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Quarter
Finals: Predictions by the Pros

By Joe
and Dan Kneipp

Nov
12 2002

Squashtalk Pro Squash Headlines

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It’s usually
the first round of a tournament that all of the upsets occur. It can
often produce some of the best matches because of the hunger of the
lower ranked players and greater pressure placed upon the seeded players
who are expected to win. But once the quarter final and semi final begins
the history of the match-ups can have more significance than who is
more likely to win.

The quarter
finals of the YMG Classic begin in a few hours. We’ve spoken to
some of the pro players to find out who think is going to win, and what
the dynamics of the matches will be. Here are the responses and analysis
of what can be expected in each match:

Peter
Nicol versus Rodney Durbach

The #1 in the
world versus the #33. Most squash fans would simply say that Nicol is
moving into the semi finals and that’s the end of that. It won’t
be that simple. Firstly Nicol’s well documented ankle injury isn’t
a non-factor in this event. In his tough battle against Graham Ryding
last night he was apparently in pain and giving his ankle attention
between games (I heard second hand). When you watch Peter the most impressive
aspect of his game is his relentless retrieval skills. He has incredible
court movement and scrambling abilities that place more and more pressure
on his opponent. That coupled with his fitness means that as the game
progresses his opponent makes more mistakes, and he begins hitting more
shots that simply work the other guy out of position. Good movement
and fitness is intrinsic to his game.

He was moving
well against Ryding last night, but it was hard to say whether he was
moving as well as usual or as well as he can. The game that Ryding won
was mostly because he hit an amazing number of winners. But there was
still plenty of long tough rallies.

Durbach’s
strength is ability to volley well, both short and long and when his
game is on he can put the ball away from all over the court. Last night
he was bouncing around the court like it was a jumping castle. He’s
not afraid of playing Nicol (he beat him in 2000) and will believe that
he can beat him here, not something you can say from all of the players.

The glass court
at the YMG Classic is bouncy and fast, two characteristics that you
don’t expect from these type of courts. If Nicol’s ankle
is giving him trouble then the longer the match goes on the better it
will be for Durbach.

Prediction from
the pros: Everyone we asked says a victory to Nicol, except one (and
we didn’t ask Durbach!)

Stewart
Boswell versus Ong Beng Hee

This could be
one of the matches of the night. The last time these two played was
in Hong Kong with Boswell eventually winning 17-16 in the fifth with
the final point being decided on a let call. Bengy for most of the year
hasn’t set the squash world on fire, but he seems to have found
his motivation again and will be looking for an upset.

Boswell can
be quite an enigma. Off the court he can be reserved and quite, but
put a racquet in his hand and surround him with glass walls and he’s
ready to dive and lose some skin. His intensity and will to win on court
doesn’t come across when you’re talking or having a drink
with him.

Bengy has struggled
to notch up wins against other players in the top ten. Against Paul
Price his game went in waves of great play. He won’t be able to
afford a lapse in intensity against Boswell.

Prediction from
the pros: Everyone we asked has backed Boswell for this match. But you
never know.

Jonathon
Power versus Mark Chaloner
.

The best prediction we heard about this match was Power winning in three
but it taking 99 minutes. Not necessary because of long rallies, but
because of stoppages. In January’s Memorial US Open semi final between
these two there was 86 stops over the course of a 69 minute match. Both
of these players don’t mind asking for a let or trying to turn
a let position into a stroke. Their matches usually have lots of physical
contact and you can guarantee that Power will make a ruckus with the
ref. Add the home crowd advantage and it should be an interesting match.

Prediction from
the pros: Everyone we asked has backed Power, especially with the home
crowd advantage. There’s not many tournaments on the pro circuit
where players get home ground advantage. Think about some of the bigger
tournaments this year: Qatar Master, Tournament of Champions, Hong Kong
Open, US Open. None of these tournaments a top ranked player who is
playing at home. It’s wonderful to hear the crowd really getting
behind someone and being animated and boisterous.

John
White versus Joe Kneipp

This is the
only match that is on tonight where people are divided over who is going
to win. Whitey is ranked considerably higher than me at 5 compared to
my 13. But he is slightly overwhelmed by my dominance in all our card
matches and may take that fear on court. We always have great matches
and people’s indecisiveness over the victor is probably from a
few factors. Firstly Whitey has the ability to dictate whether he wins
or loses. If he’s in a nick slapping mode and it’s working
then he can beat anyone. His recent victory over Jonathon Power in the
quarter finals of Qatar is a great example of that. But when his shots
aren’t winning and are hitting the tin instead then his game falls
to pieces quickly. We’ve played four times this year (only two
in PSA matches) and I’ve won three of them, so we will have to
see. But Whitey’s form in the last two tournaments (runner up
in South Africa, semi finals in quarter) mean that he is playing great
squash.

Prediction from
the pros: Divided.

So if you’re
reading this and the quarter finals have already finished, it should
be interesting to see if the pro players I asked are accurate in their
predictions. According to them the semi finals should definitely contain
Nicol, Power and Boswell. Possibly White making up the fourth but maybe
me. How did they go and who would you predict?

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