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of the 2005 Bermuda Masters


3 , 2005: by Dan and Joe Kneipp (kah-nipe)         

Masters Draw]
Daily live SquashTalk
starting Monday from Martin Bronstein in Hamilton Bermuda.

Champ Lee Beachill and David Palmer
at the ’04 Bermuda Event,  Photo © 2005 Fritz Borchert

The Bermuda
Masters begins on Monday. The format of the tournament is odd because
the seedings are always taken from the 1st of January, instead of
from the month directly before the tournament, meaning that the tournament
serves as a reward for 2004’s squash efforts for the best 31 players.
Because of this unique ranking format Peter Barker, and Laurnes Jan Anjema
both miss out on playing. They are ranked inside the top 31 now, but weren’t
on New Year’s day. Rodney Durbach (now ranked 33) and Shahier Razik
(now 42) are two players that benefit from this system

how the first round unfolds:


[1] Thierry Lincou (FRA) v Nicholas Kyme (BER)
Lincou, the current World Champ has been number one for the duration
of 2005, and has a substantial lead on the chasing group, ensuring that
he’ll hold the top spot for a few more months, regardless of who
wins this tournament. His opponent in the first round is the wildcard.
The wildcard was offered to the winner of the National title. There are
only two pro players in Bermuda, which is pretty impressive considering
the population is only around 65 000, and even more impressive when you
compare it to the per capita squash professionals of countries like Australia
(1 in every 500 000), England (1 in every million), and the United States
(1 in every 22 million).

Local Nick Kyme faced Peter Nicol
in last year’s
Bermuda Event,  Photo
© 2005 Fritz Borchert

Nicholas Kyme
won the title this year’s national title for the 6th time, and earned
the privilege of playing Lincou. Kyme is ranked 84 but has a career high
of 70. A player ranked 84 would never normally make the qualifying list
of a tournament this size, so the wild card issue is understandably contentious
when he’s replacing a player ranked 32 in the world, England’s
Peter Barker for this tournament. This issue always causes heated discussion,
but we think it is a very basic business decision. We need more big tournaments
on the world tour. Sponsors, promoters and media get a lot more out of
a tournament if there is a local representative. Although it’s difficult
for Barker, any tournament should be allowed to have a wild card to help
ensure the tournament is as successful as possible and more likely to
be held the following year.

ranking means that he doesn’t normally play in tournaments against
the top ranked players like Lincou (aside from events like the Commonwealth
Games or World Team Championships), but he did have the pleasure of playing
Nicol in last year’s tournament. He lost in three but the score
was respectable.

Amr Shabana (EGY) v Renan Lavigne (FRA)

the 2002 World Champ is sitting at his career high ranking of 5. He has
had a very consistent start to the year with two finals, a semi and a
quarter. Lavigne is ranked 24, where he has spent the majority of the
past 3 years, with the exception of a six-month stint in the high teens.

The only previous
encounter between these two was last year in Sweden.
Shabana won in straight games, but the first two were close. It would
be a very optimistic punter that put their money on Lavigne winning this

Jonathon Power (CAN) v Mark Chaloner (ENG)

Power and Chaloner faced off as
well in last year’s Bermuda Event,  Photo © 2005 Fritz

It has been
nearly four years since Power was number one. Although he has made the
final of three medium-sized tournaments recently, it has been three years
since he won an event of this size, with the extra matches and higher
calibre of players taking considerably more effort. No one doubts his
ability to continue winning, but how his injury-prone body handles five
opponents in five days is another story.

Chaloner is currently 27, but was in single figures three
years ago.
These two have played 7 times over the past five years including last
year’s Bermuda Open. Power has not only won all seven encounters
but has limited Chaloner to winning just two games off him during those
matches. On that record it would be a very brave punter who betted against

Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v Simon Parke (ENG)
#2 Gregory Gaultier spent the past 18 months ranked about 10. Parke is
currently 22, but spent a very long time in the top 10.

There are two matches in the top half of the draw where
an upset wouldn’t be particularly surprising or newsworthy. This
is one of them. Gaultier hasn’t played Parke in PSA before and can
expect some eye-opening retrievals, particularly as the match won’t
be on the all-glass court, therefore more bouncy and longer rallies.

