Open ’03 Report Card
18, 2003: by Dan Kneipp
in the Crucible [English
Crucible was a very interesting and clever venue choice for the English
Open. Its long association with World Championship snooker created media
interest that a simple shopping mall or similar venue couldn’t have
is usually the case the venue is very different to what you see and perceive
on tele. Firstly it’s smaller and more compact than what you see
on the BBC.
The court only just fits into the available space, and the seating is
close and heavily tiered so that most seats provide a good view and should
lead to a very energetic and enthusiastic crowd. Which perhaps didn’t
as well as it could have. John Nimick always has a jazz band set up at
tournament venues and it provides a festive atmosphere and noise that
to ensure the crowd is always rowdy and appreciate, which always adds
tournament. The worst matches are when there is wonderful squash going
and the crowd feels uncomfortable making a lot of noise or showing
appreciation after great rallies.
no idea The Crucible was such a rabbit warren. There are hallways and
doors going in every direction and a wrong turn requires a supply of water
and a GPS system to find your way back. The venue has a strange combination
of being a bit run down and dingy, and being professionally arranged to
allow for television coverage and theatre productions. Little things become
obvious, like a long hallway of separate change rooms, each one having
mirror bordered with light bulbs. I expected some make-up person to come
bustling in and help Joe with his bandana and check if his cheeks need
often the case when ex or current players are responsible for
tournaments they know what is important in hosting a successful event.
Nicol, Garner and Kirkland did a splendid job and they have said that
event has many more years on the pro calendar.
The in-form player of the past eight months. If our ranking system was
on the past 8 months instead of the past 12, Whitey would be #1 in the
world. He’s currently #3 and closing the gap between Palmer and
of him. Of the last five tournaments he has played there has only been
that wasn’t a roaring success. He had match ball at December’s
He made the final of February’s Swedish Open. His only hiccup was
final loss at New York’s Tournament of Champions to Thierry Lincou,
other player who has raised his game significantly in 2003 (but chose
attend the Sheffield tournament). Whitey won the Qatar Masters in May,
taking out both Nicol and Lincou along the way, and has now backed it
with the English Open title. Perhaps losing the World Open after having
match balls was a blessing in disguise because he is obviously more hungry
to win and playing the most consistent and successful squash of his career.
Finally. After so many matches of going within a whisker of beating Peter
Nicol, he has finally done it. Ricketts has been particularly unfortunate
with his tournament draws over the past 12 months. He has made the
quarterfinals of seven tournaments recently – Pakistan, Hong Kong,
Classic, World, T.O.C and the Qatar Masters. For six of those seven
tournaments the reason that he didn’t progress to the semi finals
inability to beat the world #1. If my memory of high school statistical
probability is correct (and I doubt it) then the probability of Ricketts
being drawn in Nicol’s quarter seven out of eight times is 1:16,384. It
shouldn’t be happening so much, but he has gone close to beating him.
Pakistan he lost 15-12 in the fifth. At the US Open he went down in straight
games, but 15-12, 17-16, 15-13 is not a comfortable victory for his
opponent. Their match at the Qatar Classic had similar scores. Ricketts
2 games to 1 in the World Open quarterfinals, but lost again in five.
obviously getting closer and closer to a victory and was finally able
achieve it at Sheffield. Their next encounter should be a very interesting
There were only three upsets in this tournament’s main draw. Ricketts
Nicol in the quarterfinals, Power over Palmer in the semis (that’s
upset on paper – the world #4 beating the world #2 isn’t such
a crazy and
momentous event), and Matthew’s first round victory. The local boy
qualify and then played some bloke named Kneipp. Despite being down 2-0
had a gutsy win in 5.
this is his first victory over a player ranked (at the time) in
the top 20, which is a significant hurdle to overcome.
He has been out of action for nearly six months and was finally able to
it back onto a tournament court. Naturally he’s bloody hungry and
make up for lost time and had a successful tournament in Sheffield
considering his layoff.
His current ranking of 4 is his lowest ranking in years. Winning the two
trophies that have eluded him – Commonwealth Games gold and Super
final could have something to do with this, as it possibly left him less
motivated for tournament victories. Maybe his shoe company was taking
effort and energy, or perhaps the competition is just catching up. Whatever
it is the past three tournaments for Power haven’t been that successful
his standards. The first six tournaments of 2002 reaped three winner’s
trophies and two final appearances. After that, from September onwards
things went considerably downhill. He lost in the quarters (US), quarters
(Qatar), won in Toronto, semis (World Open), semis (NY) and 2nd round
Qatar. Good results for most players, but not Power. While we were training
at Dartmouth College during summer Joe had an exhibition match with
Jonathon. His speed and on court intensity was the best I have seen and
wasn’t surprised to see him return to finals squash.
Vinegar and Rotten Tomatoes
Obviously not for the standard of the tournament. Let me put some
perspective on Nicol’s normal squash standard and performance and
recent form has been: since October of 1997 he has played 52 tournaments,
winning 28 of them. The significant figure during that time is that there
have only been fifteen tournaments where he didn’t make the final.
over the five-year period from the end of 1997 to the end of 2002 did
two tournaments in a row without being one of the finalists. That is an
incredible achievement and emphasises how consistent of a player he is.
that has changed lately. Of the fifteen tournaments that he hasn’t
final, four of them have been from the last five tournaments he played.
the first time since early 1997 he has gone three tournaments in a row
without making a final. He lost to John White in the semi final of the
Open, won the TOC, lost again to White in the semis of Qatar, then to
Darwish in the semis of the Spanish Open, and now to Ricketts in the
quarters of his own tournament. Like Power it is only his superb record
could make results like this seem disappointing. It will be interesting
see how he performs in the next few tournaments.
The only seed to lose in the first round. Was leading 2-0. The first time
over the past 18 months that he has lost to a player that wasn’t
ranked 7 or
better at some time in their career. A bad day at the office, let’s
dwell on this for too long.
Where is he? Is everything okay? He withdrew from the Dutch league final
May, then the lucrative Super Series Final immediately afterwards. He
attended the Qatar Masters of the same month, but uncharacteristically
in the first round – surely not a coincidence. He wasn’t at
Open, didn’t attend this tournament and isn’t going to be
at the US Open,
the next major event on the calendar. He has entered October’s British
although I expect Ricketts and perhaps even Darwish will have overtaken
in the rankings by then. Hopefully everything is okay.
for the US Open has already been released. There are some wonderful
first round match-ups already, and some exciting prospects once qualifying
is done. The tournament isn’t a super series event, but 24 of the
top 27 have signed up for the event. 6 of the 12 players in the qualifying
tournament have at one stage been ranked in the top 10! If you live in
America you should attend, if you don’t check if there is a special
flights to Boston.
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