Round ONE

• Saudi International Squash Tournament •  

• TODAY • ROUNDUP • SEMIS • QUARTERS • Round TWO • Round ONE • Qualifying • Day 0 •
TODAY at the Saudi International:
Saturday 16th, Day One, Round One
End of the road for
Parky, Joey's big win ...

Framboise reports from Sunset Beach ...
Quick summary from Steve Cubbins

The first round of the final major event of 2006 started with two British veterans on court at the same time. Simon Parke playing,as it turned out, his final PSA match as he succumbed to Gregory Gaultier in straight games. Parky's best mate Alex Gough soldiers on though, winning a tough three-game duel with LJ Anjema.

Next, Karim Darwish won the all-Egyptian clash with young sensation Ramy Ashour, while Adrian Grant came from match-ball down in the third to squeeze past Borja Golan in a five-game thriller.

The day continued with unprecedented rain falling non-stop from dawn to midnight - "never seen anything like this in ten years" commented one spectator- with expected victories for James Willstrop, Thierry Lincou and Stewart Boswell, before Joey Barrington recorded the first upset as he beat Lee Beachill in five, one of the best wins in Barrington junior's career.

              a rainy day at Sunset Beach

Play on the inside courts concluded with hard-fought wins for Ong Beng Hee who, fresh from his Asian Games success, got the better of Pakistan's Aamir Atlas Khan in five, and Hisham Ashour who prevented a Malaysian double as he beat Azlan Iskandear in straight games.

After the tournament was declared officially open by guest of honour Prince Abdul Aziz, the final three matches were played on the Glass Court after frantic all-day efforts to render the venue playable.

Olli Tuominen faced the Saudi wildcard for the second year in succession, David Palmer won in four against Jonathan Kemp, leaving Amr Shabana and Cameron Pilley to conclude the evening ...

Moh'd Taher Al-Saif & Olli Tuominen

Results:            FULL DRAW

Court 1:
Alex Gough bt Laurens Jan Anjema
     17/15), 11/5, 11/8 (56m)
Karim Darwish bt Ramy Ashour
     7/11, 12/10, 11/6, 11/6 (51m)
Mohammed Abbas bt Peter Barker
    10/12, 11/6, 11/6, 11/3 (42m)
James Willstrop bt Shahier Razik
     11/3, 11/3, 11/7 (37m)
Joey Barrington bt Lee Beachill
     5/11, 11/9, 6/11, 11/9, 11/7 (76m)
Anthony Ricketts bt Shahid Zaman
     11/5, 11/8, 11/8 (22m)
Hisham Ashour bt Azlan Iskandar
    15/13, 11/8, 10/12, 11/6 (45m)

Court 2:
Gregory Gaultier bt Simon Parke
    11/8, 11/3, 11/5 (44m)
Adrian Grant bt Borja Golan
 1/11, 6/11, 13/11, 11/5, 12/10 (94m)
Thierry Lincou bt Wael El Hindi
   11/9, 11/9, 11/8 (47m)
Stewart Boswell bt Daryl Selby
    11/7, 11/6, 11/7 (39m)
Nick Matthew bt Alister Walker
    11/8, 11/6, 6/11, 11/7 (52m)
Ong Beng Hee bt Aamir Atlas Khan
  6/11, 11/8, 11/6, 4/11, 11/8 (63m)

Glass Court:
Olli Tuominen bt Moh'd Taher Al-Saif
    11/3, 11/2, 11/3 (24m)
David Palmer bt Jonathon Kemp
     11/7, 11/13, 11/5, 11/8 (46m)
Amr Shabana bt Cameron Pilley
     11/2, 11/6, 11/5 (30m)

Amr Shabana bt Cameron Pilley
     11/2, 11/6, 11/5 (30m)

"He didn’t miss many did he…

"He was way too good today, I gave him too many loose shots, and that was the end of the rally…

"Of course, there's always things you can think you could have done after you finish playing, you come on court against Shabana, you know what to expect, he is so precise, so tight, you’ve got to tighten up yourself, otherwise it’s goodnight…"

"I’m getting old, it’s not that easy for me to stay so much time on the court these days, so I’ve got to make it quick…!

