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Round Sunday – Chris Walker

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Windstorm Disrupts Palmer-Harris Match

by
Chris Walker © 2002



March 25, 2002 Photos by Chris Walker © 2002 may not be reproduced
without express permission.       

  [Pakistan
Open Draw]
       [Saturday
Report]
       [Friday
Results]

Just
When You Think it is all Going so-o-o Smoothly!

Fortress Stadium Venue,
Lahore, Pakistan
(photo by Chris Walker © 2002 SquashTalk)



With all concerns that the players had over security issues quelled, it
seemed that everything was going to conclude with no real drama here in
Lahore. Well, last night provided yet another twist in the tale of the
Pakistan Open 2002.

The
evening started off as at any other tournament. The matches began at 6.30pm
on the brand new ‘Fortress Stadium’ court, which the Pakistan Squash Federation
acquired especially for this, and future events, at a cost of US$130,000.
You’ve seen the picture – an outdoor venue, matches played when the sun
has gone down and the air has cooled. A very pleasant environment for
watching, and playing, world class Squash.

NICOL
WINS, AMJAD LOSES

So, Peter Nicol went on first and gained a comfortable victory 3-0 against
the flying Fin, Olli Tuominen; then Amr Shabana defeated the last remaining
Pakistani in the draw, Amjad Khan, 3-1 in a match that only went on as
long as it did because of some of what I would call ‘home territory advantage’
referee calls!

Amjad
is just coming back from time out of the top flight of the game and would
be the first to admit that he was probably in better physical shape a
couple of years ago. But fair play to him – he defeated Alex Gough in
the first round, so he has got that going for him, which is nice.

PALMER
– HARRIS: THE WET BALL TRICK

Anyway, back to the script. The third match on was Dave Palmer, World
No.2, and Del Harris, World No.16. The match got underway, and Dave Palmer
won the first comfortably. In the second game the court began to get a
little damp and the floor became unusually slippery in places. It was
still hot and humid out there, despite the time, and the players were
soaked through, kit dripping and those drips laying beads of sweat on
the surface of an already damp floor.

Palmer
slipped a couple of times and then mid-way through the game served a ball
Harris went to volley as it came off the side-wall on his backhand side.
Generally this is considered a simple return but Palmer had had the ball
in his sweaty hand and the ball was now wet. As the ball came off the
side-wall to meet Harris’ racket it skidded through missing Harris’ racket
and thus gaining a cheap point for Palmer.

But
why am I telling you that? Well, the 2nd game was reaching it’s conclusion
and Palmer was up 14-10 game ball. Harris got back to 12-14, it was getting
pretty tense, and decided to try the same trick. As he prepared to serve
the ball on the right side of the court he wet the ball extensively on
his saturated shirt, gave the players watching a little wry smile through
the side-wall and proceeded to serve to an unsuspecting Palmer.

Harris
hadn’t planned his “touché” too well though for as he hit the ball across
the court it was so wet it didn’t even grip the strings on his racket
properly. The ball skidded off Harris’ strings and hit the front wall
a good foot below the cut line, never making it to the other side of the
court. ‘Fault’ was called, and it was, ‘Game Palmer’!!

I
don’t think Del will be doing that trick again some time soon. I was talking
to Del between games and during that 2 minute interlude something extra-ordinary
happened.

Court Floor Covered Up Sunday Night after Wind Storm Hit
(photo by Chris Walker © 2002 SquashTalk)


There was a change in the weather that I have never witnessed myself before.

When
the players came off the court it was calm and quiet. As the players went
back on to the court there were incredibly strong gusts of wind blowing
through the stadium. Which were clearly growing stronger as the seconds
went on. By the time Palmer was about to serve at 0-0, there was an alarming
crashing sound behind the court as an iron sign was blown over, and then
a line of seats at the top of the side viewing gallery were pushed over
by the winds force.


The referee called the players off court immediately and then security
called us, the fellow players who were watching, to move inside the stadium
for shelter as the winds blew through the venue turning over advertising
boards and churning up so much dust it seemed like we were in the middle
of a mini sand storm. So there we were, Dave Palmer and Del Harris at
2 games to love, some of the other players who had been watching, and
Johnathon Power and Paul Johnson who were playing after Palmer and Harris
had finished.

All
of us in this little room at the back of the stadium chatting away waiting
for a dust storm to pass by. The stadium had, in the meantime, been evacuated
and after half an hour there was no sign of the winds relenting. By now
it was 10.15 pm. The court was getting dustier and dustier and it was
clear that there would be no imminent restart so the players decided to
play the remaining squash of the evening at the squash center (a 10 minute
drive down the road). It was like Wimbledon as the court floor got covered
to save it from damage from dust and potential rain.

The
picture (Below) shows Lee Beechill looking on as the court covers were
brought in, and then (above) the court covers on for the night.


To top off an entertaining evening of squash we all got shipped to the
Punjab squash courts for the remaining part of the Harris/Palmer encounter
(which Palmer won 3-0) and the Power/Johnson encounter which Power won
3-0.

Power
and Johnson eventually came off court at 12.15am, their match being intermittently
disrupted by a sparrow that was rudely awoken by the squeaking of their
court shoes while they were playing. Just the usual stuff really. I have
a motto for playing in places that you are unfamiliar with, ‘expect the
unexpected’! Good night from Lahore.

Match Between Palmer and Harris Interrupted by Rapid Weather
Change.
(photo by Chris Walker © 2002 SquashTalk)

RESULTS:
Bank Alfalah Pakistan Open Squash Championship, Lahore, Pakistan 2nd round:
[1] Peter Nicol (ENG) bt Olli Tuominen (FIN) 15-8, 15-6, 15-6
[15] Anthony Ricketts (AUS) bt [5] Thierry Lincou (FRA) 13-15, 15-11, 15-8,
15-2 [4] John White (SCO) bt [9] Chris Walker (ENG) 15-5, 15-12, 15-4
[13] Martin Heath (SCO) bt [8] Mark Chaloner (ENG) 7-15, 15-10, 15-12, 15-9

[Q] Amr Shabana (EGY) bt Amjad Khan (PAK) 15-13, 15-11, 13-15, 15-4
[11] Lee Beachill (ENG) bt [7] Ong Beng Hee (MAS) 15-7, 9-15, 17-15, 15-8
[2] David Palmer (AUS) def Del Harris (ENG) 15-11, 15-12, 15-12
[3] Jonathon Power (CAN) def Paul Johnson (ENG) 3-0


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