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Qatar
Classic Preview

 

November
26, 2003: by Team Kneipp         

NUMBER
FOUR OF FIVE

Despite the tournament calendar being quite busy this year, particularly
from
August onwards, there will only be 5 Super Series events for 2003. These
are
tournaments that have over $60 000 in prize money. Of these five tournaments
the
Qatar Squash Federation will have hosted two.

Considering this
country and its squash enthusiasm is so important to us, and as
most people haven’t been here, I thought I’d start this preview
with some
information on Qatar.

TRAVEL
INFO

Firstly it’s a small desert country a long way from everything.
It’s a one hour
flight from Dubai and a ten hour flight from Amsterdam. Its clocks are
2 hours
ahead of Frankfurt time, one hour ahead of London and eight ahead of New
York.
Qatar is 2000 kilometres from Cairo, nearly 11 000 from Toronto, and 12
500 from
Sydney.

Qatar isn’t
a very big country. It’s sort of oval shaped, being only 185
kilometres from north to south and 89 kilometres east to west at the furtherest
points. The coastline is 378 kilometres. This makes the country slightly
smaller
than Connecticut (if my tape measure is right). Saudi Arabia borders it
to the
south, with the Persian Gulf forming the border on every other side. Bahrain
is
to the northwest and the United Arab Emirates is to the southeast. If
you go
directly north from Qatar you’ll eventually reach Kuwait, Iran,
the Caspian Sea,
Kazakhstan, Russian and the Arctic Ocean. Going south after Saudi Arabia
is
Yemen then ocean only broken by the eastern tip of Africa (Ethiopia and
Somalia)
and Madagascar before you reach Antarctica.

The population is
in the six hundred thousands with over 90% living in urban
areas. Doha, the capital, has a population of 217, 294 (not including
the 112
squash players and their entourage arriving this week) and is on the east
coast
of the Arab nation.


Qatar is a very affluent country, particularly for its size. This is mainly
because it has the third largest supply of natural gas reserves in the
world,
five percent of the world’s total, which accounts for around 70%
of the
country’s export earnings and 66% of government revenue.

The local currency
is the Qatar Riyal, with one hundred Dirhams equalling one
Riyal. 3.64 Riyals are fixed to US$1.

Every tournament
I’ve attended in Qatar has always had lots of supporters for
the Pakistani players. The local’s ethnic origins help explain this:
— Arab 40%
— Pakistani 18%
— Indian 18%
— Iranian 10%
— Other 14%

If you’re going
to travel to Qatar it is important to bring shorts and sunglasses. At
the moment the temperature in Amsterdam is 7degrees (about 44 in
the funny method). The temperature in Doha is around 30 (86), which is
actually
quite mild considering how extreme the weather can be. If the temperature
reaches the mid 40s this week no one will be tremendously surprised, or
outdoors, for long. Despite this sweltering heat the squash courts (and
most
buildings) are so well air conditioned that you are often cold. If there’s
ever
a time that I’m wondering if tennis players really do deserve more
money than
squash players, it’s obvious in Doha when standing on the air conditioned,
indoor squash court, then moving outside to the blistering heat and parched
wind
of the tennis court. I’d last about three serves, providing they
were all aces
and I didn’t have to rally.

Here’s how
the first round of the tournament looks:

[1] Peter
Nicol (Eng) versus Paul Price (Aus)

Nicol has won
two of this year’s previous Super Series events, but just lost in
the first round of a (smaller) tournament for the first time since 2001.

Price is ranked 18th
and seeded 17th for the tournament, because of Boswell’s
absence. If you’re the 17th seed the most unfortunate draw that
you can get is
against the #1. Price has it two tournaments in a row, he’s also
scheduled for a
second round encounter at the World Open.

The last time these
two played was in 2001 at the Tournament of Champions. Prior
to that it was the 1999 World Open in Egypt. Nicol won both encounters
in 3.

[12] Amr
Shabana (Egy) versus Shahier Razik (Can)
Razik
is ranked over twice Shabana’s ranking at 27, but that won’t
mean much.
Razik is a Canadian of Egyptian origin and is very good friends with Shabana.
These are two of the nicest blokes on tour and are both gentlemen on court.
This
should be a great match with plenty of winners, especially if it’s
on glass
(which it probably won’t be – with both the men and women
playing only the top
seeds will presumably get glass).