"With me, when I play well, it’s like my brain is deciding the shot to be played, and send a signal to my hand that plays that shot. When I play well, it’s because the signal is passing through easily. But something, because you get tense, or injured, or whatever, the brain still thinks the shot, but the signal doesn’t arrive correctly to the hand that holds the racquet…

"I’m really glad about my 3/0 victory tonight as I’ve always had tough games with Pilley, always 3/1… So, I’m really happy…"

David Palmer bt Jonathon Kemp
     11/7, 11/13, 11/5, 11/8 (46m)

"I think that no matter what the surface, with the rain and the humidity, it would have been slippery tonight, but what can you do, it was not the best of squash, but as it’s my first game since the US Open, I’m quite happy to win.

"Jonathan has got some great shots, and recently he’s been more patient and fitter, which makes him a more dangerous player.

"Half way through the second, I started to get worried because I was slipping, but I was happy with my mental tonight as I didn’t let it got like I did in HK when I was playing against Ramy and I started to slip. Then again, not sure what it is, my shoes, I’m not blaming the court, but on the other hand, I’m not doing it on purpose either! But tonight, none of that, I stayed focused…

"I wanted to stay on the glass court because I prefer that court 100%. And I felt relaxed on court, I was obviously worried about the slipping but I got through, and I’m happy.

"Physically I’m fine, now it’s all a question of getting my match rhythm back. Today, Jonathan was a tough opponent, tomorrow Beng Hee, who’s got a bit the same type of play as I, it’s always been close games…"

"I’ve still got those spells of almost thoughtless squash, where I’m not constructing my rallies at all. But when you play somebody like Dave, he doesn’t have those spells up and down, he is steady, and it’s always the steady one that will win…

"I’m disappointed, because I thought I was in control in a lot of rallies, and although David was worried about the slipping I don't think I made the most of it."

Hisham Ashour bt Azlan Iskandar
    15/13, 11/8, 10/12, 11/6 (45m)

"In the first game, I was up 10/6 when Azlan started to play really good for 4/5 points, but I eventually won the tie-break.

"Then the second was very very close, I managed to win 11/9, but we were both tired. Also, as the walls were getting wetter and wetter, all my boast nicks were in fact ending in the middle of the court, so it took me a while to realise that I actually shouldn’t play boasts, as he was just finishing the point with a drop every time.

"At the end of the third, I was so tired, I just couldn’t breathe to be honest, but when we got to the four, I got thinking, I’ve been losing so many five setters in the past four months, it’s time I won, so I knew I want to close the game down and win in four.

"So I started to volley, to volley drop, to attack as much as I could, I was all over him, and it worked…

"I want to say only one thing. I hope this is the beginning. The beginning of a winning streak. I’ve lost enough. It’s about time I start winning."

Nick Matthew bt Alister Walker
    11/8, 11/6, 6/11, 11/7 (52m)

"In the third, he stepped up a bit, and maybe I stepped off the gas, but I think he just played very well there. In the fourth, I got back in control but it was difficult to play him as we train together, he knows my game, it’s difficult to surprise him…

"I also know how hard Alister is working, how serious and organised he is, and I think that he’ll be very difficult to beat in the next few months, so I was happy to win today in some pretty difficult court conditions…"

"I’m really happy with my squash at the moment, and when I get to play a top guy, I think that I’m able to give them a hard game.

"I’m learning all the time, I know what I’m supposed to do, it’s just a question of getting better at it for a longer period of time…

"Nick is always a strong and fit player, and he is one of the players that have got a real chance to win the tournament…"

Alex Gough bt Laurens Jan Anjema
     17/15, 11/5, 11/8 (56m)


You would think that PSA draw machine has got a brain, as it made sure that the two ol’ friends Simon Parke and Alex Gough went on court at the same time for what was bound to be Sir Simon’s last professional match.

