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October 27, 2002, Doha, Qatar ©2002, SquashTalk
I suddenly became very eager at the possibility to see Joe play Jansher. They’ve only played once in the 1997 British Open with Joe going down in straight sets with respectable scores. Jansher went on to win the tournament and left a lasting impression on Joe with his playing skills. It wasn’t his penetrating length and ability to do incredible things with the ball, but his movement that left Joe in awe. Joe has been a pro for a few years by this stage and was on his way to cementing a position at the top end of the world ranking. Time and time again he would hit a shot against Jansher that was a winner. He would relax his guard knowing that the drop he just hit was too good, with Jansher still behind him and out of sight. Nothing would happen, then all of a sudden a figure of athleticism would flash past him lunging and moving unlike anything he ever saw, and would not only get to a ball that Joe was sure was about to bounce for the second time, but he would then put it to a good length hugging the wall.
Other players have mentioned the exact same thing to me. They’d be sure they had hit a winner to the front of the court and Jansher would be behind them and too far from the ball. Nothing would happen….. still nothing….waiting…then suddenly he’d come streaking past graceful and elegant and make it look easy. One of Joe’s German league team mates Uwe Peters said playing him and experiencing this by Jansher left the lasting impression of “Oh. That’s the way it should be done”. He made it look simple and logical and the only sensible way to play.
So with the prospect of Jansher qualifying suddenly the players who had to face a qualifier in the first round created the possibility of a wonderful match. Would it be Joe or Peter Nicol, Anthony Ricketts, Ong Beng Hee, Chris Walker, Thierry Lincou, Dave Palmer or John White? One thing for certain every single pro player would turn up to see the outcome of the match.
But unfortunately Jansher has not
shown. He always stated that he intended to play five tournaments in the hope
of setting up his comeback. In the first tournament he went through qualifying,
an experience he wouldn’t have had to do for over a decade. There he
impressively beat Omar Elborolossy, losing to the lower ranked Mohammed Abbass
in the quarter finals. He was given a wildcard for the recent Pakistan tournament,
but couldn’t get past the eventual winner and former world number five
Dan Jenson who is also trying to return to the pinnacle of the game after
prolonged injury setbacks. A shame for the game. But there’s still some
first round matches that should lead to fireworks.
Darwish is currently celebrating a career high of 13 following last month’s victory in the CNS Open in Pakistan. Also this year he has made the final of Maadi open and the quarters of the PSA Masters. Shabana is currently ranked 20 in the world.
Both of these players have awesome
racquet skills and an ability to put the ball away. They played against each
other last year in the final of the El Ahly Open with Shabana winning straight
games. But more importantly they played a week ago in the first round of the
Milo South Africa Challenge. Darwish not only won this convincingly, but went
on to give Palmer a tough run in the quarter finals. Shabana wasn’t
too happy with his play for that match and said today that regardless of whether
he won or lost tomorrow he was much more prepared for the upcoming rematch.
Beachill has a current career high of 8 and has made the quarters of most tournaments he’s played in this year (hence he’s #8 in the world). Graham Ryding, currently ranked 23 has been as high as ten in the world so won’t be daunted by Beachill’s higher ranking. Most of the players pay little heed to the actual ranking of their opponents, instead know the quality and type of play that they are capable of and pay more attention to that. Ryding is capable of playing great squash. He doesn’t hit the ball as crisply as Beachill, but doesn’t give up and has the crucial habit of trying to monopolise the T. Ryding made the final of the Motor City Open last month and is hungry for better results in the big tournaments.
These two have played each other twice recently. Last year in the Pittsburgh Open Semi Finals. Beachill won that encounter in straight sets, not dropping a single game throughout the tournament. Their other encounter was on the same courts here in Doha earlier this year for the PSA Masters. Beachill also won that in straight sets 15-9, 15-10, 15-9. If I was a bookie I would have Beachill as the hot favourite.
Stewart Boswell (Australia) versus Saud M Al Sulaiti (Qat)
Al Sulaiti is ranked 159 in the world, Boswell is ranked 4. The only tournaments that Al Sulaiti has played have been the three small tournaments that the Qatar squash federation put on. Virtually every player that has a ranking high enough to be at this tournament (top 60 in the world or so) is here. So a player ranked at 159 is doing very well to be in the main draw. Al Sulaiti is the wild card entrant from Qatar. Apparently the PSA board had a vote on whether he should be allowed to enter this tournament. The reasoning behind this is concern that his standard will be too low to play someone like Boswell and will make a mockery of the local player and pro men’s squash in general. Thankfully the PSA board voted for allowing him to play. It’s better for the sponsors, the local crowd, the local media and therefore the tournament and ultimately the longevity of the event.
