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Qatar Classic 2003

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Qatar
Classic Report Card

 

December
11, 2003: by Team Kneipp         

BIG
WEEK FOR UNDERDOGS

There’s
a few things that you can take for granted when you go to Qatar: the tournament
is always well run; and the weather is always ridiculously hot. My favourite
story regarding Doha weather is Jonathon Power’s bet with his wife
about rain (see http://www.squashtalk.com/kneipp/may-jun-july03/report03-17.htm).
The country will often go years without rain (YEARS!) and last year when
we were in neighbouring Dubai the local paper published pictures of unexpected
clouds. In this part of the world rain is ground breaking news.

During the Qatar
Classic I was enjoying the hospitality of a Finnish family along with
Olli Tuominen. Their jeep didn’t have windscreen wipers! Something
happened to the old wipers a year earlier and they hadn’t gotten
around to replacing them and had no need for them. Olli wanted to remove
the jeep’s top and door to appreciate the sunny weather, but it
was appropriately pointed out to him that under Murphy’s Law (meteorological
section) removing the jeep’s roof and doors would guarantee immediate
rain.

Sure enough, it didn’t
just rain it flooded – the most rain the country has seen for forty years.
(Naturally I still got onto the golf course and have a great photo of
my second shot on hole #6 – a three iron that lodged into the middle
of a cactus at a height of 2 metres!) Roads that are usually bone-dry
and not built to accommodate water were suddenly flooded. Roundabouts
were submerged, parking lots were temporary lakes. This ridiculously abnormal
weather was a fitting backdrop to a tournament that followed similar bizarre
and unexpected circumstances. There has been no tournament over the past
couple of years that has had so many upsets, injuries and unexpected results.

Champagne
and Strawberries

Lee Beachill
Over
the past couple of years Beachill has consistently made the quarterfinals
of different Super Series events. This has kept him securely ranked around
8, but he hasn’t been able to break through to the next level and
make a semi or a final. To win this tournament he not only played great
attacking squash that was entertaining to watch, but beat the world #1
and #2 in the process of securing the trophy. It is extremely rare for
a player to do this. To give you an indication of the difficulty of this
David Palmer hasn’t been able to (or required to) beat Nicol and
Whitey, or Nicol and Power in a tournament. McWhitey also hasn’t
had a tournament where he has been able to, or required to beat Nicol
then Palmer, or Nicol then Power. Beachill beat Nicol and McWhitey and
will celebrate the New Year with a January ranking closer to 1 than to
10 (depending also on how the other top ten players perform in Lahore).

Johnny McWhitey
The
pseudo-Scot has again shown the consistency and brilliant squash that
enabled him to win the Qatar Masters earlier in the year. Depending on
what happens in Pakistan he can overtake Peter Nicol for the world #1
ranking early next year. Providing Nicol doesn’t exit the World
Open a round earlier than McWhitey (regardless of what round that is),
he’ll still maintain a tiny lead in the ranking, but Nicol will
have his work cut out for him to keep this lead in February and March’s
ranking.

Nick Matthew
In
the past 10 Super Series events over the last few years Matthew has only
once been able to get past the round of 32. That is what is expected of
a player ranked between 17 and 32, but to go from virtually no 2nd round
appearances to a semi final is amazing. As we said in the semi final report,
this was a mixture of fortunate circumstances, and Matthew playing clever
squash to take advantage of a good opportunity.

Matthew’s first
round opponent Jonathon Power broke his finger after they collided on
court. A few players and coaches have come forward to say that they thought
Matthew had the upper hand in the match and would have won anyway. I think
this is a very stupid thing to say, particularly as the match was only
in the third game. Look at Peter Nicol’s victory over Jonathon Power
in the British Open this year. The match looked like it was over in the
third game with Power leading 2-0, but Nicol was still able to win. Look
at Gaultier’s victory over Beachill in Vienna at the World Team
Championships. At 7-2 down in the fifth (scoring to 9) if Gaultier had
gotten injured everyone would have said the match was over anyway. You
never know in this game. What is known is that Power couldn’t continue
and Matthew won through to the 2nd round. This sort of fortune is reasonably
common. It was at this stage that Matthew’s tournament became blessed.