But the outcome was not similar for both players, and the matches too were rather different.

To give you an idea, Alex won the first game against LJ Anjema (7-5) in the tie-break at the same time that Greg Gaultier was reaching 3/1 in the third, and when it took about 6 minutes to get to 1/0 in the first game, I knew this was not going to be a wham bam thank you m'aam kind of encounter.

As he just turned 36 on the 9th of this month, one would have expected that a gruelling 36 minutes of a first game would clearly disadvantage the Welsh. Que nenni, as we say in French, my foot, as you say over here, as after taking the first game 17/15, Alex went on ravishing his opponent 11/5 and never lost the lead in the third.

I didn’t have the chance to speak with LJ, who was not pleased with his result, and that’s totally understandable, but from where I stand, it’s probably more a mental pressure that LJ puts on himself sometimes than anything else.

Yes, Alex is a tough and difficult opponent, but still, I would have expected the young Netherlander to win this one in a tough battle, but still to come on top. He’s got the skills, the mental, the shots. But it seems that whatever he was throwing at Goughie today would get synthesised and returned as a lethal weapon virtually irretrievable.

There is a key to Alex’s game, and LJ hasn’t found it yet ...

"When I played LJ in the Europeans, we had the same kind of a match, I took the first game 10/9 in something like 40 minutes, and then it was something like 2 and 1 I think.

"All game I tried to take him back in, to tire him, as he is much better than me across the middle, until the end of the first game where he made two big errors.

"I’m not sure why he seems to lose ground after the first, he maybe got frustrated and run out of ideas…

Gregory Gaultier bt Simon Parke
    11/8, 11/3, 11/5 (44m)


Since Simon had decided to retire and as we saw the draw, we sort of knew this was going to be his last performance. Simon is still extremely fit and sound, but Greg Gaultier is in another zone at the moment. He’s got the skills, the confidence, and the logical results that go with it…

Parkie played a very strong first game, but even there he was pretty much in the back foot, returning fast and furious, but with Greg putting the pressure and the weight in the shots. And although Simon match point for point until 7/7, it took a lot out of him and cost him the second game.

In the third, the rallies became longer again, the former England Team player was clinging to every shot. He knew this was it. And he was prepared to go with a scream, a scream that actually came in a different form than he expected, when the ref refused him a let under the label “no effort”, bless him…

There are a lot of things that can be said about Parkie, “not enough effort” is certainly not one of them. I know that the ref bit his tongue the minute he said it. I know that Simon was also taking more and more time between the points and that he didn’t get warned, meaning that the ref was pretty understanding of the whole situation. Still, Mister Parke jumped at the comment, and as he won the next “I’m a lunatic just escaped from the asylum” rally, threw a “enough effort for you?" ... It cost him a conduct warning, but I’m sure it made him feel so much better….

No, joke apart, I’m sure Simon will be pleased with his performance against one of the Young Wolves of the moment. He didn’t fail in his last appearance.

Salut, l’Artiste….

"The performance was good, I’m happy with the performance, as I was playing against a top 3/4 in the world. I would have liked to taken the first, I had a chance to take the first, but after that, the strength of the young man came through…

"It was a big ask to win, I don’t think anybody was expecting me to win really, but I wanted it to be a good match, a good performance…

"I’m happy with my form at the moment, and I could keep it at that level for the next 3 or 4 years on the domestic circuit, I think I will be enjoying it still…

"But I don’t care that match about losing here actually, it was the BSPA Boston trophy I was going for…"


Joey Barrington bt Lee Beachill         5/11, 11/9, 6/11, 11/9, 11/7 (76m)

This will not stay in the mind of the spectators present as the best game of squash ever, mostly due to some poor court conditions that made precision nearly impossible, but Joey won the way he likes it. Coming back, and in five…

I didn’t get to see the first three games, but from what I saw, Lee was not his patient self today, and went for shots he only goes for when he is not at his best physically, trying to shorten the rally instead of grinding his opponent down as only he can.

