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Spanish
Open Preview –
Power steps out

June
26, 2003: by Dan Kneipp         

A
tournament’s entry closing date is typically about a month before
the event starts, and the draw is usually done a week after the entries
close.

This
system is very different to how the tennis tour deals with their entries
and draws. The draw of most major tennis tournaments isn’t usually
done until a few days before the event gets under way. This is to avoid
the situation of players having to withdraw from the tournament due to
injuries and creating problems with a redraw.

Which
is exactly what has happened with the Spanish Open. The second seed and
world #4 Jonathon Power has withdraw with a back injury only days before
the event’s commencement. The PSA has special rules to deal with
this situation and I think the way they organise draws and entry dates
is better than the tennis. You know well in advance who you are going
to play, and in the unfortunate situation where a top seed
has to withdraw, as has happened with Power, then a redraw is done.

Some
players have benefited from this situation, others haven’t. Here’s
how we see the first couple of rounds of the Spanish Open including how
Power’s withdrawal affects different players.

The
1st quarter

[1]
Peter Nicol (Eng ) vs Qualifier
[5] Joseph Kneipp (Aus) vs Borja Golan (Esp)

Nicol
already had a qualifier in the initial draw, and does again for the redraw
so the only change for him in the first two rounds is his scheduled quarter
final match is now against me and not against Simon Parke. Seeing as Parke
beat him last week in straight games in a non-ranking tournament final,
Nicol will probably be happy about the change. He certainly won’t
mind playing in a medium sized tournament that has no Power, White or
Palmer, meaning that the only player in the tournament that has previously
beaten Nicol in a PSA event is Parke and that was way back in 1999.

I
wasn’t over the moon when I saw the redraw. I initially had a qualifier
in the first round, and if I won that Jonathon Power in the second round.
The two things I hoped for with the redraw was that I didn’t have
to play the local wildcard entrant in the first round, and that I wasn’t
in Nicol’s quarter. So of course both of these happened.

We’ve
written quite a few times about how advantageous it is to have a local
wildcard for a tournament. It greatly increases the local interest, the
media attention and
presumably the tournament’s sponsors. But it isn’t usually
fun to be playing against an over-enthusiastic local player who is quite
often able to play a few grades higher than usual because of the support,
an overwhelmingly biased crowd, and a situation where the referee is often
lenient on the local hero because of the crowd pressure. But that’s
what I can probably expect on Thursday afternoon when my match with Borja
Golan begins.

Borja
and I play on the same Dutch league team. He is the Spanish national champion
and has very deservedly been given a wild card for the Spanish-Seville
Open. He has had a meteoric rise up the PSA ranking. He played his first
PSA tournament in January of last year, and within twelve months went
from 243 to 52. He is now sitting at 45. He managed to make such a ridiculously
fast climb up the rankings ladder by winning four out of his first twelve
tournaments!

David
Palmer played 16 tournaments in his first two years on the circuit and
won only one of these. Peter Nicol played 21 and won 4. Jonathon Power
played 30 and won 2. John White played 26 and won 2. Golan has played
12 tournaments in his first year and a half of being a squash pro and
has won four of them. Some of the scalps that he has accumulated along
the way include James Willstrop, Davide Bianchetti, Tim
Garner and Tommy Berden. I’m currently ranked 11, so I will be the
highest player he has met in a PSA match so far by a reasonable margin.
I’m hoping and planning to be able to show Borja the difference,
and certainly don’t want to be added to his list of scalps. Obviously
we’re not taking this match lightly.


The 2nd quarter
[4] Karim Darwish (Egy) vs Stephen Meads (Eng)
[8] Nick Taylor (Eng) vs Qualifier

Meads
is the person who benefits most from Power’s withdrawal and the
subsequent redraw. He was the #1 ranked qualifier and probably would have
had a match against a local player in the first round of the qualifying
tournament, and then a tough second round qualifying match again someone
like Davide Bianchetti, Tommy Berden or Lars Harms. And if he won that
then he would have played against Nicol, Parke, Bengy or Kneipp. He has
been excused from the two matches in the qualifying tournament, something
I’m sure he is very happy about, and now meets the top Egyptian
and fourth seed Karim Darwish in the first round.

Darwish
will probably be reasonably happy with his draw through to the semi finals,
having to get past Meads and then probably Nick Taylor whose first round
opponent is a qualifier. But if Darwish underestimates either Meads or
Taylor then his tournament will be over quickly. Both players are very
tough fighters and are willing to battle away for hours for a victory.

Darwish
is currently ranked 8 and had his best PSA result to date at the Qatar
Masters last month, beating Power in the second round 15-14 in the fifth
set. Meads is currently ranked 31. These two have played 3 times over
the past few years. Their first meeting was back in 2000 at the Mega Italia
Open. At that time Darwish was the underdog, ranked 58 to Meads’
37. The match went to seeding with Meads winning in four. The following
year in Canada their rematch went to the Egyptian, by which time he had
narrowed the ranking gap and was only two positions behind the Englishman.
Their most recent match was in December of last year at the World Open
in the second round. By this time Darwish was ranked 13 compared to Meads
who was 27 and
the match again went to Darwish in four.

The
3rd quarter

[4]
Ong Beng Hee (Mas) vs Qualifier
[7] Mark Chaloner (Eng) vs Mohammed Abbas (Egy)

Bengy
had a qualifier in the initial draw and does again in the redraw. The
main change for the Malaysian is that he goes from the tournament’s
fifth seed, to the all important fourth seed. His initial quarter final
opponent was going to be Anthony Ricketts, a player that he lost to twice
last year. Bengy will be happy that he’s not facing a fellow top
10 player until the semi finals (if all of the matches go to seeding,
and they never do).

Mark
Chaloner’s opponent changes from Nick Taylor, to Egypt’s Mohammed
Abbas. Chaloner is ranked 14 compared to Abbass’ 24. Chaloner has
had some injury problems at the start of the year, and missed the last
big tournament due to it clashing with his honeymoon. He will be hoping
to use this tournament to help get his ranking back into the top 10. Chaloner
and Abbass haven’t yet played each other in a PSA match.

The
4th quarter

[6]
Simon Parke (Eng) vs Qualifier
[2] Anthony Ricketts (Aus) vs Amr Shabana (Egy)

I’m
not sure if Parke will be happy with his change of draw. He initially
shared a quarter with Nicol and now has Australian Anthony Ricketts instead.
Most players would prefer to play Ricketts than Nicol, but Parke won his
recent encounter against Nicol, and lost his recent league match against
Ricketts.

Before
that rematch can happen both players must get past their first round opponents.
For Ricketts this means the Egyptian shot maker Amr Shabana.
There is a reasonable ranking gap between the two, with Ricketts at 7
and Shabana at 20. Shabana probably has more shots and is definitely more
deceptive than Ricketts, but he can’t compare to the Aussie’s
fitness and on-court hunger. One of the top Dutch players first played
Shabana in the qualifying tournament of the British Open quite a few years
ago. Shabana was only about 15 at the time, and the Dutch player expected
an easy win. He won in three, but not after about 15 ‘taxi’
points throughout the match, where he went the completely wrong direction
and was left so far from the ball that he needed directions or a taxi
to get there. Ricketts hasn’t played Shabana in a PSA tournament
before. This should be the best match of the
first round.

 

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.
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column together with our responses. We hope to get a good dialogue
started!

 

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