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> First Round Aftermath by Team Kneipp

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Upset
Fever

by Dan Kneipp

December
2 , 2003, ©2003, Team Kneipp               <
see also Team Kneipp Index >

by Dan
Kneipp

Regular readers of our writing will notice that we often
come back to the subject of how often upsets occur in the first round
of tournaments and the depth and intensity of today?s game that means
players can no longer expect easy matches. Nicol?s first round defeat
in Toronto last month seemed like an excellent example of this, but the
seeding slaughter that has occurred in Doha reiterates the point even
better.

The fortunes of the
top 16 players haven?t been good at this tournament. Here?s a player-by-player
explanation why:

[1] Peter Nicol (ENG)
Nicol didn’t cruise through his first round match.
It’s no coincidence that he was the only winning seed that dropped a game
as his opponent, Aussie Paul Price, has had a slow recovery from a long
injury layoff and is now getting the consistent victories that is seeing
him surge back up the ranking. These two are seeded to have a rematch
in the second round of the World Open and Nicol will need to be playing
at the top of his game to prevent an upset.

[2] John White (SCO)

McWhitey has shown that when he is having a particularly
good day on court he is capable of beating Peter Nicol in 31 minutes (World
Open semi finals last year). If McWhitey can do that to the top dog, how
is an unsuspecting qualifier expected to handle him? Peter Barker was
able to fight for 22 minutes, and would have gotten a good understanding
of why McWhitey is the most lethal player in the game – when things are
working.

[3] David Palmer (AUS)

Palmer won in straight sets, but still had to work against
his South African opponent. Durbach is a tough competitor and told me
he played well, so Palmer will be happy that he finished with a straight
sets victory.

[4] Jonathon Power (CAN)

Power plays a very physical type of squash that usually
leads to a lot of contact with his opponent (finding pictures of Power
falling over his opponent onto the floor is very easy to do ? try to find
a similar number for Nicol or Lincou, or even one of Bengy or Joe). Power
got tangled in Nick Matthews? legs and hit the floor awkwardly and very
hard. He broke two fingers on his left hand and was forced to concede
the match, trailing in the third set with the games tied. When I asked
the referee about the incident she was very quick to point out to me that
the collision was no one?s fault and just a freak accident. It?s a terrible
way to exit the tournament and hopefully it won?t affect his World Open
title.

Early in the year the ball of Joe?s left thumb was sliced
down to the bone by a shattering wine glass. Even though he is right handed
it was startling to realise just how often during a squash game the left
hand touches a wall, the floor or the opponent. This injury limited Joe?s
playing options, as I?m sure Power?s injury will.

Side note – Whenever I write anything about Power?s physical
type of play we get emails from Canadian fans who take it as a personal
affront. This is not a subjective opinion, or one that any of the pros
will disagree with, or something Power will deny if you talk to him about
it,. What he will say is that if the score is 16-16 in the fifth game,
every player on the tour will play the same way he does (which is a fairly
accurate comment), only he chooses to play in that manner from 0-0 in
the first.

[5] Thierry Lincou (FRA)

Lincou?s opponent David Evans is usually a tough competitor,
but the Frenchman was able to go through to the 2nd round in straight
sets.

The top 5 players all performed as expected (with the
exception of Power?s freak accident). It was the players ranked 6-16 that
caused all of the mayhem.

[6] Anthony Ricketts (AUS)

Ricketts? surprising defeat by Egyptian Mohammed Abbas
was a good indication of how consistently Ricketts has been playing over
the past 18 months. His first and second round victories seem like such
a formality that it is a surprise to remember that he can have bad days
like the rest of us. The top Egyptian players (Darwish, Shabana, Elborolossy
and Abbas) are all converging on the top positions so we may soon have
three in the top 12 and four in the top 16.

[7] Ong Beng Hee (MAS)

Bengy?s current slump form has been well documented. I
watched Bengy?s match against England?s Adrian Grant after watching the
best match of the 1st round (see 13th seed). Most matches would seem anticlimactic
after this, but this encounter seemed particularly reserved and slow.
I?ve seen both of these players play much better than how this match began.
There wasn?t much intensity and both players were nervously padding the
ball around. At one stage Bengy did what was supposed to be an attacking
boast but it hit the front wall above the service line.

