• Saudi International Squash Tournament •  

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TODAY at the Saudi International:
Tuesday 19th, Day Four, SEMIS

[1] Amr Shabana (Egy) bt [4] James Willstrop (Eng)
         7/11, 11/2, 11/7, 11/9 (49m)

[7] Gregory Gaultier (Fra) bt [2] David Palmer (Aus)
        11/8, 11/2, 11/9 (43m)

It's Amr and Greg ...
Framboise reports from Sunset Beach
Quick Summary from Steve Cubbins

World number one Amr Shabana recovered from a game down beat England's James Willstrop in four games to move to within one match of the Saudi International title.

After Willstrop took the first the Egyptian struck back with a blistering start to the second, and to the delight of the packed crowd at Sunset Beach got the better of two well-fought games to reach the last major final of 2006.

There he will face Frenchman Gregory Gaultier, who turned in a sparkling performance to avenge his world open final defeat against David Palmer ...

En Bref: Issue #2

[1] Amr Shabana (Egy) bt [4] James Willstrop (Eng)
         7/11, 11/2, 11/7, 11/9 (49m)


It was rather nice it has to be said not to shrivel and have the sound of clicking teeth covering the sound of the ball when Amr Shabana and James Willstrop got on court. Can’t say it was warm and lovely but the temperature had come up from roughly 5°C to 10/12°C.

And why may you ask do I start a squash report as a weather bulletin? Well, because it was not as freezing, the ball was a bit less dead (can’t say bouncier really), and we started to see some squash at last, instead of the wham bam three shot rallies we had the night before.

Let’s start with the stats, as both James and Amr can at times hit the tin randomly.

Game one to James: Amr 4 tins, James, 1.
Game two Amr: Amr 1, James 3.
Game 3 Amr: Amr, 2, James, 3.
Game 4 Amr: Amr 0, James 1 (on match ball).

As you can see immediately, so few errors, seven for the Egyptian, eight for James, the less the mistakes, the winner of the game, and a nearly faultless last game…

As their last two meetings had been monumental, both players were tense and edgy to start with, with probably Shabana having more to lose than James, possibly explaining the few errors in the first. A very close game, 3/3, 4/4, 7/7, and then James giving it a push to take the game 11/7.

A typical Prince of Egypt second game, with Amr shooting up to 7/0, despite a few dives from James, to conclude in a matter of minutes at 11/2. In the third, James more used to his opponent’s pace and wizardry, was matching rally for rally up to 7/7, although he offered the last three points with a stroke and two tins, losing the game 11/7.

Normally on a game, refs not so good decisions seem to balance out, but unfortunately for James, he got a few mmm calls at some crucial points in the last game, including at 9/9 to set up match point. He didn’t pipe a word, bless his soul, but he must have been boiling inside… But it’s all part of the game I guess.

That last game was a pure joy from start to finish, long rallies, patient Shabana, relentless James, some as ever stunning flashing Egyptian attacks and breathtaking English retrieving. A classic. But you need a winner don’t you…

So, yes, like Shabana stated, high quality squash, played by two true champions, who at 9/9 in the last game, when the tension was at its highest, after three lets and two of the rallies of the tournament , were smiling and chatting to each other. A lesson of squash…

And to think that those two gentlemen are going to wonder us for the next 10 years fills me with a warm feeling of contentment and anticipation…

"I’ve come to terms with the fact that every time I’m going to play James it’s going to be a crazy match. You know, when you get to play people, the players with who you are always going to have a major battle.

"And it’s not a question of having the good game plan, because he’s got a game plan too, and it’s not about me, but he is going to do everything he can to make me get off mine.

"Like in the first game, he tried to fire it up, then in the second, I did the right thing, and in the third, he knew what I was doing, so there was no surprise anymore…

"It’s always a mind game between James and I, and I think it’s good for the squash when we play together, it’s squash at its highest quality…"

"Looking at the match from a squash point of view, he was too good… Now, for the conditions, it was not as chaotic as I thought it might be, it seems a bit less cold than yesterday, so the ball was not as dead…

"My backhand was appalling tonight, it’s normally my best area, and it was absolutely shocking.

"Physically, I feel good, I love the conditions, I love everything about the venue, I just couldn’t make it…

"What can you do, you give it everything you’ve got, and it’s such an odd feeling, you’ve got so much to give, and you feel that you haven’t given enough, you feel that you could have done more, but no, you couldn’t, he was just better, tighter, more accurate..

