Round Two

Saudi International Squash Tournament   


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TODAY at the Saudi International 2007:
Steve Cubbins in Al-Khobar ...

Thursday 25th, Round Two, Part Two:  

Round Two, Bottom Half:

[6] James Willstrop (Eng) bt [11] Lee Beachill (Eng)
       11/4, 11/6, 11/4 (38m)
[4] Gregory Gaultier (Fra) bt [14] Peter Barker (Eng)
       11/7, 11/4, 11/7 (49m)

[2] Ramy Ashour (Egy) bt [16] Ong Beng Hee (Mas)
       11/9, 10/12, 11/6, 11/5 (63m)
[15] Olli Tuominen (Fin) bt [8] Wael El Hindi (Egy)
       11/7, 11/6, 13/11 (61m)

Quarter-final lineup complete

The second day of round two action saw four contrasting matches and one upset. James Willstrop reduced his head-to-head deficit against Pontefract team-mate Lee Beachill, with Lee struggling with his movement throughout. Gregory Gaultier put in an assured performance to beat Peter Barker, and will meet Willstrop tomorrow.

Crowd favourite Ramy Ashour didn't disappoint in the end, but Ong Beng kept the Egyptian fans quiet for two thirds of the match before Ramy worked out what to do. Great determination saw Olli Tuominen battle through to the quarters in a tussle against Wael El Hindi that didn't have much for the purists to appreciate.

Photo Galleries

[6] James Willstrop (Eng) bt [11] Lee Beachill (Eng)
       11/4, 11/6, 11/4 (38m)

Willstrop dominates

James Willstrop won the first match of the evening, beating his Pontefract clubmate Lee Beachill in straight games. With Beachill making some uncharacteristic mistakes at the start, Willstrop soon took control, and apart from the early stages of the second never relinquished it.

By the third game it was clear that Beachill's movement was troubling him as the former world number one started going for winners from unlikely positions. Willstrop was soon 7/1, then 10/2 up, and not long after he was in the quarter-finals ...

"I started off pretty poorly, I've been a bit restricted all week and he took full advantage of it and kept on top. If you haven't got 100% movement you've got no chance against these guys.

"I've beaten James enough times when he's not been quite right, so today it was his turn. If I had to lose against anyone I'm glad it's him "

"It's not the easiest or most enjoyable matches to play, although it's always fair game, but you just have to get on with it. Lee wasn't moving so fluently, you could see it wasn't there but he hung in well and made it hard for two games before he dropped off in the third.

I just had to concentrate and be strong, I performed as well as I had to and played some pretty decent squash. He's done that to me so many times, so I'm not going to get embarrassed to get one back.

[4] Gregory Gaultier (Fra) bt [14] Peter Barker (Eng)
       11/7, 11/4, 11/7 (49m)

Gaultier in control

From the outset of the second match it was Frenchman Gregory Gaultier who assumed control. Dominating the 'T', moving effortlessly and punching the ball to all corners, the British Open champion forced Peter Barker to do the bulk of the work, and forced him out of position to open the court for some lovely flicked winners.

Gaultier pulled away from 5/4 in the first, dominated the second after a 6/0 start, and held firm as Barker mounted a final challenge, keeping the third level up to 6-all. But there was to be no denying Greg tonight ...

"I've played him twice this year, he fights for all the points and is a good defender so you have to make your shots count and that worked for me today.

"I just tried to keep the same rhythm the whole game, trying to play just a little faster than him. I got a few points ahead each time and that was it

"It's very humid and hot, there was a lot of sweat in the back so we slipped there occasionally when at full stretch, you just needed to be a bit careful.

"Winning the British Open was a huge thing for me, it's one of my main targets. With Thierry already having won the world championship and been number one, it was nice to be the first to get something for France.

"But you can't afford to dwell on it too long, now I try to stay focussed on my upcoming matches and events "

[2] Ramy Ashour (Egy) bt [16] Ong Beng Hee (Mas)
       11/9, 10/12, 11/6, 11/5 (63m)

Ramy - slowly but surely

There was no doubting who the crowd favoured in this match - "Ramy, Raaaaamy" chanted the crowd as their hero came onto court. An hour later they were chanting his name again, but for for the first half an hour they were worried.

Ong Beng Hee matched Ramy for two games - more than matched him, he could easily have been two games up. We didn't see the Ramy of the flashing winner, the Ramy of the lightning speed - instead Beng Hee engaged him in game reminiscent of the Grinhams - flick, boast, lob, drop, drop, drop, lob ...  They might have hit the ball four times down the same wall once or twice, but you get the idea.

