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> Euro Clubs 02 Sunday

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Club
Championships Results

Euro
Club – Team Zwolle’s Title Attempt

Sept
22, 2002 by Dan Kneipp (Kah-nipe)    
Aix
en Provence: Show Court
(photo©
2002 Dan Kneipp)

Team
Kneipp was at the European Club Champs (ECC)representing the Dutch team
Zwolle. For the first day and a half we had three pool matches with the
winning team of each four pools going into the semi finals and all of
the
remaining teams playing off for places five to fifteen. Our pool had Israel’s
Macabia Ireland’s Fitzwilliam Club and the bronze medallists from
last year, Germany’s Paderborn.

The strength of our team (or
lack thereof) meant that this tournament was
seen by our team as an enjoyable trip to the south of France with some

squash squeezed in between clay court tennis games and beers by the pool.

From a Team Kneipp perspective we had other motives for being there. Joe
has
a tournament in South Africa starting on the 16th of October. The next
ten
days will be the final training time we have leading up to the tournament,

as you can’t have intense training too close to the first round.
So we
intended to factor the ECC into our training schedule and ensure Joe got

some hard matches. We were delighted to find that we were in the same
pool
as Paderborn as it meant Joe would get to play Peter Nicol. There were
other
reasons that we were delighted with this match-up, but I’ll come
back to
that.

Four people play in each team,
but you’re only allowed one player who is not
European so Joe and I were unable to both play against the same team.
And
obviously if it’s a choice of which Kneipp to use as a bench warmer
it’s a
pretty simple decision. We played Israel first. Our number four dropped
a
game to a guy who had longer legs than most Olympic high jumpers with
a leg
span of a giraffe which is very handy when you’re scrambling around
a court,
but otherwise the team wasn’t bothered at all.

It was a similar situation
against Ireland’s Fitzwilliams club. Despite some
fervent and patriotic cheering from the supportive Irish women’s
team,
Zwolle won through comfortably. Which left only the anticipated match

against Duetschland. The match was scheduled to be played on one of the

dungeon courts. Over the years we have got into the habit of calling all

courts that don’t have a glass back a dungeon because of the difference

there usually is in light, air and atmosphere to a glass back court.

THE DUNGEON
The courts at Aix en Provence all had glass backs but they were dungeons
in
every sense of the word. Very low floors, very little room behind the
back
walls for viewing and an overwhelming damp and slightly mildewy smell
from
the lack of air circulating the courts and high humidity. When we saw
that
our match against Paderborn was scheduled to be on the dungeon courts
we
tried to get it moved to the show court. Not just for better viewing but

because of the court conditions. It’s considerably harder to hit
a winner on
a dungeon court compared to an all glass court. The extra humidity and

temperature make the ball much bouncier which leads to many long, monotonous

and painful rallies. Also the glass walls dampen the speed of the ball
more
than plaster walls so good shots are rewarded better. We were told a change

of venue was not an option.

Our number four Michael Vertogen lost a good match against
in straight games
which was counteracted by Lucas Buit’s straight game victory at
the number
three position. Paderborn won the number two match in straight games;
Tim
Garner over Janne Kytannen. Which meant Joe had to beat Nicol in three
for
the team to have any chance of progressing to the semi finals. By this
stage
the dungeon courts had begun working their magic. The humidity and
temperature was so high on the court that sweat dripping from players
was
not drying up or evaporating, meaning the court was getting progressively

wetter and wetter particularly at the back. At one stage they had a vacuum

cleaner and then a hair dryer on court trying to suck up and blow the

moisture away. A slippery floor is the easiest way to do a squash injury
so
players were seeing if other courts were better. Eventually Joe and Nicol’s

game got moved to the show court to solve the problem.

Aix
en Provence: Peter Nicol
 

There were other reasons that
we were excited to be playing Nicol. Their match in Hong Kong last month
was disappointingly cut short by a bizarre knee problem of Joe’s.
Nicol won the first two games then Joe won the third
before it was 8-8 and Joe moved awkwardly locking his knee up and forcing
him to retire. Jonathon Power was the only other player to take a game
of Nicol in Hong Kong so we were disappointed to not finish the match
and see if Joe could win. We saw France as a chance to make amends, and
have a tough training match in the process.

