana’s ranking to rise like a rocket when he gets at least three more tournaments under his belt.
Darwish is currently celebrating a career high of 13 following last month’s victory in the CNS Open in Pakistan. Also this year he has made the final of Maadi open and the quarters of PSA masters.
Both of these players have awesome racquet skills and an ability to put the ball away. They have played once recently in PSA with Shabana winning in the final of the El Ahly Open last year in straight games.
Omar Elborolossy versus Alex Gough
Omar had a career high last month of 14 but jumped out to 21 this month. His most recent newsworthy tournament result has been his recent loss to Jansher Khan in Pakistan last month. But 2002 has been a good year for him winning the Maadi Open and making the final of the 1st Pakistan squash circuit event earlier in the year.
Gough is currently ranked 18. Despite have a career high of 9 over the last few years, he has virtually spent the whole time ranked at 13. Gough has made the quarters of this year’s british open, but otherwise has had a fairly uneventful year. The last time these two met was in the 2000 with Gough winning a close match in four.
Joe Kneipp vs Renan Lavigne
The four remaining matches are with the qualifyers and pit Thierry Lincou against Simon Parke, Mark Chaloner with Lars Harms, Rod Durbach with John White, and Martin Heath with Wael El Hindi.
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