Round TWO

• Saudi International Squash Tournament •  

• TODAY • ROUNDUP • SEMIS • QUARTERS • Round TWO • Round ONE • Qualifying • Day 0 •

TODAY at the Saudi International:
Sunday 17th, Day Two, Round Two

[1] Amr Shabana (Egy) bt [16] Alex Gough (Wal)
          11/7, 11/5, 11/8 (31m)
[15] Mohammed Abbas (Egy) bt [8] Karim Darwish (Egy)
         11/9, 11/5, 11/6 (29m)

[4] James Willstrop (Eng) bt [Q] Joey Barrington (Eng)
         11/6, 11/3, 11/8 (28m)
[5] Anthony Ricketts (Aus) bt [12] Olli Tuominen (Fin)
         13/11, 11/9, 11/9 (37m)

[7] Gregory Gaultier (Fra) bt Hisham Ashour (Egy)
         11/5, 11/5, 11/6 (35m)
[3] Thierry Lincou (Fra) bt [14] Adrian Grant (Eng)
         11/4, 3/11, 11/3, 11/5 (52m)
[6] Nick Matthew (Eng) bt [13] Stewart Boswell (Aus)
         11/5, 11/8, 12/10 (54m)
[2] David Palmer (Aus) bt [11] Ong Beng Hee (Mas)
          11/9, 11/6, 14/16, 11/6 (65m)

A Chilly
Round Two ...

It's stopped raining at Sunset Beach, but it was seasonably cold as sixteen of the best  battled for a place in the quarter-finals ...

Abbas upsets Egyptian Order

Round two kicked off with an Egyptian Upset as Mohammed Abbas scored a quickfire win over compatriot Karim Darwish ... further quick wins followed for James Willstrop and Gregory Gaultier, and on the cool glass court top seed Amr Shabana saw off a spirited challenge from Alex Gough.

Australians David Palmer and Anthony Ricketts followed into the quarter-finals, with France's Thierry Lincou claiming the final place in the last eight, and another meeting with compatriot Gaultier ...

Framboise reports from Sunset Beach ...

[15] Mohammed Abbas (Egy) bt
[8] Karim Darwish (Egy)         11/9, 11/5, 11/6 (29m)


Boy. When Young Abbas decides to win a match, he does it in style…

Honestly, and it’s no offence to Karim whatsoever who doesn’t have anything to prove, but Gentleman Abbas just played probably the best match of his life and found some amazingly lethal feathery short shots that I never saw anyone play before…

All his shots were coming in, and even if he relaxed a bit in the third and started to make his “I’m ahead, do I deserve to lose” kind of self destruction thingy, he soon refocused, and “remember that you need 11 points to win a game”.

Basic, but it works…

"He was just far too good today, he didn’t make any mistakes, expect just three at the end. I don’t know what to say other than that, I didn’t play that well either, but he was just too good."

"I’ve been losing all my matches to him for the past 5/6 years, I’ve lost so many finals against him, and every time I lose, every time, it grows in my head, what I’m supposed to do to beat him, and today, finally, I’m so happy to win, I needed it badly.

"Today I was blessed, all my shots just came in. I told my mother to pray for me, I guess she must have done…

"I’m glad. I knew I had to win one day, and today, I found that I was playing well, which is a very rare occurrence…

"And as they say, win quickly, or lose well…"

[1] Amr Shabana (Egy) bt [16] Alex Gough (Wal)        11/7, 11/5, 11/8 (31m)

Shabana's Early Show
Steve Cubbins reports

Amr Shabana has been known to grumble about cold courts, but he surely can't have been expecting to play on one this cold here in Saudi. The rain had finally stopped, but the breeze blowing through the sports centre at Sunset Beach was more Cardiff Ice Rink than Cairo Pyramids.

Along with Alex Gough though, the world number one put on a good show of fast, attacking squash in the first match on the glass court, brought forward to take advantage of a live spot on Saudi television. While there weren't too many present, they and the  audience will surely have enjoyed what they saw.

