Men’s
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> Semi Finals by Dan Kneipp

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Semi
Finals:
Egyptian Breakthrough

by Dan
Kneipp
, Team
Kneipp report index

All content © 2003 Squashtalk

Dec 20, 2003,
Lahore, Pakistan — [HH Semi final report;
complete results]

Amr Shabana
in World Open Final photo © Deb Tessier 2003

Karim
Darwish versus Amr Shabana

This match was played while Joe and I were getting ready for our
match (eating and stretching.) I saw some of it on the hotel television
— Shabana was playing great attacking squash. He has been
so fired up for this tournament. Especially going into this semi
final he was playing against his countryman and a player he hates
losing to, so he was particularly hungry for the victory.

Darwish won
able to level the game scores to 1-1 before Shabana stamped his
authority. He was more eager to chase each ball down, more willing
to play an attacking shot and more versatile in his game. Darwish
sometimes may block a lot during matches, but what I saw today was
well refereed and the game flowed nicely.

MORE
THEATRICS

Shabana doesn’t seem able to play this tournament without
adding some scoring theatrics. Against Palmer he was up 2-1 and
14-9 in the fourth, but blew his chances, only to make up for it
in the 5th. Against Ricketts he was down 14-10 in the 4th, saved
four match balls, then dramatically won the match 17-16 in the fifth
with a cross court nick winner off the serve. Things didn’t
change much in the semis. He did manage to win in four games, but
not until dramatically slotting a cross court nick at 14-14 in the
fourth. No one can accuse him of being timid with his shots.

It is appropriate
that Shabana won this encounter. To get to the final of the 2003
World Open he has had to win five matches, including victories over
2002 World Champion David Palmer (currently ranked 3) and then Anthony
Ricketts (currently ranked 6). Prior to the semis Darwish didn’t
even play against an opponent ranked inside the top 20! That obviously
comes down to the luck of the draw, nonetheless Shabana has had
to play three guys inside the top 7 and has earned his place in
the final.

[9]Amr Shabana
(Egy) bt [7]Karim Darwish (Egy) 15-11 11-15 15-8 15-14

Thierry
Lincou (Fra) versus Joe Kneipp (Aus)

Lincou
has been handed a similarly fortunate draw to Darwish (I’m
not blaming the players, you obviously work with the hand you are
dealt). The draw suggested he would play Beng Hee in the quarters,
then White in the semis, but both players were upset by lower ranked
players in earlier rounds. This meant that prior to the semi finals
Lincou had played two players ranked outside of the top 20. Berden
is the 30s and Matthew is in the 20s (although about to take a jump
to the low teens). Nevertheless this is a very different draw than
the placement Joe had – playing Alex Gough in the 2nd round,
a player ranked higher than any of Lincou’s opponent’s.
Then he played John White, the #2 and runner up at this tournament
last year. Following that he had to play Lee Beachill – the
winner of the last Super Series event and the hottest player at
the moment.

JOE
HITS THE WALL

I don’t need to go into much detail about this match.
Joe
felt sore, but good going onto court, but hit the wall ridiculously
early. The last three matches had left him too drained to run as
much as he needed to against Lincou. You can’t play the Frenchman
and not expect to do lots of running.

Thierry plays
text book squash. I don’t watch many of Lincou’s matches
because I don’t enjoy watching him play as much as some other
players. The only reason for this is because of his type of play.
He doesn’t hit many dramatic winners and there isn’t
a ‘wow’ factor like you get with players like McWhitey
or Shabana. But Lincou plays squash as it is supposed to be played
– tight, conservative, intense, consistent. That’s why every
tournament this year he has made at least the semis. His consistency
and solid play is ridiculously hard to beat. It was certainly too
much for Joe who whose tired body wasn’t able to run and lunge,
and whose fatigue meant his shots weren’t as effective as
in previous rounds.

The main disappointment
for Joe after this loss was not missing out on a place in the final
of the World Open. It was that he played his worst squash of the
tournament in front of Jansher and Jahangir Khan. He has an incredible
amount of respect for these two legends and wanted to play a good
game of squash, indicative of what had gotten him so far in the
tournament. He couldn’t.

Lincou versus
Shabana in the final should be a great match. The World Open and
the recent Qatar Classic couldn’t be a better indicator of
the strength of the top 20 at the moment and the changing of the
guard.

[4]Thierry Lincou (Fra) bt [11]Joe Kneipp (Aus)
15-10 15-10 15-7