Razik is capable
of an upset here, but Shabana will be hungry. He has been on the receiving
end of a lot of upsets this year (as has Team Kneipp – I’m
just saying it as it is). Against the seeding he has exited early in the
last two tournaments (Elborolossy in Toronto and Tuominen in Edmonton).
But he is also the only player outside of the top 10 to win a 3 star tournament
this year. The two previous occasions that Razik and Shabana played each
other was the 2003 and the 2001 Motor City Open. Shabana won both times
in straight sets.

[6] Anthony
Ricketts (Aus) versus Mohammed Abbas (Egy)
Ricketts
is sitting securely at #6 in the ranking, his Egyptian opponent is 23.
Abbass had to qualify for this tournament last year, but now is ranked
inside
the important top 24 that ensures he has a main draw position. He has
been
ranked as high as 21 previously, but hasn’t been able to crack the
teens yet.
Abbas’ main challenge will be to try to keep up with the pace Ricketts
will
dictate throughout the match.

The only previous
PSA match between these two was in the final of the Chief of
Naval Staff tournament in Pakistan in 2001 that Ricketts won in 3.

[10] Lee
Beachill (Eng) versus Qualifier

[3] David
Palmer (Aus) versus Qualifier

[13] Joe
Kneipp (Aus) versus Alex Gough (Wal)
Team
Kneipp has been going through a rather foul tasting slump recently, something
we’ll hope to stop bloody soon. Too many first round losses. Alex
Gough, for some selfish reason, probably won’t be interested in
helping this scenario. The last PSA match we had was at the start of the
year, which he won, but we’ve played three league matches since
including the Bundesliga finals and I have won them all. The Welshman
usually plays better in big PSA events and will be a tough first round
(there isn’t any easy first rounds).

[5] Jonathon
Power (Can) versus Nick Matthew (Eng)
Power just won the Canadian Classic, his first big tournament
victory for the year. At the same time last year he had won five tournaments
and had been in one final.

Matthew is ranked
22. Twice these two have played, twice Power has won.

[15] Mansoon
Zaman (Pak) versus Qualifier

Mark Chaloner
(Eng) versus [11] Gregory Gaultier (Fra)
Gaultier
was voted Mr Congeniality by his fellow players at the recent World
Team Champs. His matches, particularly the physical nature of them were
well
documented. If he’s looking to play a physical match in the first
round in Qatar
he needs to make sure it will be of greater benefit to him, not his English
opponent. The last two times I played Chaloner (South Africa and Bermuda)
it was
very clean and non-physical games. But if Chaloner gets pushed or blocked
on
court he’ll give as good as he gets.

This will be the
first time Gaultier and Chaloner play in PSA. It should be an
interesting match.

[7] Ong Beng
Hee (Mas) versus Adrian Grant (Eng)
Bengy
has had some ordinary results recently, losing in the last three
tournaments in the first or second round. He has been tinkering around
with
technique problems and has conceded that he may have to deal with some
bad
losses while he is fixing things. I selfishly hope he doesn’t sort
these out, as
it will cause the rest of us a lot of grief. Bengy is one of the most
beautiful
movers on court. He is strong, fast and particularly light on his toes.
An
Austrian player who hadn’t seen him play before watched him in Vienna
and told
me he thought Bengy wasn’t actually touching the ground as he glided
around the
court. Bengy’s technique is unorthodox and if he can make it better
it will
surely help him move into the top 5.

Grant is ranked 25
and has been as high as 20 earlier in the year. Last month’s
Canadian open was the first Super Series event that he made the main draw
of
without having to qualify.

These two haven’t
played before in PSA.

Graham Ryding
(Can) versus Qualifier

[4] Thierry
Lincou (Fra) versus Qualifier

[14] Martin
Heath (Sco) versus Qualifier

[8] Karim
Darwish (Egy) versus Omar Elborolossy (Egy)
The
#1 Egyptian versus the #3 Egyptian. Darwish has been ranked inside the
top
10 for most of the year. Elborolossy has been ranked inside the top 20
a handful
of times, reaching his highest position of 14 last year.

Darwish withdrew
from the recent Canadian Open with an injury. Elborolossy
dramatically defeated Peter Nicol in the Canadian Classic in Toronto,
and then
went on to make the semis. He caused an upset in the previous tournament
as well
and will be confident. Darwish will have the knowledge that of the five
times
they’ve played since 2000, he has only lost once.

[16] Simon
Parke (Eng) versus Qualifier

[2] John
White (Sco) versus Qualifier

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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