Joey saw he had a chance, and grabbed it really. This was the break he had been working for, he didn’t intend to let it pass by, and when he found himself down 2/0 and 5/0 in the fourth, he gave it all he had, clawed back to force a decider in which he was pretty much in control the whole time.

A mixture between a Lee not at his best physically, and a very focused and hungry Joey, and you’ve got yourself a pretty good upset, as the seed number 9 goes crashing out…

"It was just a question of finding a nice balance between a nice strong pace and varying the ball really. In the first game, I was a bit loose, but I started to relax after that…

"I believed in my chances because last time we played in Hungary, I got a bit too up for it, and you get nervous because you think you might win it, and then you get nervous because you might lose. Today, I was stronger mentally, although I still had a couple of outbursts due to frustration with the court more than anything else.

"It was back to basics, and making sure that my length was good, and then when I had the opportunity, instead of sending it back to my opponent and play length, I took advantage of the opening and attacked more.

"I’ve been working so hard for the past two years, it’s nice to finally get a breakthrough…"

Willstrop & Razik

Golan & Grant

Boswell & Selby

Yes, at this point in time, players call playing Ramy “passing the test”. You fail or you pass. And today, Karim Darwish made it…

Not a good day for Flash Ramy… If the young Egyptian was up for it in the first two games, his squash just fell apart in the last two. Wrong tactic, wrong choice of shots, junior errors…

It had to happen at some point. The penny suddenly dropped for the boy who now realises that he is a contender, that people all around him are not hoping he’s going to beat the top guys day in day out, they are expecting it. It’s called pressure. And it makes you do weird things…

Ramy still played his amazing shots from standing on his head in the corridor, and still gave Karim a strong scare, and who knows what would have happened had he taken the second game, but then again, he had game ball 10/9, and he tinned the next three points…

Karim ground the boy down today, he kept twisting and turning him, his length firmly in place, and his feather drop shots as lethal as ever, and he made his point, proving that he fully deserves not only his world ranking, but his Egyptian status…

Karim Darwish bt Ramy Ashour
     7/11, 12/10, 11/6, 11/6 (51m)

"Ramy played very well in the first, whereas I was playing too short too early, and against a player like Ramy who is such an attacker, that is not acceptable.

"So in the second, I had to rethink my game, I made sure that I was keep the ball tight, not to open the court because he attacks every loose shot, and after that, it all went perfectly."

"Today I was a puppy on court, I was not tough enough, so loose…

"When I got on court, I saw the ball was cold and thought it would be a good idea to go short, and I put too much pressure on myself for no reason.

"I have a bit of a cold, but I can handle that, but I need to work on my legs, because we don’t always play on soft courts but on hard courts as this one. And I need to strengthen my legs…

"What’s important is that we still have Egyptians in the next round, that’s what’s important after all, but I wished it would have been me.

"Next time…"

Al Saif & Tuominen

Palmer & Kemp

Shabana & Pilley

Adrian Grant bt Borja Golan
 1/11, 6/11, 13/11, 11/5, 12/10 (94m)


I can tell you one thing, Borja Golan will never believe he has won another match for the rest of his life! After cruising in the first two games, losing only 7 points between the two, he got match ball at 10/9. Seven lets later, we were in the tie break, and he never got ahead again, although in the fifth, he really pushed Adrian, coming back from 10/5 to 10/10 before finally admitting defeat…

Adrian Grant just took his time to connect brain and body, as he too often does… “I’m going to grind it to the end now” he said after clinching the third game. And he did, but at what cost? A 94 minute match is maybe not what you wish for on the first round the day before meeting the number three seed…

But hey, Golan will maybe start realising that he belongs up there and believe in his chances a bit more, as he’s got more brain and talent that he gives himself credit for, and Grantie still clings in there, and gets through… The logical order was respected today…

"It’s not just the brain that needs to get going from the start, it’s the body as well, and it seems that my body takes longer to get to work…! Physically, I’m not feeling too bad, because the game was not too hard, there was a lot of stopping and starting…

"My application towards the game was not the same in the first two games as it was in the rest of the match, my standards were not the same.