Trouble is, Ramy is a quick learner. He is lightning fast into the front, and amazingly accurate once he's there, and by the third game he'd worked out how to play - and beat - Bengy at his own game.

Ramy dominated the last two, the crowd were happy, and Ramy had ticked another "how to" box ...

"That was very tough, this is a special day.

"I expected him to play faster than me but he slowed it down, slowed it down, I wasn't expecting that , I wasn't expecting that at all.

"I had to just keep playing my way and learn to cope with what he was doing. I learned a lot from that game today, a lot "

"I had my chances. At 9-all in the first, two easy shots into the tin. It's difficult to play someone as good as him, and if he gives you chances you have to take them.

"In the third and fourth he was just too good, I lost my length a little and it was all downhill from there.

"He's so fast, there's two ways you can play him faster than him, or play your own game and hope he crumbles. He nearly did, but he's very confident at the moment and all credit to him, he was too sharp today "

[15] Olli Tuominen (Fin) bt [8] Wael El Hindi (Egy)
       11/7, 11/6, 13/11 (61m)

Olli wins one of those ...

I'm not qualified to judge what's going on in some matches, and this was one of them. Three games, 61 minutes, 75 decisions.

I took up position behind the front wall at 5-all in the third and within a few rallies I had more close-encounter shots than I'd managed in the previous seven matches.

It never got nasty, not even argumentative, but they seemed to get in each others way rather a lot ... the court cleaners were very busy ... there was no flow, no pattern ...

In short, it was one of those matches.

In the end it was Olli's determination that saw him through. 6-all in the first became 11/7. 6-all in the second became 11/6. From 8-9 in the third there were 25 decisions required of the referees before Olli finally closed it out 13/11.

I have a hunch the spectators were glad it was over in three ...
You can see that Olli was .........

"I'm happy to win, but not happy to play squash is usually fun, but

"You just have to live with it, try to keep your concentration and keep to your game. You don't get that tired when you play him, it's all start and stop. At the moment you just have to live with it because no-one's doing anything about it "

Wednesday 24th, Round Two, Part One:

Quarter-final places up for
grabs in Al-Khobar ... 

After a hectic opening day with sixteen matches and one upset, round two saw just four matches on the glass court as the top half of the draw battled it out for quarter-final places.

No seeding upsets, but four quality matches with the defending champion making what looked an unlikely comeback from two games down ...

Round Two, Top Half:

[5] Thierry Lincou (Fra) bt [10] Stewart Boswell (Aus)
               12/10, 11/6, 11/8 (52m)

[1] Amr Shabana (Egy) bt [9] Karim Darwish (Egy)
               10/12, 4/11, 11/4, 11/6, 11/4 (67m)

[3] David Palmer (Aus) bt [13] Adrian Grant (Eng)
               11/7, 11/9, 11/7 (47m)

[7] Nick Matthew (Eng) bt Laurens Jan Anjema (Ned)
               12/10, 8/11, 11/6, 11/3 (60m)

Snippets: What floor problem?

Daily News - why not print it
and post it up at you club ???

[5] Thierry Lincou (Fra) bt
[10] Stewart Boswell (Aus)  12/10, 11/6, 11/8 (52m)

Thierry grateful for three

For a player renowned for his slow starts, Thierry Lincou did pretty well to see off Stewart Boswell in three today. In a very even, high-quality first game with never more than two points in it, it was the Frenchman who proved the stronger at the end - winning a huge rally to level at 9-all and taking it on his second game ball as Boswell made two rare errors.

From then on he was never headed, although he never led by much. Lincou's shots were that little more accurate as he kept his nose in front for the next two games before gratefully closing out a rare 3/0 win over the Aussie with a clear-cut stroke ...

"I played a better match against him in the US Open, but he was pretty sharp today.

"I just wasn't accurate enough and left the ball out in the middle too often you can't afford to do that, you end up doing all the running "

"It's not like it used to be, all the players are very close to each other and there are battles right from the first round. Normally Stewart and I go to four or five games, so I'm really pleased with that.

"I've changed my preparation, especially the mental side of it to try not to give games away, and I'm trying to enjoy myself more.

"I thought I was pretty solid today. It's never finished until it's finished, I had to try and stay focused to the end and I'm really pleased with how I did that today."

