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The
Kneipps Preview Qatar: Top Half

[ also see "bottom half" preview]

November
20, 2005:
by Team Kneipp (kah-nipe)         

Qatar Classic Preview
Top Half
By Team Kneipp

Two
months of globe trotting squash madness begins this week with the Qatar
Classic. Here’s how the top half of the first
round pans out in our opinion.

1*
THIERRY LINCOU plays Qualifier 1

14*
GRAHAM RYDING versus ONG BENG HEE

Ryding is currently ranked 13, with a career high of 10. He finished
last
year off with some great results, but has had a less spectacular 2005.
Beng
Hee is currently ranked 17, but has been as high as 7. He has just won
the
Malaysian Open, beating countryman Iskandar along the way. Beng Hee has
had
a tough two years as he has corrected some technique problems and unlearnt
coaching that he found detrimental. During this period his ranking took
a
dive and he says he was startled at how much grief some of the Malaysian
media gave him. His victory over Iskandar who is now the #1 ranked Malaysia
should hopefully halt some of that, but has taught him a lesson he didn’t
want to learn.

Beng Hee

Beng Hee: Just took the Malaysian
Open  Photo © 2005 Fritz Borchert

Both Ryding and Beng Hee have had mixed first round success throughout
the
year. Ryding has lost three of his first round matches in the bigger
tournaments this year, while Beng Hee has lost two. Ryding and Beng Hee
have played each other twice in PSA events, Beng Hee won in 2002 and
Ryding won
in 2003.

This
should be a close match and could go either way. We’ll
be very surprised if it’s not decided in at least four (probably
five) games.

6*
PETER NICOL versus ALI ALRAMEZI
Nicol
is ranked 7 this month. Last time his ranking was this low there was a
bloke called Jansher and a bloke called Jahangir who were doing a reasonably
good job of playing professional squash.

Alramezi
has been a PSA member for less than a year and is ranked 183. He enters
the main draw via a local wild card position, but strangely he’s
from Kuwait and not Qatar. To make it even stranger he didn’t receive
the wild card at this year’s Kuwait Open, instead gaining entry
into the qualification draw as a local. We’ll try to get to the
bottom of this one.

Speaking
of locals there’s no players with a Qatar
passport playing this tournament and six byes in the qualification
first round. Where are the locals and are there so many big tournaments
that there’s no hungry international qualifiers willing to risk
the price of a ticket to Qatar on the hope of making the main draw?

Nicol’s
only first round loss this year was to Laurnens Jan Anjema in Chicago
at the beginning of the year. Only an injury could prevent him making
the second round here.

11*
JOHN WHITE versus MANSOOR ZAMAN

White

White looks to advance.  Photo © 2005
Debra Tessier.

White
is current ranked 9, and has a brief career high last year of #1. Mansoor
is ranked 23 with his career best 11 being over two years ago. Mansoor’s
ranking went out to the 30s earlier this year. He has going in the right
direction again, but that’s mainly aided by decent results
in the medium sized Pakistan tournaments because he hasn’t won
a single match this year away from home soil. The past record between
these two indicates the Qatar Classic isn’t going to be the tournament
to change that pattern. White has beaten Mansoor once a year for the
past three years with the most recent victory coming in August at this
year’s English Open, the
only time Mansoor got a game.

3*
DAVID PALMER plays Qualifier 2

9*
KARIM DARWISH versus MOHAMMED ABBAS
Darwish
is currently ranked 10. He has been as high as 7, two years ago but has
spent most of this year swapping places with Gaultier for who is ranked
11 and who is ranked 12. Like Gaultier he’s obviously successfully
sustaining a very high ranking, but is stagnant and needs to change areas
to break through to the next level.

Abbas is ranked 19 and had a career high of 15 in December last year.

Darwish’s
only first round loss this year was against Olli Tuominen, whereas
Abbas has lost four, two against the seeding. Darwish has beaten Abbas
five out of their seven encounters, with Abbas’ only victories
coming on home soil. Both of those tournaments were over four years ago
so it will a surprise if Abbas can make it through to the last sixteen.

5*
AMR SHABANA plays Qualifier 3

10*
GREGORY GAULTIER verus PETER BARKER

White

Peter Barker .  Photo © 2005
Fritz Borchert.

Gaultier
is currently ranked 12. He’s either comfortable
at this ranking and
not driven enough to break through to the next level (very unlikely),
reached his peak (also very unlikely) or in need of something to take
his
game to the next level. For the past two years he has been ranked between
10
and 12, with the exception of a one-month peak at 9. Obviously he’s
doing
something very successful and consistent to sustain this level (we’d
happily be ranked back there again), but has to re-evaluate his training
or game plan to look at why things are stagnant.

Barker is ranked 22, one place off his career high of last month. We
played
him a couple of weeks ago in a Dutch Eredivisie league match. He was
very
eager to volley, played great deceptive winners and was so hungry for
the
win. He chased every ball down like he was serving 10-9 in the fifth
game of
the World Open final. If he can take the same game onto the Doha court
Gaultier will have his work cut out for him.

Gaultier
has only played four tournaments this year so far, but hasn’t
lost in the first round of any of them. Barker’s only first round
loss this year was to Ryding at last month’s British Open. You
can’t keep
winning first round matches and not get your ranking into the top 16.

Gaultier
and Barker haven’t played in a PSA tournament
yet. Gaultier is the
safe bet, but Barker would be a good outside bet to risk.

Kneipp’s
SquashTalk Forum

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