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Saudi Int’l Preview – Bottom Half

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Half
   Bottom
Half
    

December
15,
2005: by Team Kneipp (kah-nipe)         

Bottom
Half of the Draw Preview
Here’s
a quick look at how the first round of the last major tournament of
2005 unfolds. (see top half of the draw preview as
well) :

5*
LEE BEACHILL {ENG} v.{Q6} Laurens Jan Anjema

Beachill has had one tournament this month where he did poorly, and
another
where he made the quarters – what is expected of his ranking. At last
year’s
World Open he made the final, so if he doesn’t have a very good
result here
his ranking will take a decent dip. Fortunately for him there is a big
gap
between #8 (Nicol) and #9 (White) so he shouldn’t go out of the
top 8. In
theory being ranked 8 for a tournament is the same as being ranked 5
but we
all know that’s not quite as much fun.

LJ
hasn’t gotten past the first round of a tournament
in December and I
think he is the only player that can really sit down and have a good
chat
with us about crap draws. Sure Adrian Grant can’t be too happy
with getting
Nicol two out of three tournaments, but Beachill, Lincou and Palmer (swap
Palmer for Power for me) is not what you’re hoping for when it’s
three of
the biggest tournaments of the year and there’s no logical (or
statistical)
reason that you couldn’t get Bengy, Iskandar and Tuominen – three
players
ranked at the other end of the seeding scale who haven’t all been
in the
final of a World Open or been #1 in their careers. Laurens Jan being
the
optimist that he is will be glad that he’s playing a bloke that
he has a
100% win rate against. Their only previous encounter was in September
this
year where LJ caused perhaps the upset of the year (votes are still being
tallied for the final verdict).

MANSOOR
ZAMAN {PAK} v. 14* MOHD AZLAN ISKANDAR {MAS}
This match can join the Shahid versus Durbach match as one of the least
clear-cut outcomes of the first round. Iskandar has the advantage of
winning
one match so far in December, (in Hong Kong), being part of the Malaysian
team that beat Pakistan in Islamabad, and having won the last two (of
their
four) previous encounters including a tournament earlier this year in
Pakistan.

11*
NICK MATTHEW {ENG} v. WAEL EL HINDI {EGY}
Nick Matthew has had two second round appearances so far in December,
losing
to the Willstrop steam train on both occasions. He’ll be glad to
see he
doesn’t have that draw in Saudi Arabia, but a first round match
up with the
moving wall El Hindi, followed by the newly crowned World Champion can’t
really be looked upon as a favourable draw. Nick will probably just glance
at it once and get on with getting the job done.

El
Hindi hasn’t gotten past the first round yet
this month, but has beaten
Matthew earlier this year.

4* AMR SHABANA {EGY} v. {Q7} Alex Gough
The
new world champ (for the second time) against the old guard who’s
having
a second wind. Shabana has reached the 2nd round, and won a tournament
so
far this month. Not one single player on the pro tour would mind that
kind
of inconsistency in their results.

Gough made the quarters in Qatar and lost in the first round in Hong
Kong.
An upset will be more difficult here.

These two have a head to head record of 1-1, but both matches were played
a
few years ago so it’s no great indicator of what to expect here.

This
quarter’s Quarters:

Pretty tough. On paper Beachill has a much easier run than the other
top
seed Shabana, but LJ can’t be discounted and is the most obvious
candidate
to cause an upset, despite being ranked lower than the others in the
top
half of this quarter. Shabana, Gough, El Hindi and Matthew is a tough
mix of
players. Two genuine contenders and two genuine seed beaters.

10* KARIM DARWISH {EGY} v. ONG BENG HEE {MAS}
This is what we look for in a first round match up. Much better. Two
former
World Junior Champions. Two former top 10 players edging closer to getting
back into that exclusive club. Both players have a best result so far
this
December of making the 2nd round. These two have played against each
other
five times, with Darwish’s victory earlier this year at the Pakistan
Open
edging him ahead.

Your
guess is as good as mine, but let’s go for
Bengy.

6*
DAVID PALMER {AUS} v. MOHAMMED ABBAS {EGY}
Palmer has been a rock of consistency this month, making the final of
both
tournaments. He has now been ranked #2 in Australia for two months in
a row,
for the first time in many years and he’ll want his old spot back.
He’s also
getting dangerously close to reclaiming the #1 spot, a position he held
for
four months in 2001 – a surprising statistic considering what a
dominant
force he has been in the game. It feels like he has been the top dog
for
longer than this and more recently.

Abbas
has gone out of both tournaments this month at the first hurdle. He’s
a great player but it will be a big surprise if he can cause the upset
he
needs to make the second round, particularly as Palmer has been resting
since Hong Kong, and he hasn’t beaten Palmer before.

15*
OLLI TUOMINEN {FIN} v. BANDARE ALOTAIBI {KSA}
Tuominen has made the 2nd round of both tournaments so far this month,
and
has the wildcard entrant to thank for doing it again here. By pure chance
the wildcard entrants usually go to one of the top 3 seeds, so it’s
nice to
see it land on the shoulders of a smaller fish.

The
Fin’s opponent will be the local lad who is
ranked 321 this month. He
didn’t participate in Qatar or Hong Kong, which is particularly
crazy seeing
as there were byes in the qualification round in Qatar – a very short
flight
away (VERY few PSA members can say they are a very short flight away
from
Qatar). He has been a member for exactly two months (obviously in time
for
this event) and will have a wonderful introduction to the top of the
game
care of a manic Scandinavian with a shaved head. If we could all be so
lucky
squash would be a more popular sport.

2*
JONATHON POWER {CAN} v. {Q8} Cameron Pilley
Power has had a pretty ordinary two tournaments considering his form
throughout this year. So you can probably expect him to win this tournament
to make up for it. Pilley was sick in Pakistan, which is not the kind
of
handicap you want prior to playing Power. That’s like doing a warm
up lap of
the marathon you’re about to run and wondering why you didn’t
do your best
time. Power has won both of their previous meetings.

This
quarter’s Quarters:

The top half of this quarter is really tough. On previous form Palmer
will
still cruise through it to meet Power. Anything other than that will
be
either injury related or a very newsworthy win against the books.

Interestingly the first and second round results in Hong Kong were extremely
unique, particularly compared to Qatar. Only one seed was upset in the
first
round, and that was by Stewart Boswell, which doesn’t really
count. Then the
top 8 seeds all made it through to the quarterfinals. It’s very
rare that
one of the qualifiers or players ranked 17-24 don’t get a single
victory
between them. It’s more likely to happen here for the simple reason
that the
qualifiers don’t go into the first round with a two-match handicap
imposed
upon them.

Kneipp’s
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