[1] Amr Shabana (Egy) bt [9] Karim Darwish (Egy)
               10/12, 4/11, 11/4, 11/6, 11/4 (67m)

Shabana leaves it late

We nearly lost our champion tonight.

Karim Darwish simply dominated the world number one for two games. Yes, the first was close all the way, but Shabana was always on the back foot, a few untimely tins from Darwish kept him in contention, but ultimately Karim's greater determination saw him through that one. He was better in the second, winning comfortably as Shabana gave it up the last two points.

Karim looked to be playing safe at the start of the third, content to wait for mistakes which had been coming, but now stopped and the tactic proved to be a costly mistake. Shabana started to pick up the pace and at the same time cut out the mistakes, winning a few hotly-contested points before easing away to take the third as easily as Karim had the second.

And in truth, there was only one winner from the middle of that third. Karim was on the back foot now, and having wrested control the defending champion never looked like relinquishing it ...

"I was out of breath in the first two, I wasn't sure what shape I was in coming into this tournament after an injury in the British and losing early in New York. He just outplayed me in the first two though, too good.

"In the third I tried to make him work. I wasn't thinking about winning, just about getting into it and getting into some for the tournaments coming up, and slowly and slowly I got into the match and started to feel better.

"It's a fine line between winning and losing and I could easily have lost tonight - I had to give 100% and all the rest to win that one ..."

"I was controlling everything in the first two games, controlling the 'T' and I felt good. I felt he was getting tired after the second he started going for shots in the third and they were going for him, and he got the control.

"I had to keep the same pace as in the first two, but I couldn't manage that. I also got upset with a few decisions which broke my concentration, so he took control and played his shots "

[3] David Palmer (Aus) bt [13] Adrian Grant (Eng)
               11/7, 11/9, 11/7 (47m)

Palmer at the end ...

What's that well-known phrase or saying - "when the going gets tough ..."

It's not the first time, and it won't be the last, that David Palmer has won a close match by pulling clear in the nitty-gritty stage of games, once it gets to 7, 8, 9-all.

Tonight he did it three times. 8/7 up in the first, he won the next three points. A slight lapse in the second, reaching 10/6 and having to win a huge, lung-busting rally at 10/9 to double his lead. Three points from 8/7 in the third clinched it, leaving Adrian aggrieved at having got so close for no reward and David well satisfied with his evening's work

"Adrian plays a very slow game, it's hard to build up a rhythm. My game was to try to step forward and take the volley, a counter-punching game. It was more a concentration thing in keeping it up, and it was only at 10/6 in the second that I relaxed at all.

"I felt I was pretty solid in the second half of the third so it's good to get through in three, no damage done "

"It's just those final bits I knew I would be able to back it up even after a long match yesterday, and I was with him rally for rally, but he just focused a bit more when it got to the crucial points.

"Mentally he was more switched on, that's what I have to learn to do.

"I think I deserved a game at least out of that, so I'm pleased with the performance if not the result. There's a few lessons learnt there though, and I'll try to take those positives into the next tournaments "

[7] Nick Matthew (Eng) bt [12] Laurens Jan Anjema (Ned)               12/10, 8/11, 11/6, 11/3 (60m)

End of the line for LJ ...

As the only player to upset the seedings yesterday, Laurens Jan Anjema wasn't expected to win today, although clearly no-one had told the Dutchman that ...

He took the game to the US Open champion from the start, opening up a 3/0 lead which soon became 7/2. Nick wasn't playing badly, but neither was he on top form, and at 7/10 down the first game looked gone. Rather than play safe though, the Englishman went for it. Three fine, quick winners and it was level, and he took an unlikely lead.

Nick looked on his way to a quick victory at 6/2 in the second, but now it was LJ's turn to fight back as he took six points in a row from 8/5 down.

But that was it, really. Nick's volleys started to click from the beginning of the third, and LJ's demeanour as he came off court after losing that game didn't bode well for a comeback. And sure enough, Nick kept the momentum, closing out the match to set up a meeting with the world champion ...

"Things evened out he deserved to win the first, and once I snuck that I relaxed a little, but I still should have closed out the second.

"I'd never played him before in PSA so it was very different to yesterday new court, new opponent, you're not on autopilot, you have find out their game and adapt to the conditions at the same time.

"I had to find my length and width and angles, but I wasn't pleased with my short game today, I'll have to work on that for my match with David it's good to have a day off to prepare for that, we'll both be better for it "

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Round Two

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