"But at the end of the day, a win is a win, and as this was probably my worst match of the year, I can only build on that…!

"And now it’s out of my system, I can focus on the next match…"

"The first two games were not too hard, and in the third, I was 7/3 up, and I started to play long rallies, to play the game he likes, at not too much of a pace. I didn’t put enough pressure on him, he was not threatened enough by my game, I should have taken the ball earlier, and attacked more...

"It’s such a missed opportunity, how many times a year do you get the chance to get to the second round of a major. But I guess that I never really believed I could win that match…"

Thierry Lincou bt Wael El Hindi
   11/9, 11/9, 11/8 (47m)


Since he’s been training in Millfield with Jonah Barrington, Wael El Hindi has improved tremendously in the second field he needed it the most.

 Fitness and discipline. The tightness of his straight drives today was really impressive, and he as ever found some out of this world short shots…

Thierry Lincou found himself behind in each game, but slowly made it back, never losing his mental focus, defending extremely well, and not giving any of the points he can sometimes tin a bit too carelessly.

Honestly, each game could have gone either way, and after a few “no lets”, the match found a good rhythm, long rallies, good retrieving from both sides, really a very nice game to watch.

And here we were in the third, Wael 2/0 down but still pretty much in the game, fighting point for point, and still believing in all his chances. The rallies were getting fiercer and fiercer. A few lets at 6/6. Now it’s 7/7. And at the end of a long rally, Wael seems to put the ball in the tin, but the ref is not sure and decides to give a let.

Thierry looks at Wael, who is thinking, walking around the court. It would be so easy, wouldn’t it… The ref took his decision, he just has to go along, he can’t be blamed really… Or can’t he…

And he just gives it back.

I know we all want to think that we would do the same. We all want to think we would be courageous enough at 7/7 in what could be the last game to give it away because it’s the right thing to do. But I know a few people who wouldn’t. And I’m not even sure about myself…

So, if Wael had a few issues with his behaviour on court recently, this perfect gesture today in my eyes is the sign that he is changing. And for that, I’m personally proud of him.

Sue me.

"I’m really happy to have won the match in three, because you never know what may happen if he catches up with the scoring, if he starts to take confidence in his game…

"I was behind in all three games, but what I’m glad about is that I’m able to come back in the match when I put my whole game, my whole mental in the balance.

"The lesson would be for that match, as we learn at every match, is that I relax a bit too much at the start of the game…

"But hey, happy to be in the second round and to get to play (hopefully) on the glass court…"

Thierry Lincou

"It was a good match. I was up 9/7 in the first two games, and I think it could have gone either way. But Thierry played very well, he covers the court so well, and he played safe, he didn’t make any mistakes, he was patient, and was waiting for me to make the error.

"He is a fair player, and you always learn when you play such a player…

"Oh well, that’s it for me. This is it for 2006. I’m hoping to get better in 2007! And good luck to all the guys who didn’t lose today…"

Wael El Hindi

James Willstrop bt Shahier Razik
     11/3, 11/3, 11/7 (37m)

"It's not easy playing in borrowed kit, but I don't think it would have mademuch difference today …"

Shahier Razik

"I felt a bit sorry for him, if I didn't have my own racket, shoes, clothes, I'd be like that. He was always going to compete, to try his best, but it's not been going for him this week and it wasn't going for him today.

"I'm just trying to relax and enjoy my squash, trying to play the game rather than think about winning all the time. To get away with that against someone like Shahier on these courts is great.