The match started with a 16-shot rally, and while there weren't many longer ones, the action was always fast, often frantic, and more times than not it was Shabana finding the winner at the end of it. He eased away from 5-all in the first, held on to an early lead throughout the second, and at 4-1 in the third it was beginning to look fairly straightforward.

But Gough battled back to 7-all as some of the volley nicks that had taken the Egyptian to the front started finding the tin. Shabana regained the lead with a rally that saw him repeatedly lobbing the Welshman, who scurried back to boast the ball back to the waiting Shabana, but eventually gave up the chase, sending his racket to the corner in his stead, much to everyone's amusement.

That was it. Shabana finished the match off, and they returned to their respective corners with steam rising like from a rugby scrum, Gough to prepare for his TV commentary role, Shabana to face his best friend Mo Abbas in the quarters.

"The conditions were cold, but that didn't really help me against Alex, if you go short he can do it too, so it just makes it more exciting, he reads the game well and if it's not the perfect shot he's going to get it. I learned a lot from him about reading the game.

"He came back into it and it was close in the third, he had me a bit worried, but we had one hard rally and knew I had him. He's 36 playing like 21 ...

"That was really fast, it seemed quite long for that type of match.

"His forehand is such a massive weapon, I tried to keep it off it and it almost backfired as every time I put it there he just picked it off.

"It's good fun playing when you know the other guy's at a high level and you have to get out of your comfort zone to see if you can compete, and I felt I was almost there,

"I started to come back, but he had too many shots in the end and pulled away again."

[4] James Willstrop (Eng) bt
[Q] Joey Barrington (Eng)
         11/6, 11/3, 11/8 (28m)


If Joey Barrington’s mental was up for a second upset in a row, his legs weren’t that prepared to go through all the same pain again, and started to let him down.

And although he started off all guns blazing and really put James Willstrop under pressure until mid-way through the first game, he soon found himself pushed to the back by a calm and constant opponent who clinically destroyed his spirit.

The second game was a typical “extremely bad day at the office because I want it so much”, and Joey made seven unforced errors in the space of a few minutes, and his frustration grew with each mis-hit, every out of court ball, every tin.

Thankfully for him, he was able to found his squash again in the third and gave James some good rallies, forcing his compatriot to six unforced errors of his own.

But by that time, James was up 2/0 and at 7/7, it gives you wings, and although Joey saved one match ball, he couldn’t avoid an inevitable 11/8 in the third…

"James was just too good today, he was extremely sharp…"

"Joey went off like a house on fire, which was fairly likely after the 90 minutes or so he had yesterday against Lee. I’ve been there, after a big win, to have to come out and do it again the next day is just too hard. He just didn’t have enough in the tank.

"Of course, you still have to play, but it’s such an advantage to have fresh legs, and I seized the opportunity.

"I didn’t enjoy my trip to Pakistan at all, which is very unusual for me, not to enjoy a game or training. So I’m glad that I’m enjoying my squash again…

"I had not such a good half of the season, and my aim is now to enjoy my game again. That’s the most important…

"And it’s been a great run for me so far. At first sight, the draw looked hard, but Shahier had lost his kit and was all over the place, Joey was knackered, so it's been a good run so far ..."

[7] Gregory Gaultier (Fra) bt 
Hisham Ashour (Egy)   11/5, 11/5, 11/6 (35m)


God knows I appreciate the bubbly fiery intense personality of Hisham Ashour, not to mention his witty sense of humour, but today, he was all over the place, bless him, and against somebody as controlled and patient as Greg Gaultier, that’s not good news. He was annoyed at the ref, annoyed at his racquet, and it took him two games to start playing his magic squash.

