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Talk: A Gripping Final

Ryan Barnett Reporting November 21, 2003, From Toronto;

© 2003 Squashtalk, all rights of reproduction reserved.

see Martin Bronstein’s report]


The local media previewed Thursday’s Jonathon Power versus David Palmer
final as having the potential to be "an Ugly Pig Fight." Well
Toronto is after all known as Hog Town so I guess you could see where
they were going with this. For the 550+ spectators jam packed into BCE
Place for the 2003 Pace Credit Union Canadian Squash Classic a fight is
not what broke out. This one was an all-out war!

those in attendance it was one of those matches that years from now will
be brought up in conversation as, Remember that Power versus Palmer 5
gamer in Toronto? If you were fortunate enough to have been there you’ll
nod, smile and reminisce about probably one of the most exciting and perhaps
physical squash matches ever played in the Great White North. It was that

No quarter asked, none given. This one had all the drama, all the athleticism,
all the theatrics, and the local guy came out on top to boot. World number
three David Palmer played with the heart of a lion. Canadian favorite
and defending tournament champion Jonathon Power played like a man ready
to make a serious run back to the top of the PSA rankings.

Let’s start with the score line: 15-4, 12-15, 15-8, 10-15, 15-12

This was a match of momentum. Power arrives on court for the opener, the
crowd goes wild, he gets pumped and is into it immediately. He jumps out
5-0 and really never looks back. He wins easily 15-4. Nothing really epic
about this first game except for Power’s play. In a season that until
recently, "Has not been that great as I haven’t won as many tournaments
as I should have," Power served notice that his whole repertoire
of shots and the speed at which he plays the game were going to be on
full display.


David Palmer has been playing all week with a cracked rib, taking physical
therapy every day and then gutting it out and earning the wins. Power
knew this but was cautious. When I asked him about playing the wounded
Aussie Power’s response was, "He doesn’t appear that wounded to me.
He’s won every match 3-0, he hasn’t dropped a game the entire tournament.
I’m not taking anything for granted."

After the 15-4 first
game drubbing many figured that Palmer was done and just couldn’t compete
because of the injury and Power’s stellar form. The gentleman sitting
beside me commented "Palmer’s finished. Two more games and then I’ll
buy you a beer." As things turned out it would be quite awhile before
we made it to the lounge.

In the second game it was Palmer’s turn to jump out 5-0. Power rallies
to even the score but commits numerous errors, coupled with some questionable
decisions from referee Mike Riley and never holds the lead this game.
Palmer shows that he is still able to take his game to a higher level
and has made some adjustments. Great squash on display. Some unbelievable
gets from both players see the crowd cheer and applaud. Palmer stretches
things to 13-8 thanks to a pair of No-Let decisions against Power, three
strokes, and three Power forced-pressure-errors. He takes the second 15-12
and we now have a best of three.

I would have loved to have overheard what coach Mike Way said to Power.
Observing from 15 feet away I could see the passion in his delivery but
couldn’t hear the words. This third game was punctuated by decisions (31
by my count) and saw the physical side of the pro game surface. The squash
was all out attacking as both players were hitting with pace and spraying
the ball all over the court. There were two nasty mid-court collisions
between the players and both times Palmer got up and favored his calf.
When asked about this after the game Palmer replied "I really felt
that I was disadvantaged by the way he plays. How many times did he knock
me over. He was playing the man and not the ball."

Power who has seen
opponents constantly block him this tournament, trying to prevent him
from getting any time on the ball, said simply, "I was taking a direct
path to the ball. This game was a physical battle, it was tough and there
was a lot of running involved. Unfortunately sometimes, if a player doesn’t
clear there’s contact." Power takes the critical third game 15-8
as Palmer shows more and more signs that things are not right as he is
constantly stretching and occasionally grimacing in pain. I begin to think
beer time is coming soon and tell buddy to save me a seat as I have to
get some sound-bites prior to joining him.

More player contact continues and a nasty collision punctuates the early
stages of the fourth game and has Palmer grabbing his side. He moves around
then punches the front wall in frustration. After the floor of the court
is toweled referee Riley says "Let."

Palmer can’t believe
it and argues.

Riley issues a Conduct

The players continue
their display of athleticism as every ball appears gettable especially
in Riley’s eyes as strokes are not easily given and when he says "Let"
both players are shaking their heads and arguing. The crowd is openly
disagreeing as well letting their displeasure be known. The score see-saws
back and forth and we’re tied 6-6. The ball bounces Palmer’s way in this
game as he gains a 13-9 advantage. More contact between players and the
court is once again toweled. Palmer ensures everyone receives full value
on this night as he smacks some absolutely beautiful winners with his
forehand to win 15-10 and we now have a best of one!

This fifth game really made the whole entire tournament. What better way
to end things then have it go down to the wire? As the players take the
court the crowd begins clapping as one and vocally issuing their support
for Power. It’s point for point to 4-4. Palmer receives a stroke to get
to 5-4 and Power can’t believe it screaming "You are insane!"
at referee Riley. I warned Riley earlier in the week about Power’s vocal
attack and he was getting it with both barrels now. "Conduct stroke"
is the reply and Palmer has a two point advantage. Power fights back and
levels at 6.

There are plenty
of unforced errors this game but considering it’s game #5 I’m amazed that
the pace is still what it is. It’s absolutely blistering! At 9-9 Power
makes a run and establishes the first three point advantage of the game.

This next point is
huge. Both players know it and we have the rally of the match. All four
corners of the court are visited more than once by each player as this
is one serious, serious, exchange. Palmer has an opening, tries to feather
in the drop and by the slightest of margins clips the tin. Power has the
13-9 cushion. The players exchange points and at 14-10 it’s all but over.
Palmer saves two match balls to provide even more drama … however Power’s
backhand is there when he needs it most as he puts an exclamation mark
on this match nicking out with the drop. The crowd rise and salute both
players with a standing ovation that lasts a good two minutes.

For the third time in four years Power claims the Canadian Classic title.
He says, " I would say that I played pretty well. My game is right
where I want it to be. I want to remain consistent for the final two events
this year and if that happens I can say that it was a good year."

When asked if he thought Palmer was injured, Power said "I could
tell that he was hurting so I was trying to make him dig and turn. I was
really trying to make him work, stretch out for the ball. I was trying
to keep the pressure on him and when I was able to do that he was making
mistakes. That’s squash."

A dejected Palmer said, "I’m disappointed to lose but considering
the problem with my ribs and because of that I wasn’t able to play at
100% of my ability I’m happy with the way I played."

In the lounge it was standing room only. I spotted tournament director
John Nimick who couldn’t have scripted things any better then the way
they unfolded this week. Nimick said, "Considering this was the year
of transition I’m very pleased with how things have gone. We’re going
to break even. We sold 105% of the tickets available (meaning not only
was the standing area full but so were the bleacher aisles) for the quarters,
semis and tonite’s final. The Pace Credit Union Canadian Squash Classic
was a success and our tournament has really positioned itself to now go
forward again into the upper elite ranks of the PSA world tour. Our goal
for next year is to get ourselves back to the top 8 within the PSA tour.
Probably within a year or two shoot for the tournament to evolve into
a Super series event. Having Jonathon come through once again for all
the squash fans in Toronto and defend his title was fabulous. It was an
amazing final."

The event will continue for the next two years as Pace has signed a 3
year deal. This was an outstanding event. First class all the way.