His 2nd round opponent
Olli Tuominen injured his leg in a strange lunging incident in the first
round when Mansoor Zaman stood on his foot. Olli’s injury was bad
enough that he wasn’t going to play the 2nd round. We were staying
at the same place and discussed this issue in detail. If Power had won
the first round match Olli was going to withdraw, but he thought the calculated
risk of attempting to beat Matthew for a quarter final spot, despite being
injured and thereby threatening his World Open performance, was reasonable.
Olli played okay, but not to his physical capabilities because of the
injury – something he would have needed to do to win the match.
Matthew was aware of this and later joked, "Next round, I could meet
someone who’s fit." That didn’t happen.

His next opponent
was an injured David Palmer. His injury restricted his ability to lunge
into the front right hand corner, or jump onto a forehand volley. Palmer
was playing well despite the injury and Matthew did well for the victory.
Good draw and fortunate tournaments usually happen at some stage for a
player, taking advantage of it is important and part of being a successful
athlete. With this new success it will be interesting to see how Matthew
performs in Pakistan. He will now be ranked inside the top 16 for the
first time and could go top 10 if he does okay in Pakistan.

Adrian Grant
Grant beat
an out of form Ong Beng Hee, then Mark Chaloner to make his first Super
Series quarter finals. His ranking will go to the top 20 for the first
time and he’ll soon be attending the same size tournament as a seeded
player.

Omar Elborolossy
and Mohammed Abbas
Elborolossy
beat fellow Egyptian Karim Darwish to continue the good form he showed
in Toronto. Abbas had the most dramatic victory in the first round, causing
Anthony Ricketts’ only Super Series first round defeat in over a
year.

David Palmer
He
nearly reached the semi finals of this tournament despite playing with
an injury.

The 1st round
underdogs
Renan
Lavigne, Dan Jenson, Mohammed Abbas, Omar Elborolossy, James Willstrop,
Adrian Grant, Nick Matthew, Olli Tuominen and Mark Chaloner

These blokes all
caused upsets in the first round. There couldn’t be a better example
of the depth and strength currently in the men’s game.

Vinegar and
Rotten Tomatoes
Jonathon
Power

Let’s have
a brief recap on how Power has done physically at a few tournaments over
the past couple of seasons.

World Open 2002 –
retired after having his eye sliced open by a racquet

US Open 2003 –
got hit in the eye with the ball under bizarre circumstances

World Team Champs
2003 – had some problem in the fifth set that saw him writhing on
the ground and unable to play the last point out (he cited both cramps
and knee injury)

Hong Kong Open 2002
– hit near the eye with a racquet, requiring stitches

Canadian Classic
2002 – ankle injury that required a 40-minute break (interference
was cited but later video playback proved this wrong)

Memorial US Open
– back spasms cited for lacklustre performance

Spanish Open –
withdrawal due to back problems

These are the tournaments
that I can remember off the top of my head. A broken finger from the 2003
Qatar Classic needs to be added to this growing list of mishaps. With
Power’s withdrawal from both Qatar and Pakistan he will lose valuable
ranking points that will mean Lincou, Ricketts or Beachill will take the
crucial #4 position in January’s ranking.

Peter Nicol
Squash’s
top dog has now had two bad tournaments in a row with his first round
exit in Toronto and now his quarterfinal defeat in Qatar. He will need
to do better than McWhitey in Pakistan to hold onto the #1 ranking. Nicol
always does better when his back is to the wall and when he is being written
off. His recent poor performance should guarantee he is considered the
favourite in Lahore.

Joe Kneipp
We played an
injured Palmer in the second round and were still unable to beat him.
It is a recurring injury for Palmer and he upset it in his first round
match against Durbach, so obviously it was getting worse each match he
played. To compensate for this he went for more winners. Natalie Grainger
was watching him play before her match and commented that he should play
injured more often as he was hitting so many winners. It’s incredible
that Palmer’s game is so good at the moment that he is still able
to play so well with this handicap. Regardless of this we should have
made him run more and taken advantage of a sub-par Palmer. We couldn’t
and it was a disappointing result.

Anthony Ricketts,
Ong Beng Hee, Karim Darwish, Graham Ryding, Martin Heath, Mansoor Zaman,
Jonathon Power and Simon Parke.

These were the seeded
players (ranked in the top 16) that lost in the first round. To my knowledge
only one of these upsets were caused by an injury.

Of the 31 matches
of this tournament 15 were upsets where the lower ranked player won. It
created for an extremely interesting tournament.

Kneipp’s
SquashTalk Forum

Feedback:
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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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