David Palmer (AUS) v Paul Price (AUS)

Palmer has just gone back to #2 in the ranking and won the most recent
tournament – the Kuwait Open. Although his training base is Antwerp, on
paper he lives in Bermuda so he spends time training there and is a pseudo
local – something that probably helped him make the final of last year’s
Bermuda Open. Price was in the top 10 for a year, but is now 23, where
he has been for most of the past 3 years.

Although the only two meetings between Palmer and Price
in PSA were won by Price, they were over four years ago so a victory for
Price here would be a much bigger surprise.

John White (SCO) v Alex Gough (WAL)

For the past few months McWhitey has been ranked outside the top 10 for
the first time in four years. Gough is ranked 24, but has been in the
top 10.

Gough has beaten
McWhitey twice before, but both times were quite a while ago, with White
winning their most recent encounter, the 2002 British Open.
An upset here should be a little surprising, but part of McWhitey’s
talent is being able to play extremely low percentage, spectacular winners
and when they don’t work he can be his own worst enemy. A good example
of this is his past three PSA tournaments. One of them he won, the other
two he lost in the first round.

Nick Matthew (ENG) v Shahid Zaman (PAK)

Shabana and Matthew
in last year’s Bermuda Event,  Photo © 2005 Fritz Borchert

Nick Matthew
is currently ranked 9 and just coming up to a year of being ranked in
the top 10. Back injuries have forced him to retire from the last two
tournaments. Shahid Zaman is at a career best of 15 and recently replaced
Mansoor as the top ranked Pakistani player.

Of the 7 tournaments
he played last year, five of them were in Pakistan, but included victories
over Grant, Kneipp, Ryding and Darwish.

Matthew and
Shahid have played twice in PSA events, both in Pakistan and both ending
with Matthew as the victor.

Mohammed Abbas (EGY) v Ong Beng Hee (MAS)
strength of the Egyptian squash is emphasised by Abbas having spent the
past 18 months ranked in the top 20, but always being the 3rd ranked Egptian
player behing Shabana and Darwish. Ong Beng Hee is ranked 17 and has spent
the past 18 months bouncing around the teens and low twenties.

Theoretically on paper this is the most difficult draw
that Abbas could get (the highest ranked player outside the top 16) and
the easiest draw for Bengy (the lowest ranked player in the top 16). Given
a choice between playing Lincou, Palmer, Beachill or Abbas, Bengy is going
to be happy with his draw.

This is the
other match in the top half of the draw where it wouldn’t be surprising
who won. This is emphasised by Abbas now being ranked 19 and Bengy being
ranked 17, a reversal of the ranking from a few months ago, and that Bengy
has won three of their past four encounters.


[11] Anthony Ricketts (AUS) v Shahier Razik (CAN)

Anthony Ricketts
is currently ranked 7, and has just had his first major victory in New
York. Razik is ranked outside the 20s or 30s for the first time in two
years, sitting at 42 this month. Last month the Canadian won the Swiss
Open, putting an end to a six-month slump of first round losses. That
slump started back in Hungary last year when he played Ricketts in the
first round of the Hungarian Open, the only time these two have played.

James Willstrop (ENG) v Rodney Durbach (RSA)

Willstrop has been in the top 10 for four months, including
one month at 5, care of a tournament victory in Pakistan last year. Durbach
is in the same position as Razik – if the seedings for the tournament
were done this month, and not January, he wouldn’t qualify for the
event as he’s now sitting at 33. Fortunately for Durbach and Razik
(and unfortunately for players like Cameron Pilley, Joey Barrington, Davide
Bianchetti and others sitting around the low to mid 30s) the size of this
tournament means that simply qualifying for it and getting the first round
points helps keep you ahead of all the other players not ranked in the
top 31 on New Year’s day.

Of the three times Willstrop and Durbach have played each
other in PSA Durbach has won once, but that was back in 2002 when he was
the higher ranked player and Willstrop was still a junior. Their last
meeting was a few months ago which Willstrop won comfortably.