"So you are frustrated, you feel shocked, and so so disappointed."

[7] Gregory Gaultier (Fra) bt
[2] David Palmer (Aus)      11/8, 11/2, 11/9 (43m)


It was to be expected, David Palmer ran out of steam, which proves if needed that there is no miracle, and that preparation is essential to last until the final…

What was quite extraordinary was the change in Greg’s squash between the day before, against Thierry, with today. The two team mates know each others' game so well they kill each other off, producing a very gruelling and intense meeting, but not panache squash. You want panache? You had it tonight, as Greg’s stunning shots left David several times frozen in the frame…

David could have/should have taken games one and three really, as he was up 8/3 in the first, and 9/6 in the third, but it was like he couldn’t stop the French Steamroller today, who just pilld up winner after deception after volley drop shot. David didn’t have the physical power to pick them up, or the precision to prevent them. And it is rather symbolic that the last two points of the match were lost by the Australian on strokes…

They both worked very hard, but it was like Greg was on a mission, “I shall not lose a game to be fresh to play tomorrow,” like he had against Thierry the day before. And as Abbas always says, “if you must win, win quickly, if you must lose, lose well.” That suits the Kid to perfection.

"It’s finally caught up with me, the lack of preparation I told you about yesterday, today, I was too slow, I felt stiff, and I couldn’t get moving. But still, as I was playing at maybe 30/40% of my full capacity, I’m quite happy with my performance and I could have taken two games out of three.

"I really struggled to move tonight, the body was not responding. After the first game, Greg's confidence just grew and grew, and the way he plays at the moment, he just believes in his game. I tried to get back in a winning position in the third, but I just couldn’t make it till the end.

I didn’t do much wrong tonight, he just had too much confidence, and in the end, there is not much you can do…


"I’ve been playing well this week, and I’ve loved the conditions, even if it’s difficult for you guys to watch, as you get cold, but I just loved it.

"On a court like that, you’ve got to move pretty fast, and stay focused and committed on every ball. I’ve tried to give my 100% on every ball, on every rally, and not to give anything away.

"At the start of the game, I had trouble moving, and also I lacked a bit of patience, I wanted to attack too soon at the front, so I regrouped, and concentrated on my length, and then I took all the opportunities I could, and increased the pace while staying patient.

"In the third, when he starting attacking at the front, I just gave it everything, I gave it a last push, I didn’t want to give away a game, so, a 3/0 victory is a fine result for tomorrow. I know we are going to have a fair match. Last time we played in the US Open, I won, so I guess he’ll be up for revenge…"

Monday 18th, Day Three, QUARTERS

[1] Amr Shabana (Egy) bt [15] Mohammed Abbas (Egy)
       11/7, 11/7, 11/6 (28m)
[4] James Willstrop (Eng) bt [5] Anthony Ricketts (Aus)
       8/11, 12/10, 11/5, 13/11 (58m)
[7] Gregory Gaultier (Fra) bt [3] Thierry Lincou (Fra)
        11/9, 11/7, 12/10 (56m)
[2] David Palmer (Aus) bt [6] Nick Matthew (Eng)
        15/13, 11/7, 6/11, 11/7 (52m)

Shabana & Willstrop, 
Gaultier & Palmer to meet again

Framboise reports from Sunset Beach
Quick Summary from Steve Cubbins

The semi-finals opened up with two contrasting matches as Amr Shabana and James Willstrop set up a repeat of their semi-final meeting two months ago in Hong Kong, and concluded with David Palmer and Gregory Gaultier making a date for a World Open final repeat performance.

Shabana never looked in trouble against an out-of-sorts Mohammed Abbas, who failed to capture his devastating form of yesterday, finding the conditions, the court, and of course his opponent, too much to deal with.

The following match was, by contrast, a real battle from start to finish. With the added bonus of a guaranteed Super Series Finals place for the winner both Willstrop and Anthony Ricketts were fully committed and turned on the best show of the tournament so far.

Next up was the all-French affair as world numbers three and four Thierry Lincou and Gregory Gaultier did battle, and this time it was the turn of the youngster to win. The conditions were always likely to favour Gaultier's shotmaking over Lincou's steadiness, and so it proved.

The final match of the evening saw World Champion David Palmer come through against Nick Matthew to set up a repeat of August's World Open final against Gaultier.

En Bref: Issue #1

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