And when he did finally in the third, you really wish he had from the start, as the great rallies started pouring in. But a bit like in the match between Joey and James, it was too little too late, and Greg didn’t have to force his talent too much to walk off with this one…

"I can’t say it was a great performance from either of us. I seemed to have problems moving, I was slow, and couldn’t find my motivation. And as he didn’t seem in the game that much either, I didn’t go for too much, and played a low percentage type of game…

"Hisham uses a lot of deceptions, so you’ve got to be on your guard on a constant basis, but I didn’t do anything extraordinary as I didn’t feel like playing at 1,000 miles per hour…

"As long as I win…"

"I don’t know what's wrong with my head, there is something wrong for sure… I think about my strings, I think about the ref, as I seem to always get the same ref who doesn’t really appreciate my game I think, and I don’t concentrate enough on the game…

"I only got that racquet yesterday, and I’m the type of player that needs to feel the racquet, to have it strung exactly as I like it, otherwise, I just can’t play. And then, there was the ref who seemed to have it for me from the first rally, yet again…

"But at the end of the day, I’ve got to work on this…

"Greg was so focused, he kept it tight, he didn’t make any errors. I finally started playing some real squash at the end, too little too late…"

"No, I didn’t think about my victory in HK at all, as he beat me the four previous times…

"I thought we played some good rallies, but then I slipped in and out of the game… I would play really well, and suddenly, I would just hand him the ball for him to volley nick it, especially in the second and third, once I got into the match…


"Stewart was maybe not at the top of his game, but it’s not like the time when we were in juniors, when we had a bad day, the difference was enormous. Nowadays, when we have a bad day, the difference is not that great, and Stewart is too good to forget how to hit the ball and if in the first, he didn’t play that well, in the second and third, it could have gone either way…

"I was up for it today, but in a nice and relaxed way, as he beat me last time we played in Hong Kong. I was trying to end up the rallies too early, so today, I made sure I was patient…

"I’m looking forward to playing David as I haven’t played him for a long time. We were seeded to play in a few events, like for the final of the British Open or some other tournaments where I got knocked out early, but we never got to play. So, really looking forward to that…

"I’m also going to make sure that I get a bit of practice on the glass court, as he has had two games on it, where it will be my first one.

"A 3/0 win helps I must say!"

[6] Nick Matthew (Eng) bt
[13] Stewart Boswell (Aus)
         11/5, 11/8, 12/10 (54m)


I didn’t see much of the first game as I was typing away in front of the court, I could only hear and feel that the rallies went very short, and that Stewart was not in the match yet.

When he connected his brain to his neurons, the show started, but Nick seemed to be always in control, even if he was under pressure, if it makes sense. And although the second and third where very close, Stewart never seem to relax and be in a position to play his so dangerous drops shots.

Nick on the contrary, was covering the court very well, dominating the T with his wonderful volleying, sprinkling on it some inch perfect boasts and a few forehand nicks to make it all complete.

But it’s with two great backhand shots that he saved Stewart’s only two game points on the match in the third to come back to 10/10.

A stroke that Stewart didn’t appreciate a bit gave him match point, and he sealed his place in the quarters with a perfect forehand low drive glued to the wall.

[2] David Palmer (Aus) bt [11] Ong Beng Hee (Mas)         11/9, 11/6, 14/16, 11/6 (65m)

Palmer passes Bengy
Steve Cubbins reports

David Palmer made a strong start in the second match on the Glass Court, keeping Asian Games champion Ong Beng Hee at bay with tight drives that provided him with ample opportunity place winning drops in the cold conditions.

Bengy fought hard and ran willingly, as ever, but couldn't quite catchupto the World Champion as he fell two games behind.

The third was closer, Bengy recovering from 2-5 down to 6-all, 7-all, 8-all, 9-all. At 10-9 to Palmer the Malaysian's strings broke, and Palmer's joke of "there's only one point to go, surely he can play on!" backfired as Bengy levelled.

After a 3-minute injury break for the Malaysian at 11-all brought back memories of their "two-day match" in the British Open, Bengy took the game 16-14 on his fifth game ball.

But that was as far as he got. Palmer raced to a 7-1 lead in the fourth and was soon into the quarter-finals.

"There was a little concern when he took the third, but it was more frustration that I didn't take it to finish the match off.

"I knew he'd had a lot of squash with the Asian Games, so I knew I had to get off to a good start, it was going to be hard for him from 2-0 down.

"There was some good squash out there, but it was also a bit scrappy in parts.

"I just had to relax and be patient in the fourth, he gave me some points and I played some good winners, and I saw his shoulders drop when I got to 6/1 and I knew I had it.

