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> Dutch 02-03 League Semi Finals


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Den
Haag vs Zwolle…

April
21, 2003 by Dan Kneipp

Dutch
league is one of the strongest competitions in the world. Last year Joe
Kneipp captained his Zwolle team of Peter Nicol, Alex Gough and Lucas
Buit to victory over Den Haag’s John White, Stewart Boswell, Olli
Tuominen and Tommy Berden in the final. But this season the 3rd Dutch
league titans –Rotterdam’s Thierry Lincou, Anthony Ricketts,
Ong Beng Hee and Marc Reus – won the minor premiership and forced
Zwolle and Den Haag to face each other in the semi final.

Both
teams have slightly different teams from last year. Den Haag has replaced
Finnish champion Olli Tuominen with French star Gregory Gaultier, but
otherwise are unchanged with White, Boswell and Dutch national champion
Tommy Berden.

Zwolle’s number one player is World Champion David
Palmer with Joe Kneipp
playing at two (he has lived in Holland long enough that for league matches
he is categorised as a local player). Spanish wonderkid Borja Golan is
at three, and nine times Dutch champion Lucas Buit rounds out the team.

On
paper this was always going to be a very close contest if all of the players
were match fit and available. Zwolle’s David Palmer was hospitalized in
early March in Bermuda with an infected appendix that has had further
complications. One of the biggest tournaments on the squash tour the PSA
Masters were initially scheduled to be played next week. Palmer didn’t
even enter this tournament, obviously unable to recuperate and get fit
in time.

Considering
he is so close to regaining the number one world ranking again this decision
wouldn’t have been taken lightly. And seeing as this tournament
was being held after the Dutch playoffs, it didn’t bode well for
Zwolle’s hopes of Palmer being able to play. Palmer was at the match,
but only supporting his team from the side lines, still yet to step foot
on court since Bermuda.

So
what do you do when the World Champion can’t play? Where do you
get another player of the same speed, strength, fitness, shot selection
and experience? Palmer’s shoe’s are very hard to fill so who
do you get? Peter Nicol? Jonathon Power? Perhaps try to drag Jansher Khan
out of retirement. If David Palmer the World champion is unable to player
there is only one option for a replacement………………Dan
Kneipp!

Anyone
who knows my squash game will be crying tears of laughter into their keyboard
at this point. This was the unfortunate substitute dilemma facing Zwolle.
Despite Peter Nicol, Alex Gough and Dan Jenson all being on Zwolle’s
team list, none of them had played the necessary qualification matches.
Which meant I came into the team
at number four and everyone moved up a position. The new semi final matches
were:

Joe Kneipp versus John White
Borja Golan versus Stewart Boswell
Lucas Buit versus Gregory Gaultier
Dan Kneipp versus Tommy Berden

The team order was 4, 2, 1, then 3, so I had the pleasure
of leading the
team out. I’ve been working as Joe’s trainer and coach for
nearly a year and
a half now. My knowledge and understanding of squash, particularly the
tactical and training aspects are very good and have helped Joe’s
ranking
move from 32 to 12 since I have been with him. But there is a big difference
between knowing what to do and helping Joe do it, and implementing that
myself. I can’t compete with the top pros, and my game against Tommy
Berden
was always going to be a mismatch. Berden is the current Dutch national
champion, former Australian Open champion and his ranking has got as high
as
22. He beat me very comfortably as the 15-4, 15-2 15-2 score line showed.

The #2s Golan and Boswell went on next. Zwolle weren’t
pinning their hopes
on the young spaniard upsetting the world #4 – a little too optimistic
. The
slim chance the team had of winning relied on me or Golan taking a game
or
two and giving Joe Kneipp and Lucas Buit the opportunity to win and the
team
victory coming down to which side won more games. So Golan’s main
objective
was to take a game off Boswell. Golan was one of the biggest movers on
the
PSA list last year. In the space of a year after turning professional
his
ranking went from #243 to #48 and along the way he won three tournaments!
His movement is excellent and he has a strong squash body that could be
compared with Palmer’s physical shape and strength, although in
a smaller
version.

Boswell probably has the most text-book style swing in
the game and it is a
pleasure to watch him hit the ball. He loves to volley and can be very
stubborn about getting off the T. The young Spaniard wasn’t overwhelmed
by
his opponent and was willing to put his body on the line to get a game.
Which he almost did, Boswell managing to squeeze the first game from 13-13.
Golan was doing much more work than Boswell and despite some wonderful
rallies and impressive scrambling from Golan he lost in straight sets
13-15,
10-15, 7-15.

This left Joe Kneipp the very daunting task of having
to beat John White,
the World Open runner-up in straight sets to just keep his team’s
chances
alive. Joe has played the past three seasons with Zwolle during that time
steering the team to three national titles. For two of those seasons he
won
Dutch league MVP. During the final of each season the team’s victory
has
come down to him having to win for the team to win, and each time he has
done the job. Joe’s current ranking is 12, but if ranking was based
on
league performance he would be much higher than that. He is undefeated
this
season in Dutch league and has only lost a hand full of matches over the
past four seasons. His German and English league record is similar and
the
main Dutch squash web site refers to him as arguably the best league player
in the world. Which is nice, but cold comfort when he’s supposed
to beat
Whitey in 3.

The last time they played in league was the first match
of the season which
Joe won in four. Since then they have played twice in PSA. Joe won in
5 in
the quarter finals of the YMG Classic in Toronto, and Whitey won in 4
in
their semi final encounter at the Swedish Open.

Joe started beautifully, working White around the court
particularly keeping
him pinned at the back and unable to unleash his rocket winners from the
T
area that he plays so well. Joe’s domination of the first game was
obvious
in the 15-4 scoreline. It suddenly looked possible that perhaps Joe could
win in 3. But White had to only take a single game for his team to progress
to the final. He could lose in four and still play in a victorious team.
The
second game wasn’t that different, but winners started flowing from
White’s
racquet more freely, and Kneipp was showing early fatigue from the work
he
did to win the first game so comfortably. White won the second game 15-10,
and put an end to Zwolle’s three year reign as Dutch champions.

Lucas Buit and Gregory Gaultier played a best of three
dead rubber for the
crowd’s entertainment, which the Dutchman won in a frantic final
game 15-11,
10-15, 15-10.

The Dutch league final will have John White playing Thierry
Lincou, Stewart
Boswell versus Anthony Ricketts, Gregory Gaultier versus Ong Beng Hee
and
Tommy Berden versus Marc Reus.

Kneipp’s
SquashTalk Forum

Feedback:
if you would like to discuss our columns or introduce questions
or comments, please email us at dan@teamkneipp.com.
We will post the good comments and question here on our SquashTalk
column together with our responses. We hope to get a good dialogue
started!

 

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