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> Well Played Final by Team Kneipp

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Expect
the Unexpected

by Dan Kneipp

December 5, 2003, ©2003,
Team Kneipp               <
see also Team Kneipp Index >

Lee Beachill outlasted and outshot John
White to win the Qatar Final © 2003 Fritz Borchert

Qatar
Classic Final

In the semi
final it seemed to be Beachill who was playing the better squash, and
he took that form into the final. Both of these players attack wonderfully,
and as expected from players that are willing to go for shots a lot of
points were decided by either winners or errors.

In the first game
the score stayed close through the single figures, but at 9-8 to Beachill
he placed more pressure, made less mistakes and won 15-12 in just under
20 minutes.

McWhitey wasn’t
playing badly, but it became obvious that he couldn’t play at any
level other than his best if he was going to win this encounter. The second
game emphasised this as Beachill won the first six points before McWhitey
was able to get on the board. From 6-1 Beachill went to 9-1. He conceded
the next couple of points, but quickly closed the game out 15-5 in a very
fast 11 minutes. Beachill did this through constant pressure and intensity
and by being very unpredictable and hard to read as to whether he was
going short or long. His shot selection was superb, and his game was helped
by McWhitey hitting the ball back to himself frequently, giving plenty
of strokes away, particularly on the backhand.

Things didn’t
change that match in the third game. Beachill’s intensity didn’t
change, but McWhitey concentrated a little more, and cut out his error
rate. He lost the first point, but otherwise he was in the lead for the
whole game. I think the reason McWhitey won this game was both his experience
and what a tough competitor he is. I didn’t think he was playing
the better squash of the two, and I kept expecting Beachill to overtake
him and close out the match in similar dominating fashion that he had
done to both Nicol and Matthew. But you don’t get to the final of
the World Open and the #2 ranking in the world without knowing how to
win games and matches when you’re not playing your best and the
other guy is playing better than you. 15-11 to McWhitey in 19 mins.

The concentration
and discipline that had been missing in the Scot’s game came together
in the fourth. Suddenly he was happy to play much more length, didn’t
hit his shots too close to the tin, giving himself a greater margin for
error and displayed complete confidence in his shot ability. He raced
to an 8-3 lead, but then his troublesome backhand that kept hitting the
sidewall and spraying balls back at himself appeared again. Beachill leveled
the scores at 11-11. The 22 points prior to this had only created three
let situations. But the match tension led to seven lets being played to
determine the next two points. McWhitey won both of them and then was
able to continue to a 14-12 lead. Six lets were called on this vital point
before the Scot held a backhand shot that looked like he was going to
hit a drop with, then flicked the ball cross court leaving Beachill flat
footed. 15-12 in 25 minutes.

Sometimes I get blasé
about some of the very sporting aspects of our game. Both of these players
are incredibly clean, and this match was played in a wonderful spirit
(aside from some bad decisions at the end against McWhitey, the refereeing
in this match was the best I have seen for ages). But the nicest thing
was seeing that between games Beachill’s quarterfinal conquest –
world #1 Peter Nicol – was sitting and giving him game strategies
and drying his sweaty racquet grips. How many individual sports could
even imagine this sort of behaviour?

Beachill had done
a lot more running throughout the match, so it seemed more likely that
the fresher and more experienced McWhitey would be the fifth set victor.
No one told Beachill this. He maintained the pressure that had got him
into the final and took winners when the chance presented itself. Throughout
the match had been playing the forehand working boast incredibly well.
He had gotten about seven clean winners off this shot, and another 10
or so times that left McWhitey lunging and struggling to pick the shot
up.

Beachill was using these, and his backhand drop that was
both consistent and lethal. From 4-4 McWhitey began making more and more
errors. Beachill got to 9-6 from five McWhite errors, mostly his backhand
spraying out and either giving strokes away or opening the court up for
a winner. McWhitey was able to close this gap a little to 11-9 to the
Englishman, but made four more errors including a tinned boast off the
serve to give the match and the title to Beachill.

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