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US
Open Report Card

 

Sept
24 , 2003: by Team Kneipp (Kah-nipe)   [Complete
US Open Coverage]
       

(also read: The
Kneipp’s US Open preview
)   

I was at the Boston
Symphony Hall on the first day of the tournament, five hours before the
first match was scheduled to start. I had intended to organise a couple
of tickets for the evening’s matches for a couple of mates, but
instead got roped into helping Ron Beck set up the SquashTalk stall. So
while Joe was resting for his match I was moving boxes around. Which meant
that I was wondering around the venue as they were still setting everything
up.

The glass court at
that point didn’t have either the back wall, or a floor. Surprisingly
there wasn’t a sense of panic about this. I don’t know how
long it takes to assemble the back wall and floor of a squash court, but
allowing for clean-up and an early audience I didn’t think five
hours was that long. But once the curtain was raised for the first match
everything was in place. The Event Engine tournaments (TOC, US Open, Canadian
Classic and soon the British Open) always run smoothly – it was
silly of me to think otherwise.

I still haven’t worked out why the US Open was so
ridiculously strong. Of the top 12 players in the world that had an automatic
position in the main draw only Stewart Boswell wasn’t in Boston,
and it was injury that forced his absence.

There is a limit
on the size that a 16 draw tournament can be. Once the prizemoney is $60
000 or more, the draw must be 32. But at $52 000 the US Open is nearly
as lucrative as a 16 draw can get. But if the main draw virtually consists
of the top 12 in the world, surely the qualifying tournament vying for
the remaining four spots is going to be weak. Nope. John Nimick worked
out the standard of players in his qualifying tournament (Chaloner, Parke,
Gough, Matthew, Tuominen, Taylor, Grant, Ryding, Castelyn, Razik etc)
made it the eleventh strongest tournament of the year!

But because of the
strength of the players in attendance and the relative weak size of the
tournament virtually all of the players have left Boston with a lot less
ranking points than their average. Of the 28 players that took part in
the tournament only two players exceeded their average: Graham Ryding
and Nick matthew.

If my calculations are correct (and they are dodgy at
best) then next week when the new rankings come out there will be some
major reshuffling of the top ten players. McWhitey will leapfrog Palmer
for the number two position, Boswell will take a dive from six to ten
and Lincou will push Power out to five. This means that for the next superseries
event, the Canadian Open at the end of October, Power could conceivably
get a draw that pits him against Nicol in the quarters, Palmer in the
semis and White in the final. Having a top four ranking would mean this
couldn’t happen and that he could only play two of these players.
Lincou will now have that privilege.

Here’s how
we thought the US Open went:

Champagne
and Strawberries

Nick Matthew.

The player of the tournament. Obviously there is the argument that Nicol,
Palmer or even Lincou did better as they all progressed further in the
tournament, but Matthew had a better tournament relative to how he normally
does and what is expected of him. He is currently ranked 24 and wasn’t
seeded to make it out of the qualifying tournament. He had a local player
in the first round of qualifying, which he would have been happy about,
but then drew former top 3 player Simon Parke. He defeated him in four,
then followed up the next day with victory over Ong Beng Hee. At the last
tournament, the English Open, he qualified then upset Joe in the first
round. No one likes to get beaten, but especially not against a qualifier.
Seeing Matthew continue causing upsets with consecutive victories over
Parke then Bengy takes some of the sting out of Joe’s loss. It gives
credence to Matthew’s current form rather than cause (too many)
doubts about Joe’s sub-par performance.

Graham Ryding.

Achieved the same feat as Nick Matthew – qualified then beat a top
8 seed in the first round. Ryding has been in this position before and
it’s not so strange to see him beating top ten players again. He
beat Darwish in the first round, one of the inform players of the past
two tournaments – the Spanish Open and Qatar Masters where he beat Nicol
and Power respectively.

Anthony Ricketts

He made the semi finals, taking McWhitey’s out in the quarters.
Seeing as the vegemite-wielding Scotsman has won the past two tournaments
he has played, this is obviously no mean feat. Ricketts and White have
only played once before this tournament, at the same event twelve months
earlier. Ricketts won that encounter. He was leading Palmer 2-0 in the
semis and a player told me that match was his but his intensity and head
went.

