Monday 22nd ... the Day Before
Safely in the Beach
No, not the beach on the glass court, that's now complete with a
perfectly level floor, but the players have all been transported
to their Cabanas (Chalets) in the Sunset Beach resort.
Until now they've been staying at the Dhahran Hotel, some 20
minutes away by car, but now they're in their own little houses
right on the beach, just a couple of minutes' walk from the
Sports Centre where all the action starts tomorrow.
Yes, there are golf buggies, mainly for the staff to get around
on as the resort goes about its daily business, but everything,
including the restaurants and entertainment areas are so close
everything's within an easy walk.
It's one final bus trip tonight though, as everyone goes out to
the Heritage Village for the official reception …
photos in the Gallery (story in
Blowing cold …
No, not a turn in the weather – if anything it's getting hotter.
Ziad was getting a little concerned about the heat and humidity
for the players on the glass court, so instead of four puny
little air-conditioning units, 24 industrial-strength ones have
just been delivered (between them they pump out 120 BTu!).
They've still got a job on their hands mind you, as the sports
centre is essentially an outdoor facility, but it can only help
Practice makes perfect …
though there's only one round to play on the 'inside' courts
this year, the players are busy practicing on the traditional
"For once I think I'm actually looking forward to playing on
normal – air-conditioned – courts," said David Palmer!
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withdrawal is a
stroke of luck for Jonny ...
Eighth seed John White was
forced to withdraw injured today, opening the way for 'lucky loser'
Jon Harford to make an unexpected appearance in the main draw.
Wael El Hindi moves up to eighth seed, taking White's place against
Borja Golan while Ong Beng Hee, 17th in the list, becomes 16th seed and
moves to El Hindi's vacated position to play Hisham Ashour.
Harford, currently in Germany, managed to find a flight to Bahrain to
get here in time to play British Open champion Gregory Gaultier in
Tuesday's first round, and whether he wins or not the world number 59 is
sure to get a rankings boost from his appearance in Saudi ...
Preparations continue ...
Getting there ...
day of preparation in Sunset Beach, and the court is nearly
there. A few furrowed brows from courtbuilders Hadi and Rudi as
some of the components came out of their storage cases in less
than perfect condition, but they looked happy at the end of the
day so everything must be there ...
At one point it looked as though we would be playing Beach
Squash, but it turned out that before laying the glass floor an
eight-centimeter hollow in the sports centre floor needed to be
levelled with sand - of which there's no shortage here of
So, with two days to go the seating is ready and the court is
getting close ...
19-Oct: A hive of Activity ...
Cubbins in Al Khobar
Arriving in Saudi after a travel
that took a few minutes short of 24 hours door-to-door (Whitley
Bay - Newcastle - Paris - Dubai - Bahrain - Saudi), and a few
changes from last year's event are immediately noticeable.
First up is the weather. You may remember that last year (in
December) it poured with rain for three days, the spectators all
wore overcoats and the players were steaming on court like pack
of rugby forwards. Ok those conditions were exceptional, but
now, two months earlier (or ten months later I suppose), what a
in Dubai at midnight it was 29 degrees, at Bahrain at 02.30 it
was 28 degrees, and here today in Al Khobar it's been all of
that and more, and humid too.
Then there's the court. It's still in the same Sport Centre in
the same Sunset Beach holiday resort, but it's been turned
through 180 degrees and instead of the custom-built seating the
more traditional stands are being erected, with seating on both
side walls, something that hasn't been done in the previous two
VIPs are well catered for, with plush leather office-style seats
in prime position, and a special women's VIP area too (not too
sure where the referees are going to sit, but we'll cross that
bridge in a couple of days' time ...)
Hadi and Rudi - the venue controller and ASB engineer - and
their teams beavering away, the sports centre was a hive of
activity, and it all looks well on its way to being ready for
the first match and opening ceremony on the evening of the 23rd.
The squash will be spectacular of course, with literally all the
world's best here, and all keen to bag the $31,000 winner's
cheque, the biggest purse in the history of squash ...