Grant was the first of the two to find his rhythm, and
as expected both players found better form as the match wore on. But Grant?s
earlier lead didn?t help Bengy?s confidence. He fought well, but was fortunate
not to lose in the fourth. Grant then had a 14-9 lead in the 5th that
made it seem like the victory was a forgone conclusion, but a ridiculously
untimely cramp in Grant?s right calf added a depressingly comical mood
to the end of the match, but obviously motivated a previously despondent
Malaysian. Bengy was able to claw back to 13-14, but a backhand cross
court held snap from Grant (he?s left handed) left Bengy scrambling around
on the floor in what looked like a break dancing maneuver. He hit the
ball over the crowd?s head in dejection as he was added to the seeding
scrap heap.

[8] Karim Darwish (EGY)

This match was never a foregone conclusion. Elborolossy
has just come from Toronto where he dramatically defeated Nicol in the
first round, Darwish withdrew from Edmonton?s event with an injury. Darwish
is the top ranked Egyptian, but Elborolossy at #3 has something to prove
for being (inappropriately) left out of the Egyptian team for the World
Championships in October in Vienna. An upset was always going to be a
possibility here, but the 17-14, 12-15, 17-14, 17-15 scoreline showed
how hard Elborolossy had to work to earn it.

[9] Lee Beachill (ENG)

Business as usual again. Stefan Castelyn had to qualify
and said he was sore after his qualifying match with Tommy Berden (whenever
Belgium and Holland play each other there?s more on the line). Beachill
was fairly clinical.

[10] Amr Shabana (EGY)

Beat Canadian Shahier Razik in straight sets, but had
to work for it.

[11] Gregory Gaultier (FRA)

Gaultier played English veteran Mark Chaloner. This always
promised to be an interesting match and there were quite a few players
on hand to see the outcome (not surprisingly a strong English contingent
considering the incidents in Vienna). Gaultier didn?t look comfortable
on court and was making a lot of errors. Chaloner wasn?t assisting Gaultier?s
situation with constant pressure, surprising unpredictability and a hunger
for victory that saw him chasing down balls like his life depended on
it. In the first two games Chaloner was awesome at reading exactly where
his French opponent was going to put the ball and being there ready to
dispatch it. Gaultier can be a very attacking player, but also likes to
pad the ball up and down the backhand wall waiting for an opportunity.
Most of the rallies in which he did this he lost. Chaloner is a player
that is willing play up and down the wall for two hours.

The first two games were considerably clean with little
contact, but things changed in the third. The end of both the third and
fourth games were determined by blocking and bad refereeing decisions,
but Chaloner was still able to cause the upset in the fifth.

[12] Joseph Kneipp (AUS)

Joe had a good victory over Welshman Alex Gough to get
back into the winner?s circle after a slump. These two are scheduled to
meet each other in the second round of the World Open where Gough will
be looking for revenge.

[13] Martin Heath (SCO)

The best match of the first round (although I didn?t see
them all). Heath?s game against Aussie Dan Jenson was wonderful to watch.
The rallies were ridiculously fast with both players picking up a ludicrous
number of balls that should have been winners. It often happens that squash
fans who haven?t seen much top level squash begin clapping during rallies
because they?re so sure the last shot must be been a winner, only to be
surprised that the other guy can actually get to it. If any seasoned squash
viewers made this mistake during this match they would be completely excused.
The intensity and variety of pace was a joy to watch with a feast of drop
shots from all over the court, flicks, overhead smashes, back wall boasts
under pressure, holds, and rallies that went on for a painful length of
time. Jenson is getting back to the form that took him to the top five.


[14] Mansoor Zaman (PAK)

His 1st round encounter with Fin Olli Tuominen was always
going to have a tough match, as the close four-set upset showed. They
are scheduled to have a second round rematch at the World Open in Pakistan.

[15] Graham Ryding (CAN)

Ryding has found his old form again and has steadily worked
his way back up the rankings. After an extended stint outside the top
20 he is now knocking on the door of the top 10 again. Despite this he
wasn?t able to beat Willstrop in Doha.

[16] Simon Parke (ENG)

Parke has had a fairly average run of results lately.
He had a very good tournament at the World Open last year, and will need
to do well this month to stop his ranking from taking a big dive. He faced
Frenchman Renan Lavigne who is showing steady progress in his game and
won this match in straight games, forcing Parke to become the 9th seeded
player (over half) to be shown an early exit.

All of these upsets have created huge openings in the
draw for players outside the top 10 to reach the quarters and maybe even
semis. In the bottom half of the draw Lincou and McWhitey are the only
players still remaining ranked in the top 16! The 2nd round and quarter
finals should be bloody interesting.

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