Thierry Lincou

Beat Power in the quarters after being down two game to love and facing
six match balls. When people discuss the pros and cons of the two main
scoring systems one of the main benefits cited of the 9-international
scoring is that a player can be down 8-0 and still win the game because
the person behind can make an error as long as they are serving. It’s
much harder to do that in the point-of-rally to 15 game (although for
the men that is a far superior scoring method and a topic we hope to tackle
in a column soon). Quite often you’ll see a player behind five or
six points and facing a match ball and virtually give up by playing a
lacklustre shot or putting a half-hearted effort into the rally. This
is because of how difficult it is with this scoring system to recover
a match when you’re behind by a decent margin. Lincou did it with
style.

Peter Nicol
and David Palmer.

Nicol is back in the driver’s seat, Palmer is getting back to the
form that won him the World Championships.

Vinegar and
Rotten Tomatoes

Jonathon
Power.

Before this tournament Power put out a press release saying that he was
expecting to be in two finals in the space of five days. He was playing
in the Detroit Open immediately after the US Open and the tournament dates
were so close that it meant if he made the final in Boston, he would be
playing his first round match the following day in Detoit, and conceivably
two finals in the space of five days.

Power prides himself on being considered the ‘McEnroe
of squash’ and it’s typical of him and his style of play to
talk about winning two tournaments in a row, before the first one has
even begun. The problem with this is it creates extra motivation for your
opponents. We try (sometimes unsuccessfully) to not write anything too
personal or negative in these columns about other players because it just
doesn’t make sense to piss your opponents off and make them want
to beat you even more. I’m sure Lincou had plenty of motivation
to win his quarter final encounter against Power, but being considered
a formality by Power would have added to this.

The 2003 US Open is the 10th tournament that Power has
played since the Hong Kong Open of August last year. Ten tournaments over
a thirteen month period isn’t a lot, especially when nearly a third
of these have resulted in an eye injury!

At last year’s Hong Kong Open Power clashed with
Palmer’s racquet in the fourth game of their semi final match. Power
ended up with the victory, but also with a half-inch gash above his right
eye that had blood pouring out. Four months later the exact same thing
happened between the same players, only this time the injury was so severe
that Power was forced to retire from the match.

Regardless of whether these were caused by Power’s
excessive crowding or Palmer’s excessive swing, Power is the player
that is losing out because of it.

The US Open saw the third chapter in the ongoing Power
eye saga, with thankfully a different co-star. The ball hit Power’s
eye very softy, resulting in a three hour match delay. Regardless of whether
this had an affect on the outcome of the match, Power could make a bundle
of money if he becomes the first top pro to take advantage of eye protection.
Money aside, he needs the eye protection badly – three tournaments out
of ten have been affected by an eye injury!

Ong Beng
Hee and Karim Darwish.

The only seeded players to be upset in the first round, going down to
qualifiers Matthew and Ryding.

John McWhite.

Lost to Ricketts in the quarter finals. Whitey told me afterwards that
he didn’t play his best squash, but that Ricketts played wonderfully
and was playing the type of squash that would beat everyone. Whitey can’t
be too disappointed considering he won the two previous tournaments that
he played and is getting closer to the number one spot that he announced
at the start of the year that he was hunting.

Qualifiers

As I’ve already said, the strength of the qualifying tournament
was ridiculous. This becomes even more obvious when you look at the highest
ranking some of the qualifiers who didn’t make the main draw have
achieved. Of the twelve players (not including locals) that were in the
qualifying draw they have achieved career highs of: 3, 4, 7, 7, 8, 10,
14, 16, 22, 22, 23 and 29. Of the six players that have been top 10, only
one (Ryding) made the main draw. Tough tournament.

Thanks to the Woods,
Slutskys and Steve Wolfe for their wonderful hospitality while we were
in the States. Any one playing squash against Todd Wood, feel free to
ask him why he paid the Kneipps two bucks each.

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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