I asked Stefan Castelyn what he thought of this. Stefan’s opinion is valuable because he’s the poor bugger who is ranked 24 in the world and would normally have a place in the main draw, but because of the wild card entrant painfully becomes qualifier number one. The worst position to be in. Stefan agreed completely that allowing for a local player was the best decision for the sport, but if it could just be arranged so it doesn’t cause him so much grief. Graham Ryding has been given a wild card for the upcoming YMG tournament in Toronto. It can be easy to find this slightly disappointing in a selfish way in that Australian squash aren’t putting on any decent sized tournaments and helping out their players, like Joe when his ranking was in the twenties and he could have used the boost. So why should Graham get this help? Simple. If Canadian squash (through Event Engine) has the initiative, support and infrastructure to put on a tournament that is big enough (5 star or higher) then they deserve to have a wildcard. Every tournament that is a decent size should be allowed a wild card entrant, regardless of the player’s ranking, as long as he’s a pro player. It doesn’t matter if he gets completely wiped off the court, it only helps the local exposure of the tournament and thereby increases the chance of the tournament being held again the following year.
Paul Price versus Renan Lavigne
Price career high of 4, currently sitting at 16. He had to withdraw from the US Open after spraining his ankle (during a practice match with Joe). Lavigne is at a career high of 22. These two have played twice in the last few years for PSA with Price winning both of them (3-0 in the 1999 AON Lakeshore Classic, 3-2 in the 2000 Macua Squash Open). Price is a shot maker, Renan is the French Energizer Bunny (le lapin just doesn’t bloody give up). The Kneipp bookie shop would have Price as favourite but would be wary with big bets on Renan. If Price is not fit he will lose so this match may depend on Price’s injury recovery.
Olli Touminen (Finland) versus Mark Chaloner (England)
Olli is currently ranked 17 where he has spent most of the year. Chaloner has a career high of 7 and is currently 10. Both of these guys love playing fast and furious squash. I’m not sure if there would be a worse match to televise – you’d never see the ball. If Olli is losing, tired, being beaten, playing the wrong game plan or winning he still tries to volley furiously and take everything early. Chaloner is a superb athlete who has incredible speed, movement and endurance. Both of these players are very patient, Chaloner perhaps more so. Olli goes for more shots which could be the determining factor in this match. It’ll be whether he hits winners or tins that will probably determine the outcome here.
The sole encounter between these two was in January’s Memorial US Open with Chaloner winning in straight sets. But Olli showed in last month’s US Open that he was playing a better game, going through qualifying and then upsetting Martin Heath in the first round. Camps are divided on who will win this match.
Omar Elborolossy (Egypt) versus David Evans (Wales)
Omar is currently 21 in the world and has the unfortunate title of being the only highly ranked player that has lost to Jansher during his comeback. Last month he had a career high of 14. Evans is the 2001 British Open champ currently ranked 15 in the world but got as high as 3 last year. These two have played three times over the past few years with two matches going to Evans. (Greenwich Open 2001: 3-0 to Evans, PSA Masters 2001: 3-1 to Omar, Qatar Classic 2001: 3-1 to Evans.)
 Jonathon Power (Canada) versus Nick Taylor (England)
Power at 2 has had the most dominant year on the circuit. If ranking were like Formula one, Power would be leading the driver’s championships. Taylor has a career high of 15 nearly 2 years ago, and is now 19. These two have played twice in PSA, both being in 1999 with Power taking both of them. He won at the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Open in straight sets, then dropped a game winning their match up in the British Open.
The qualifier match ups are:
Peter Nicol versus Mansoor Zaman
Anthony Ricketts versus Simon Parke
Beng Hee versus Nick Matthew
Chirs Walker versus Stephen Meads
Thiery Lincou versus Dan Jenson
Palmer versus Del Harris
Joe versus Castelyn
White versus Gautier
There’s a split first round, so Joe’s encounter with Stefan Castelyn doesn’t happen until Tuesday. So we’re stuck at the beautiful Sheraton Doha with 30°C days and a magnificent beach. Tonight we played a card game (500) with Dan Jenson and John White, with Dan citing fatigue when there still wasn’t a winner after three hours of playing. No one knows the hardships faced by pro squash players.
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