[14] Adrian Grant (ENG) v Mohd Azlan Iskandar (MAS) Grant
is currently ranked 16. This week he was overlooked for a place in the
English team for the European Championships, with the selectors giving
the nod to the slightly lower-ranked Simon Parke. There’s not a
single team in the world that wouldn’t be ecstatic at having such
a successful and experienced player as Parke sitting at #4 on the list,
but it’s still slightly surprising that this has happened at Grant’s
expense considering England’s selection process usually favouring
youth where possible to ensure long term success. This should be good
motivation for Grant.

Iskandar is currently ranked 18 and on the verge of overtaking
Ong Beng Hee as the highest ranked Malaysian player. He had some good
results last year with smaller tournaments, and now just needs to transfer
that to the bigger tournaments. As the seeded player Grant goes into this
match as the favourite, but not by much. They played each other last year
in the Hong Kong Open and German Open, with Grant winning both of them
in five close games. A victory for Grant in this match wouldn’t
be very surprising, an upset by Iskandar in this match wouldn’t
be very surprising.

Peter Nicol (ENG) v Wael El Hindi (EGY)

Nicol’s ranking is currently 4, his lowest ranking
in over seven years. El Hindi has spent most of the past four years ranked
in the 20s and 30s, and is currently 26. Although they have never played
each other in PSA, Nicol’s length and intensity should be too good
to allow El Hindi to play his blocking tactics successfully.

Joseph Kneipp (AUS) v Olli Tuominen (FIN)

Joe Kneipp facing winner Beachill
in last year’s Bermuda Event,  Photo © 2005 Fritz Borchert

Team Kneipp
is currently ranked 14, and have spent most of the past three years shuffling
between 14 and 10.

Olli has spent
most of that same time ranked in the 20s, and is currently 21. Whoever
gets Olli in the first round is usually in for a tough fight.

He’s a
player that can always cause trouble, but can struggle to do it consistently.
It’s something that he’s obviously overcoming as he has caused
an upset at every one of the past six tournaments that he has played,
including victories over Shabana, Darwish (twice), Kneipp (damn), White
and Beng Hee.

Everyone has
different ways of dealing with their upcoming opponent. Usually you steer
clear of each other, or if you’re good friends just try to go about
things normally. This situation is made more difficult when you go to
check in for your flight from Amsterdam to Bermuda and your opponent is
on the same plane. One of us is travelling a long way for just one squash
match and that can make boarding conversation more awkward.

Karim Darwish (EGY) v Dan Jenson (AUS)

Darwish at 12 is ranked out of the top 10 for the first time in a couple
of years, but he’s seeded 8 from the January ranking. Jenson is
ranked 20, where he has been for the past year or so.

Darwish has
lost four times in the last year in the first round. Jenson’s only
upset in the past six months was against Whitey in the recent Tournament
of Champions. Darwish has won all three of their encounters, but two of
them were in close five setters, so you never know what this match will

Graham Ryding (CAN) v Mansoor Zaman (PAK)

Ryding has spent
the past two years ranked in the teens, currently at 13.

Mansoor at 30
is not in the teens or 20s for the first time in a couple of years. Mansoor
is a shot maker and would sooner take a risk and try to pull off a big
winner than play gut-wrenching, down the wall squash, whereas Ryding plays
a better mix of percentage squash and attacking play. Ryding obviously
doesn’t have any trouble beating Mansoor, winning all three of their
encounters, although the last one in Pakistan in November he had to claw
his way back from a two-love deficit.

Lee Beachill (ENG) v Bradley Ball (ENG)

Beachill is the 2nd seed, currently ranked 3 in the world and the current
titleholder of the Bermuda Open. Ball is the last player into the tournament,
ranked 31 in January.

November 2003
is the last time that Beachill was beaten in the first round of a tournament.
Ball hasn’t had a victory over a top 10 player in a PSA event yet,
but his league results are getting more consistent and he’s capable
of hitting great winning, meaning this should be an entertaining match
to watch, although unlikely for an upset to occur.

We’ll see how
this all pans out tomorrow! Follow Martin
Bronstein’s reports
to see how our prediction worked out.

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