July 27, 2000 copyright 2000 Squashtalk.com
World teams tournament special to
SQUASHTALK From Martin Bronstein in Milan JULY 27 2000
FINALLY, A GENUINE UPSET
Trouble with the seeding experts at the WSF, they have excellent sources
of information. If they could turn their attention to the stock market,
squash would be the richest sport in the world. They did a great job at
the Individuals but the teams stymied them because they couldn't judge
the depth of strength of the teams. Egypt and England were naturals for
one and two but who to put at three?
They put Spain at three and Malaysia
at four. Wrong. On appeal from the England team, Malaysia got dropped
to sixth and Pakistan upgraded to fourth with Canada at fifth. And today
Spain were knocked out by the seventh seeds France.
Now it was only two years ago in Princeton when France, led by a plucky
unknown called Gregory Gaultier, pulled an upset by beating Malysia and
grabbing fourth place. For some reason they were seeded seventh for Milan
and will finish up fourth again.
There's this French kid called Luc Ebrard who looks about 13 but is in
fact 18 and when I was speaking to some of the England team they gave
him (and France) no chance of winning against Iago Cornes, the Spanish
number three. But Ebrard plays a wise game and avoids the juniorism of
going for showy shots; he chooses his time wisely and time and time again,
caught Cornes with his boasts from the back. Ebrard was helped by Cornes
strangely spacey attitude in the third and fourth games. He didn't seem
to care. When young Luc hit the winning shot to take the fourth game 9-1,
I assumed it was all over - surely Gaultier had to win at number one?
Alberto Manso did not think like everyone else. Although he hasn't beaten
Gaultier recently, that didn't mean he couldn't. Mind you, after losing
the first game 0-9, it was difficult to imagine Manso winning a game.
But he came back dropping the ball to the front with his all-over-the-court
patented stop volley drop and suddenly Gaultier was retrieving from everywhere
and losing the battle. 9-3 to Manso.
FROM THE COACH
Andre Delhoste the French coach told Gaultier that Manso was sucking him
into the front of the court and that he must drive Manso's drop shots
to the back, NOT counter drop. What a clever coach: Gaultier won the third
9-0! But somehow Manso pushed a little more and won the fourth 9-5.
DOWN TO THE FIFTH
The match was an hour old and they entered the court for the fifth game.
Now you saw their character; now you would know what they were made of.
Cast iron coated in steel. After 17 minutes the score was 4-4. And then
Gaultier made the breakthrough earning four points in a row to get to
match ball at 8-4.
It was Manso turn to surge; 5-8, 6-8
and a drop into the turn, he winced and held his head in horror. Gaultier
served, they moved each other around the court, Gaultier drops to the
right, Manso plunges, Gaultier hits it out of court. But the referee calls
Manso's pick up down, a double bounce. Manso is apoplectic he screams
at the ref who doesn't budge. Manso tears off his mask and hurls it at
the wall, refuses Gaultier's hand and stalks off the court.
A stern reprimand from the coach makes
him go back and he offers a soft hand quickly to Gaultier and leaves the
court again. The second strings play a five minute dead rubber, which
Spain wins, but nobody cares. I chat to Gaultier afterwards and he confirms
that Manso' last shot was a double bounce and at that moment Manso comes
by and offers apologies for his behaviour and they shake hands properly.
They have a lot of respect for each other.
- DIN'T HE USED TO WRITE?
Not this one, but he has made his mark on this tournament as the only
player to take a game from the new world junior champion Karim Darwish.
There was no chance of Wales stopping Egypt from getting through to the
semis. Egypt's number three Akram Youssif beat Nicholas Birt in three,
and then Scott Fitzgerald took the third game from Darwish. Even if he'd
beaten him, Wales have no strength at three, but he didn't and Darwish
emerged a 3/1 victor.
COURT AS HOT HOUSE.
When a government puts its heart and money into a sport like Egypt has
for squash, success must follow. Darwish has had the best of coaches,
and has regular matches with Barada, Borolossy and Shabana. On top of
that some top Australian players were flown in specially to keep Darwish
developing. This is known as hot-housing and nobody can deny the results.
While other juniors dream of getting
into the qualifying event for the Al Ahram tournament that starts August
19, Darwish goes straight into the main draw and, he told me, expects
to get into the final.
ON THE COMEBACK?
After Jansher Khan disappeared from the scene, Pakistan seemed to disappear
straight off the squash map. Their junior team is beginning to look good
again and with the two Zamans, are having an easy time. They beat Malaysia
at a trot, 3/0 and will test England in tomorrow's semi-final. England
are not taking it lightly and wanted their players to pick up convincing
wins against Canada today to send them into the semi in good psychological
Alistair Walker was a bit shaky but finally overcame his jitters and Robert
Nigro in four. Shawn DeLierre got knocked out of the individuals by 16
year old James Willstrop so he was up for another go at the limey. They
had a script that they kept to for the four games: Willstrop would build
up a lead and DeLierre would make a dramatic comeback. He did it well
enough in the first to win it 9-7, but in the second Willstrop's 6-1 lead
was whittled down but he won 9-7; in the third another 6-1 lead disappeared
to 8-6 before he won the ninth point on a no let. And the fourth 5-0 lead
teetered a bit but Willstrop kept the pressure on and kept on retrieveing
DeLierre's winners to win 9-3. Canada can still prove their fifth seeding;
they meet Malaysia tomorrow and if they win they will meet Wales or Spain
for fifth spot. It's a tough road.
US KEEP ON
After beating Finland 3-0, the US team meet New Zealand tomorrow. A win
will put them in contention for 17/18th spot, an improvement on their
20th finish two years ago.