"Overall it wasn't the best squash but I'm happy to get the win and be in the quarter-finals."

"I started ok, and I was glad to take the third, but overall he was just a bit better than me today.

"It was important for us to finish one and two in the Asian Games, it was the major goal for the year and it should help us to secure funding for the next four years.

"Now, after a little break at home, I can concentrate on PSA next year and try to do better."

[5] Anthony Ricketts (Aus) bt [12] Olli Tuominen (Fin)         13/11, 11/9, 11/9 (37m)

Ricketts races past Olli
Steve Cubbins reports

This was a fast and furious match. Speedy Olli against Intense Anthony, both chasing hard, lots of short, sharp rallies, and plenty of scrambling and scurrying about, the pace was relentless.

And all three games were close, but it was the Australian who had the finishing edge in all three, and he will be relieved to have won them all to keep alive his hopes of the title here, and a place in the Super Series Finals.

Ricketts, the defending champion, probably needs to beat Willstrop in the quarters to join the Englishman in next summer's Finals, where, even in London, it's sure to be warmer than Sunset Beach tonight ...

"I tried to do too much too early, and was attacking and playing at the front too much.

"The game scores were close, but he picked up the pace at the end of each game and I wasn't able to respond."

"There was some good stuff there, I had to play well at the end of the games to win.

"It was very cold, it's hard to produce a flowing, free game of squash in those conditions, the ball was staying low and quick so you have to play positive and be agile and use the speed the right way.

"It was very hot here last year, but everywhere you play, every court is different, so you just get used to playing in different conditions."

[3] Thierry Lincou (Fra) bt
[14] Adrian Grant (Eng)
         11/4, 3/11, 11/3, 11/5 (52m)


And I’m not talking from yesterday, as that was one of the poorest performances of the Londoner who had to save a match ball in the third to finally take the match 12/10 in the fifth.

No, I’m talking generally. Adrian attacks much much more, hits the ball harder, has found a good variation of shots. In other words, his game has just gone to the next level. Which is good news for him, although he still seems to think of himself as outside the top players, and systematically refers to his opponents as “the top guys”, showing that he still doesn’t fully see himself as a contender. Something he may have to work on…

And he threatened the Frenchman today, not enough to make him hit the panic button, but really made his mark in the second game, preventing my compatriot from finding any length and generally ruffling his feathers.

The third was a formality, maybe Adrian got a bit low in energy from his previous match, but the fourth was again a good battle, with the Englishman matching Thierry point for point up to 4/4, although he found himself two or three points behind from that point on.

Adrian is definitely on the right tracks here, and must know by now that whatever he is doing is working. For Thierry, he must not be looking forward to yet another encounter with his team mate Greg. But I don’t think that Shabana is rejoicing at the idea of playing close friend Mohammed Abbas either…

"I thought that Adrian was good on all fronts, he was aggressive, positive in his approach, and seizing all the opportunities that he had. Also, he was counter attacking me very well at the front…

"I tried to work a bit more on his back hand, but he was pretty dangerous on both sides, and also dead precise. So I had to be as precise as he is, but just a bit faster to make him move around.

"Otherwise, a very balanced game, where I was maybe a bit more patient than he was in the back.

"I’m happy to get through, and tomorrow… tomorrow is another day…"

"I feel better today than I thought I would, I was a bit stiff when I got on, but once I got moving, I was alright, you just forget everything… And it proves that I’ve improved a lot on the physical point, as a few months ago, after a match like yesterday, I wouldn’t have been able to move today….

"Thierry is one of the toughest players on the circuit, and it all comes down to me having the confidence to keep up with the pace, and prepare myself to keep the same level of energy throughout. Today I succeeded to stick with it in the second, and part of the fourth, but I was not constant enough, whereas Thierry was, I was just in and out of it…

"I’ve changed my mental approach to the game. Before I got on court with the top guys, I was going on to compete with them. Now, I get on court to beat them. It sounds a little thing, but it’s that kind of detail that can make the difference…"

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Round TWO

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