Dec 19, 2003,
Lahore, Pakistan — [HH Quarter final report;
|Joe Kneipp Basks in the aftermath
of his win
photo © Dan Kneipp 2003
Final Preparation from an Insider.
squash is all about routines. Work out what works in every aspect
of preparation and try to repeat it. How much sleep do you need?
How close to your match should you eat? What food should it be?
How much warm up? How much training leading up to the tournament,
etc. That’s why so many athletes have superstitious habits. ‘I put
my left shoe on first and I won, so I better not change that routine.’
It’s hard to
be playing in the quarterfinals of the World Open and not allow
the importance of the occasion affect preparation and attitude.
Joe plays his
most successful squash when he’s preoccupied and not thinking about
his upcoming match. His preparation is better if we go and watch
a movie or check out some local tourist sites than if we hang around
the courts and talk about his upcoming match. Some players are the
complete opposite of this. Their best preparation is to be at the
court and watching squash. It’s about finding out what works for
Most pros are
very meticulous about practicing on the day of their match. The
tournament desk usually has a schedule that either allocates practice
times or you sign up with your hitting partner (either another pro,
or a coach). Practice is organised in half hour blocks, usually
from about 10 in the morning. It has been a tougher logistical challenge
here at the World Open. Half of the first round matches were held
on the glass court. There is a lot of matches that need to be hosted
on the court each day, and a lot of players that have wanted to
practice each day. So practice times have started very early and
have been short.
|Joe and Dan in match preparation
photo © Deb Tessier 2003
this for us has been very easy. Most of Joe’s matches have been
late afternoon. If we had to deal with an early morning practice
time our schedule would look like this:
go back to hotel
dinner then relax and stretch
— try to sleep (guaranteed to be fruitless)
— go back to hotel
Then kill time
and perhaps try to sleep until 3pm when the shuttle to the court
If you’re dealing
with a player that performs better when they’re not being immersed
in squash this schedule is terrible. So I have simply stopped the
practice hits. The benefit the practice hit creates for Joe (confidence,
court knowledge) is far outweighed by the disadvantage it provides
our preparation because the whole day becomes completely squash
I think Joe
is the only player not taking these practice hits. Some players
are doing it to their detriment. One bloke here was having trouble
sleeping. It was so bad that he lost a match I expected him to lose.
He said he didn?t have any energy and struggled to move well, then
explained that he couldn?t sleep at night, and had to get up early
for his practice court. Instead of forgoing his practice hit and
concentrating on good sleep he walked on court tired but with a
great knowledge of how well he was hitting the ball that day, and
how the court was playing. This is a good example of how players
will stick to their playing routines, but in this case to one player?s
match between Joe and Lee Beachill was awesome. It’s always incredibly
nerve racking for me to watch a close, tough encounter of my brother’s,
and obviously if he wins an important match I’m going to think it’s
great squash. But one of the referees told me afterwards that throughout
the tournament he hadn’t watched any complete matches aside from
the ones he was adjudicating. He said that he couldn’t leave this
match without watching its conclusion. It was excellent squash.
| Kneipp 10-15 15-10 15-6 11-15
photo © Dan Kneipp 2003
a great nick-slapper. He has incredible deception, particularly
on his backhand. He went for his shots and forced Joe to play more
aggressively. This is only the 2nd time that these two have played,
the first being in the round of 16 at last year’s Canadian Classic.
Joe won that battle in an epic five setter, eventually running Beachill
into the ground. He was able to do a similar thing here. From 7-7
in the fifth Joe played tight percentage squash, keeping the intensity
high, going short when the opportunity was there and not making
mistakes. He went to a 13-9 lead, then was aced in bizarre circumstances.
For about the third time in the match Beachill served and Joe wasn’t
ready. Joe went to retrieve the ball, but from the spectator’s perspective
it looked like he was going to play it. Beachill was doing very
good lob serves that were forcing Joe to boast. The serve was one
of these, but Joe hit it back to Beachill because he wasn’t ready.
The ref thought otherwise and gave the point to Lee. If Joe was
going to cheat he would pick a much more opportune moment to do
it, but I understand (but was annoyed) at the ref’s decision. 13-10.
| Kneipp finishes it off in contrast
to Aussie compatriot Ricketts
photo © Deb Tessier 2003
It was at this
point that I tried not to think of the match between Ricketts and
Shabana. The Aussie lead 14-10 in the fifth but couldn’t win the
match, eventually losing 17-16 from a nick off the serve. Shabana
the day before had blown a 14-9 match ball lead over David Palmer
in the fourth by being too tentative and worrying about the score
(but made up for it in the 5th). Lincou had done it in the third
round playing below par, but didn’t today. I tried not to think
about how disastrous it would be to have to deal with "I was
up 13-9 in the fifth and couldn’t close out the match." It
would be better to not have the lead then have to deal with the
ramifications of that result. Joe didn’t miss his opportunity. He
played a smart point that finished with a forehand cross court drive.
Beachill got to it and tried to boast but clipped the tin. 14-10.
A similar rally and pressure in the next point had Beachill flicking
at the ball on his backhand. His cross court when out on the side
wall and Joe booked a semi final berth.
The tournament’s official website has live scoring, so friends and
family around the world were following the score. Mum and dad were
sitting in front of the computer in Australia despite it being around
1 in the morning. At 7-7 in the fifth game the site suddenly cut
out. Friends in the Netherlands said the same thing. Mum and dad
were trying other computers and rushing to neighbours’ houses to
see if it was just their server. It wasn’t, they were in the dark
at the most important stage of the match. That has to be the worst
scenario for squash parents.
It had a happy
 Joseph Kneipp (Aus) bt  Lee Beachill (Eng) 10-15 15-10 15-8
Lincou (Fra) bt  Nick Matthew (Eng) 14/15 15/7 15/3 15/11
 Karim Darwish (Egy) bt  Davide Bianchetti (Ita) 17-16 15-9
 Amr Shabana (Egy) bt  Anthony Ricketts (Aus) 14-15 15-14
15-12 12-15 17-16