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World
Open: Bottom Half Preview

November
28, 2005:
by Team Kneipp (kah-nipe)         

[ See
also preview of top half of the draw
]

Matthews

Peter Barker meets Anthony Ricketts .  Photo © 2005
Fritz Borchert

9*
KARIM DARWISH versus MANSOOR ZAMAN
Darwish
is currently ranked 10 but has been as high as 5. In 2003 he had the
very unfortunate situation of making the semi finals of the World Open,
then watching his ranking slip out two places the following month.
This was because players like Shabana (who won the tournament) and
Nick Matthew leap-frogged him because of great results in two tournaments,
but it was still frustrating for him. He has had a pretty solid year
and can be very dangerous. His first round opponent is Pakistan’s
Mansoor Zaman, currently ranked 23.

Mansoor,
like Shahid, has Pakistan’s tournaments bolstering his
ranking, but unlike Shahid has yet to win a single match this year off
home soil. He hasn’t beaten Darwish in a PSA event before.

The
expected 2nd round meeting of Darwish and Ricketts won’t be
appealing to either of them. On paper (and current form) Ricketts will
win this, but not too many eyelids are batted when Darwish beats a player
ranked above him.

7*
ANTHONY RICKETTS versus PETER BARKER
Ricketts
is seeded 7th for this tournament, but is enjoying a career high 3
this month. He won’t be worrying about Darwish until he
sees off the more pressing challenge of England’s Peter Barker.
Barker is ranked 22 this month. He hasn’t beaten a player in the
top ten in PSA yet, and his only other main draw appearance in a world
open was in 2003 when it was a 64 draw (although he was World Junior
runner up the year that Willstrop won it).

He’ll have to play great
squash to cause an upset here, but Ricketts won’t be taking him
lightly.

13*
MOHD AZLAN ISKANDAR plays Qualifier 6
Iskandar
is currently ranked 14. He had the misfortune of having a qualifier
in Qatar and getting Boswell. That’s pretty bad luck considering
there has only been four months of his career that he was ranked in the
top 16, and therefore eligible to get a first round qualifier. He is
seeded to play Palmer in the 2nd round, a player he hasn’t beaten
before.

3*
DAVID PALMER plays Qualifier 7

Palmer
is the fourth previous World Champion playing in this event. He made
the final of the Qatar Classic last week, showcasing his fitness with
successive five-set victories over Gaultier and Lincou to reach the
final.

In
theory he has a quarterfinal date with Ricketts. Neither player will
be happy with this draw and the result could go either way.

12*
NICK MATTHEW versus MOHAMMED ABBAS

Matthews

Nick Matthew hopes for a good
week .  Photo © 2005
Debra Tessier

Nick
Matthew is currently ranked 11 with a career high last year of 5. He
lost in last year’s World Open in the first
round to Graham Ryding (who went on to have match ball in the semi
final against eventual champion Lincou).

In
the 2003 event he made the quarterfinals and in 2002 lost in the 2nd
round to Ricketts. These results are more erratic than what you normally
see from Matthew who is usually very consistent with his results.

His opponent is world # 19 Mohammed Abbas from Egypt. Abbas has had
steady results in this event in the past. In 2002 he lost in the first
round to Boswell, then in 2003 got past Victor Berg and Simon Parke to
lose to Ricketts in the third round. Last year in Qatar he lost in the
2nd round to Shabana.

Matthew is usually the fitter and hungrier of these two, but Abbas can
be more unpredictable and difficult to read. Abbas is obviously a good
enough player to win this match, but it will be a surprise if that happens.

8*
JAMES WILLSTROP versus WAI HANG WONG

Willstrop, currently ranked 8, only dropped one game on the way to his
victory last week in Qatar. Considering he had to beat Parke, Matthew,
Gough, Ricketts and Palmer along the way it was a pretty spectacular
feat.

Even
though it was a major tournament, Willstrop may find himself in the
unfortunate position of receiving very little ranking improvement from
such a significant win. His December ranking will take a big jump,
but unless he does very well in Hong Kong or Saudi Arabia (which on
form is very likely) it’ll drop straight back
down in January. In December last year he made the quarter finals of
the World Open and won the Pakistan Open so he has a lot of ranking
points that he has to defend.

His first round opponent in Hong Kong is the local wild card entrant
Wai Hang Wong.

Wong
is currently ranked 105, but has been in the 60s earlier this year.
He hasn’t beaten a player in the top 50 yet, but at last year’s
Hong Kong Open he got a game off Peter Nicol after receiving the wild
card.

He
had to play Boswell earlier in the year as Boswell made his rapid rise
through the small tournaments, so he’s had
some recent experience with the pace Willstrop plays at.

14*
GRAHAM RYDING plays Qualifier 8

Ryding
is currently ranked 13. His ranking received a well-deserved boost
from last year’s World Open semi final appearance, but since
then he has only won three first round matches and hasn’t beaten
a player in the top 20.

Qatar
didn’t go to plan, with a rejuvenated
Ong Beng Hee defeating him in the first round. He’ll be hoping
to reverse that trend here, but a theoretical 2nd round appointment with
Power, a player that he hasn’t beaten in a PSA event before and
who has beaten him five times in a row for the Canadian National title,
doesn’t make his
task any easier.

2*
JONATHON POWER versus ONG BENG HEE

Power
is currently ranked 2. His results in the World Open haven’t
been ideal since he was champion in 1998. His results since then have
been:
1999 – retired against Barada in the semis trailing 13-3 in the
third with a leg injury.
2002 – retired against Palmer in the semis in the second game with
an eye injury.
2003 – withdrew from the tournament with a broken finger from the
preceding tournament.
2004 – ranking slide meant he played Nicol in the 2nd round. Lost
in four
2005 – ? (withdrew from preceding tournament with back spasms)

Ong
Beng Hee is currently ranked 17. A long way from his career high of
7, but he’s enjoying playing and much happier with his technique
and style of play. His recent victories over Parke, Palmer and Ryding
will help his motivation for this event. His previous best result in
the World Open is the third round. He hasn’t beaten Power in any
of their four meetings, but this match will be very different. Being
considerably closer than most major tournaments he’ll have a bigger
support group. Power will have a very tough fight on his hands.

Qualifiers

Again
the ‘Stewart Boswell Factor’ needs to be considered.
Boswell dispatched Iskandar and Power in Qatar and will have a more appropriate
ranking in December so this scenario won’t keep happening. One
unfortunate seed will be very disappointed after the qualifying finals
are finished.

The players who have first round qualifiers are:

3* DAVID PALMER
5* AMR SHABANA
10* GREGORY GAULTIER
11* JOHN WHITE
13* MOHD AZLAN ISKANDAR
14* GRAHAM RYDING
15* OLLI TUOMINEN
16* SHAHID ZAMAN

I’d be surprised if Boswell didn’t beat Iskandar or Zaman,
but would put him as underdog against Shabana, Gaultier, White and Palmer.
Against Tuominen and Ryding I’d put him as narrow favourite, but
you never know.

Other qualifiers to watch out for include:

Alex
Gough – he’s having a spectacular return
to form. He has made the quarter finals and semi finals of this event
before and had a pretty comfortable run to the quarterfinals in Qatar
beginning with a straight sets victory over Beachill.
Simon Parke – a player who shouldn’t ever be taken lightly.
Laurens Jan Anjema – capable of upsets as Nicol, Ryding, Abbas, Beachill
and White learnt this year.
Ramy Ashour – current world junior champion.

[ See
preview of top half of the draw
]

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