"I was expecting Lee next, that's been a hurdle for me in the past, but I know I'll have to be focused for Joey …"

Mohammed Abbas bt Peter Barker
    10/12, 11/6, 11/6, 11/3 (42m)

"I feel gutted. My training has been quite
adequate these past few weeks and after my relative success in hong kong, Iwanted to build on that. I have been troubled by my ankle over this past week and unfortunately there was no improvement today, quite the opposite.

"Mohammed is a clever player and his short game was exemplary today. The game was competitve and fair.

"This was despite a conduct warning I received when my racket slipped out my hand. Do referees, not just in squash but in many sports, use their common sense when repremanding a player? Or just their "rule book"... I'm finding it increasingly difficult to find an obvious answer.

"I wish Mohammed luck tomorrow against Karim, it is nice to see the old guard being challenged."

"I had an injury in the foot, and I haven’t been able to train for the past two weeks, so when I started the game, I was a bit careful, I didn’t want to stretch too much on it, and also I don’t think I’m as fit as I should be.

"But this court was good for me, I knew I could make him work hard and tire him, and that’s what happened after the second, he started to slow down and I was able to control the game much better…"

Anthony Ricketts bt Shahid Zaman
     11/5, 11/8, 11/8 (22m)

"The conditions was pretty tough, I’m sure I’m not the first one to mention them, it was so humid out there, so it became a funny sort of game…

"Like all the players, I’m aware of Shahid’s racquet skills, so I tried and keep it as tight as possible, stay way in front of him, but still, he got some pretty good winners in.

"Looking forward to playing tomorrow of course…"

Olli Tuominen bt Moh'd Taher Al-Saif
    11/3, 11/2, 11/3 (24m)

"I was very nervous before this match, playing on the new court and in front of so many people, it was a whole newexperience.

"I've been playing for seven years, now I need to play more players like that to get experienceat that level.

"With the support of Mr Ziad I hope to reach a new level, workd hard and harder to do well for Mr Ziad and the Kingdom.



You shouldn’t be so lucky people…You were hoping that I would get stopped from enjoying this last event of the 2006 season, but nag nag nag, this time round, I am not missing any of the fun in Al Khobar, thanks to Ziad’s extraordinary team who succeeded to get ALL of the visas for ALL of the players and officials within a matter of hours.

And that’s a lot of visas and paperwork…

Here we are again then. Against all odds. Against all logic. Ziad Al Turki, the man who has redefined the standards in squash, has done it again. And this year, he’s done it better, he’s done it bigger. More money, more seats, more lights, more professionals, more fun. Am I happy and proud to be here to witness the show?

Bet your scarf I am…

So, remember the name. Ziad from ATCO. You know, the company name of Ramy Ashour’s shirt, that both symbolise a new squash, a new generation, a new enthusiasm, a new way of achieving what you’ve put your mind into. And the bright, vibrant, incredible results, llike yet again a tournament in Saudi. A country where it’s so difficult to penetrate. And yet, here we all are. Again.

So, still a few details to be tuned. not everything is perfect of course. But what, or who, apart from me of course, is? Rome wasn't built in one day after all, and PSA certainly not in one season. But what has been achieved here, in the space of 18 months, is more than incredible. It’s purely astonishing.

Guys, you’ve got a Blond French Woman reporting to you from Saudi. Isn’t just that simple fact a pure miracle…???

And you’ve got to believe me, this is just the beginning for Ziad and his team. I can feel it. This is only the beginning…


One of the great things about being on Tour with the Boys is that you get to meet new people. But an even greater thing is to meet those people year on year… That way, you create a totally unexpected multi cultural family, all with a common passion, squash.

And what better way to start an event than to put all those passionate people under the same tent, with swords and songs resounding in the frisky Saudi night?

Delicious food, round tables overflowing with great players, officials, organisers, music, short and appreciated speeches from our own Magic Maker Ziad Al Turki and the irreplaceable Voice of Squash Robert Edwards. Gifts for the players, thanks all around, nice and relaxed atmosphere…

I’m home…



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