The first game started with the usual intensity between
these two. Lots of
spectacular retrievals and amazing shots with Nicol taking the first game

advantage. This meant that even if Joe won the match in four from this

point, our team had lost and the rest of his encounter with Nicol was
a dead
rubber. One of Nicol’s German team mates came over and asked if
we wanted to
play best of three instead of five. This is fairly common for dead rubbers

and as I learnt there are tacit rules governing the etiquette of this

situation. As Nicol’s team had won he would have a match against
Stewart
Boswell in about four hours. So his main objective from this point was
to
conserve as much energy as possible. The best way to do this is to only
have
to win two games instead of three.

There were lots of reasons that we didn’t want to
play best of three.
Firstly and most importantly our training requirements are that we want
Joe
to have the hardest and longest game possible. The last match between
the
two of them was finished under crappy circumstances so finishing a game

properly was important. In that match Nicol won the first two games so
if
the same pattern happened in this match we wouldn’t know if Joe
would be
strong enough to take the third game. Nicol was looking out for his best

interests by asking to play best of three, we were looking after ours
by
saying no thanks.

As Martin Heath pointed out to us at least eight times
that evening there’s
an unspoken rule that Joe had to play best of three. Nicol played the
second
game at maximum intensity and won it, then dropped down a gear for the
rest
of the match once he had established that if it had been best of three
he
would have won. He went for as many nicks as he could (and got heaps of

them) and mostly tried guessing Joe’s shots to finish the rallies
quickly.
Occasionally they had proper rallies that showed the level these two play

at, including the start of the fifth, but Nicol was obviously disappointed

to still be on court and he gave away the final three games.

I was told later that evening that the inappropriateness
of the decision was
because Nicol is obviously going to conserve his energy therefore it’s
a
shallow and cheap victory for Joe to play at one hundred percent to get
a
win. I pointed out to numerous people including Peter that merely being
able
to say "We won the match" was never the aim and if we knew he
wasn’t going
to play at top pace we would obviously (begrudgingly) accepted best of

three. I have to say that while I understand the concept and the etiquette

involved, it doesn’t seem that unreasonable to want a tough match.
By
playing best of three we consider Nicol’s position and help his
team out. By
playing best of five we look after our own interests. We would actually
do
Boswell’s team a disservice by not playing the hardest match possible.
We
don’t know how hard he has played to reach the final. One of the
things I
love about the pool matches in the soccer world cup is that in the final

pool games teams that have already been eliminated have the chance to

eliminate teams that are still ‘alive’. They have no personal
gain from the
victory, but have no reason to roll over and give a team an easier run
.So
why does it make sense in the squash world to do a ‘favour’
to the team that
just beat you? But this wasn’t the reason we continued. Even at
team events
squash is an individual sport and if you don’t look out for yourself
no one
will look out for you.

But if we have stood on some toes by making this decision
it was
unintentional and if the situation arises again we’ll consider doing
some
ghosting instead and avoid the whole kerfuffle. Ironically Nicol’s
match in
the evening against Boswell was also a dead rubber (Germany lost) and
they
played best of three, Nicol won the first game and Boswell won the next
two
and the match, so the whole situation was academic anyway.

Our loss saw us move into the playoff for positions five
to eight. Against
Scotland it was time to retire the older Kneipp and bring in the younger
and
fresher version, even if it was at number three in the team. I would have

said that it was a lovely role reversal to have Joe watching my game and

giving the advice and coaching, except that he couldn’t help himself
and
went to try to round up the biggest audience he could get for my match.
It
would be nice to think the motive of this may have been confidence in
my
ability to win and urge to share my awesome court coverage and racquet

skills with everyone but I’m worried this may be incorrect. Nevertheless

pretty quickly he had Joe White and Sarah Fitz-Gerald sitting behind my

court waiting to watch my match. He also convinced Paul Walters to check
out
my form. Paul is in charge of Dunlop international and sponsors Team Kneipp.

I began to worry that I may be facing the squash equivalent of a job
interview and a poor match could leave me using hire racquets. I was saved

by some more court dilemmas that led to delays and court reschuduling
and
meant that Sarah and Whitey had to be on court themselves so my celebrity

gallery was dispersed. Which of course meant that I played great squash
and
won fairly comfortably in three with no spectators except the Scottish
team
management decked out in their kilts and sporen. Typical.

Kneipp’s
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