Falls to Flying Finn
Womens first round
While attention was concentrated today in Doha on the intimations from the first round of the Qatar Men's Open Squash Championship for a second round clash between former champions Peter Nicol and Jonathon Power, two of Britain's fancied seeds, John White and Nick Matthew, fell unexpectedly to lower ranked opposition.
Power, the Canadian who won the 1998 title on this same court, came through fluently 11-5 11-7 11-8 in 55 minutes against Australia's Dan Jenson. "I have been free of injury for three weeks now. I must be in with a chance," he joked afterwards.
Jenson is a former top ten player back on the circuit after several years of injury problems. Long of limb and strong in the strike he plays with open flair and a good deal of racket skill, but Power had the full measure of him today.
Nicol, a winner for Scotland in Cairo in 1999 but struggling a week or two back for match efficiency after a layoff with a twisted ankle, dismissed Mohamed Essam Hafiz, a little known but impressively equipped Egyptian qualifier, 11-7 11-6 11-5 in 26 minutes of easy movement that he declared a good omen for his 40th clash with Power.
"I lost to him in the Canadian Classic because I was just not able to compete for the court, so tomorrow should be a better contest," said the 31-year-old lefthander who now plays as an Englishman. "We have played a lot of big matches on this court over the years but, for one of us tomorrow, it will be like the final.
"This is a hard and unforgiving court that becomes more lively as the spectator seats fill but takes a good shot to the deep court. You have to be playing at the top of your game to succeed on this court. I have won here, but not in the years when the World title was on offer. This would be a good year to change that.
"I have never played against Mohamed before so it was an interesting match. He has an unusual flat racket delivery at the front of the court so it is difficult to read his intention. His drop shots especially are often surprising. It was a perfect work-up for what is likely to be a tough game tomorrow."
The tough game came today for Scotland's seventh seeded John White, the man who held match balls against David Palmer before losing the 2002 final in Antwerp, but was unable even to take a first round game from Finland's unseeded Olli Touminen as he lost 11-10 (2-0) 11-5 11-2 in just 30 minutes.
It seemed that losing the 12 minute opening game on a tiebreak took the heart out of the tall hard-hitting Scottish No1. He began hitting the tin with some regularity and fell away from the front court from halfway through the second game, while Touminen, a tough customer who makes up in endeavour for a slight lack of racket enterprise, just kept playing with discipline and accuracy. White could not raise even an explanation afterwards as he stalked grim-faced away from the court.
Matthew at least carried his fight against Canada's Graham Ryding into the fifth game. Mostly ahead and always a seemingly probable winner, the Sheffield based fifth seed lost impetus in the fifth game as it slid away from him from a 5-2 lead. "I have been off court for a couple of weeks with a back problem and I only decided at the last minute to come here," he explained. "I don't think I played badly. I just didn't have enough left for the last game."
Ryding goes to Alex Gough of Wales in the second round, while Touminen will play Anthony Ricketts of Australia.
The other second
round match in the bottom half of the draw is an all-French affair between
the second seeded Thierry Lincou, who polished off England's Bradley Ball
11-6 11-6 11-8 in 33 minutes today, and Gregory Gaultier, the young European
Champion who struggled against another Englishman, Jonathon Kemp, and
was lucky to get out of an 8-9 fifth game deficit thanks to three unforced
tin errors with a 47 minute 11-8 2-11 5-11
Kemp, the World No45, looked entirely capable of overturning the volatile little French player and agreed after the match that he tightened as the last few rallies offered him the prospect of victory. "It goes down as a miss," he admitted. "It will have to be next time."
Qatar Men's World Open Squash Championship
Women's Qatar Classic
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