Saudi International Squash Tournament   


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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 the morning)...

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

Even though there's only one round to play on the 'inside' courts this year, the players are busy practicing on the traditional courts.

"For once I think I'm actually looking forward to playing on normal air-conditioned courts," said David Palmer!

Full Preview Story

White 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  ...

20-Oct: Preparations continue ...

Getting there ...

Another 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 course!

So, with two days to go the seating is ready and the court is getting close ... enjoy the slideshow

Preparation Gallery & Slideshow      Standard Gallery

19-Oct: A hive of Activity ...              Steve 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 change.

Landing 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 editions.

The 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 ...)

With 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 ...

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