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World
Open: Top Half Preview

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

[ See
also preview of bottom half of the draw
]

Matthews

Jonathon Power is a world open
titleholder.  Photo © 2005
Fritz Borchert

The
World Open has been held 26 or 34 titles, depending on whether you
count the World Amateur Individual Title, the event that proceded the
World Open while professionalism was still an issue. Working off the
combined total, there have been 15 men who have won the trophy. Nearly
two thirds of these victories have been won by just three men – Jahangir
(8), Jansher (8) and Geoff Hunt (6).

Five men in the draw (Lincou, Shabana, Palmer, Nicol and Power) have
won the event before, making it reasonably likely that for the first
time since Jansher in 1996 the champion will have already held the trophy
aloft.

Top
Half of the draw:
1*
THIERRY LINCOU versus WAEL EL HINDI

Lincou
is the current champion and world #1 and should go into the tournament
as favourite, but with such a strong field there are about six other
guys who would enter the tournament will similar odds to Lincou. It
will be interesting to see whether being the reigning champion works
as an extra motivation, or creates pressure for him. Don’t forget that
last year Lincou was champion and the year before he lost in the final.
It’s that consistency that has him ranked #1.

Matthews

Lincou and Palmer are both World
Open titleholders
. Palmer beat Lincou
last week in Qatar  Photo © 2005
Fritz Borchert

Lincou
won’t be happy with his draw. In theory he has fellow Frenchman
Gaultier in the 2nd round. He hasn’t lost to him in a PSA event
before but that won’t make the task any easier. Lurking as a potential
quarterfinal opponent is Peter Nicol, the player that Lincou has the
most difficulty beating.

Before
any of those encounters Lincou has to get past #21 El Hindi, a player
that you can bet the family farm won’t be the star of
the tournament, but could be one of the many supporting actors who shine
briefly. Lincou can’t afford to come out of the blocks slowly against
a player like El Hindi, something Lincou is notorious for in early rounds.
These two have never played before in a PSA match. Lincou is in for a
treat.

10*
GREGORY GAULTIER plays Qualifier 1
Gaultier
is currently ranked 12 and won’t be pleased
either that in theory he has Lincou in the second round. He beat Shabana
in the 2nd round of the Qatar Classic and was 2-1 up against Palmer
in the quarters. This result will probably provide him a nice mixture
of confidence from a good result, and rest from not playing too many
rounds.

6*
PETER NICOL versus ADRIAN GRANT
Peter
Nicol’s slow slip down the ranking (currently 7) won’t
be helped for December’s ranking by his 2nd round defeat in Qatar
at the hands of White.

The
early loss in Qatar is more likely to motivate him in Hong Kong. To
give you an idea of how well Nicol has performed over the past decade,
here are his World Open results:

94 – semis (lost to Marshall)
96 – semis (lost to Jansher)
97 – final (lost to Eyles)
98 – final (lost to Power)
99 – winner (beat Barada)
02 – semis (lost to White)
03 – 2nd round (lost to Bianchetti)
04 – quarters (lost to Ryding)

Obviously
there’s no one in the field that he hasn’t beaten
at some stage (not counting the youngsters who haven’t had the
opportunity to get beaten yet), but given a hypothetical seeding option
he’d probably prefer a quarter final match against Lincou than
Gaultier. Before that happens he’ll need to get past countryman
Adrian Grant, currently ranked 18. You’d be forgiven for thinking
that was a formality, especially considering that Grant hasn’t
beaten a top ten player this year. But… last year this tournament
wasn’t the World Open – just the Hong Kong Open (still a
major though) and in the second round Grant beat Nicol in a tough five
setter. That memory will surely encourage a few extra court sprints from
Grant.

16*
SHAHID ZAMAN plays Qualifier 2

Shahid
is currently ranked 16, but that ranking is propped up by a steady
stream of medium sized tournaments in Pakistan. He has won only one
match outside of his home country this year. This statistic didn’t
change in Qatar where he was downed by qualifier Davide Bianchetti.

4*
LEE BEACHILL versus JOSEPH KNEIPP
World
# 5 Lee Beachill is the 2nd player that needs to be noted as an obvious
favourite for this tournament. He did badly in Qatar, losing to a rejuvenated
Alex Gough and is quick to point out that he’s
sick of traveling, but these things will fade away quickly once he steps
on court for such an important event. He was the runner up at last year’s
World Open and joins John White in a very prestigious but slightly unfortunate
club of men who have served for World Open Championship point and not
taken the silverware home.

Meneer Kneipp lost to Power in the first round in Qatar, but the level
of squash was better than it has been lately and things are getting back
on track after a slump.

This
is the third time in three years that Beachill and Kneipp have played
each other in the World Open. In 2003 in Pakistan we met in the quarterfinals
and I won a tough five setter. Last year we met in the second round.
Beachill won that in straight games. So surely that means it’s
my turn to win again. Right?

11*
JOHN WHITE plays Qualifier 3
John
White has had very mixed results for the past few World Opens. He was
runner up in 2002, lost in the 3rd round in 2003 and the first round
last year. He was in great form in Qatar and can’t
be excluded from the list of possible winners.

5*
AMR SHABANA plays Qualifier 4
Shabana
is another of the previous World Champions in the draw. He is the only
World Champion that hasn’t bolstered
that title with the #1 ranking.

This
statistic highlights the erratic nature of Shabana’s results,
but his current career high ranking of four, and the three tournament
victories in a row in September and October that included wins over Ricketts,
Willstop, Gaultier, Darwish and Palmer indicates he has solved that problem.
Shabana will be happy with this draw.

15*
OLLI TUOMINEN plays Qualifier 5
Tuominen
has had a very consistent twelve months and has finally secured himself
in the top 16. He usually does well in the World Open. Last year he
beat White in the first round and then lost a five setter against Anthony
Ricketts. In 2003 he made the 3rd round against the seedings. Providing
he doesn’t get the Super Qualify he shouldn’t
have any problems making the 2nd round. Like Shabana he will be happy
with this draw. The reason they will both be happy (not knowing who
their qualifier opponent is yet and presuming they get past that first
hurdle) is Shabana would probably rather play Olli than Gaultier, Matthew,
Darwish or White. Olli will be happy because he has beaten Shabana
two of the four times they have played.

[ See preview of bottom half of the draw ]

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