The Peter Nicol Column
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Qatar 6:
Out to Ryding

Iím out and very disappointed. Graham Ryding played very very well against me. He came out fast, played at a very fast pace and only made three mistakes in the whole match Ė in the third game, which I won. I didnít play badly but I would have had to play very well to win and I didnít.

I went 2-0 up in the first but then he stepped forward. He volleyed well and he played good length and width. He played the first part of the game deep but then suddenly changed tack and hit four or five winners Ė good boasts and straight drops. Outright winners! I should have been able to handle it but I wasnít quite up to it.

It is frustrating, it was my first loss to Graham but I feel positive about my match with Jonathon and I am looking forward to a good winterís training before competing in Chicago in mid January. I have seven weeks to train.

Lee was very strong against James, controlled the match and looked confident.

Shabana and Palmer beat each other up. Shabana went 2/0 up with Palmer coming back to win 12-10 in the fifth. The fifth was a great game of squash. Shabana was off with an injury and in the end Palmer just hung on but had to dig deep to do it. He will have to get up for a re-match of their British Open semi-final with Lee. I am sure he will do. David will always give his best.

Lincou should have won 3/0 against Ricketts but going to five could cost him dearly overall. David, after his match yesterday and being out with a shoulder injury will find it very difficult to take the title. It is asking a lot but he can go it. Lee looks in good shape. Graham will have to play as well as he did today to get to the final.


A Winner
After The  Quarters




Iím through to the quarters and had a good day. The pace was very fast against Jonathon Power in yesterdayís match (Tuesday) and although I played well from the beginning he started very confidently as if he expected to win. The rallies were tough and when I gave him an opening he took it. David Pearson, the English National Coach, mentioned between games that my length wasnít quite there so I worked on it and by the middle of the second I was much more in control. I was forcing him to take the ball off the back and you could feel his spirit start to dampen. It was tough and close taking about 25 or 30 minutes to finish off but I did not let him back in.

I feel great about how I played, it was wonderful to play well and win. I now know I can do it against the best players. I moved well and although I expended a lot of energy Ė it took about an hour overallĖ I expect to be in good shape physically today. The games with the new scoring system are at a quicker pace but donít go as long.

Today I have Graham Ryding. He was strong and looked good in this 3/0 win over Goughie. He is in form and is not a player to be taken lightly. Last time we played he was 2/0 up on me. It was the official welcoming reception last night and I didnít have a beer. I canít afford to. I will have to play will from the start against him.

Amr Shabana looked comfortable against Abbas. Reputedly Amr did not feel well on the first day and I though Abbas tried to extend the rallies to take advantage but it is not his natural game and it did not work for him.

Lee Beachill told me he had a tough first game 14-12 against Kneipp but was then comfortable. He will play James Willstrop Ö again. They should have stayed at home.

Adrian Grant said he struggled to get up the court against David Palmer and although he got into the games at 6-all and 5-all Palmer put the pressure on and got away. He looks good. He has the British Open title under his belt, had a rest for Toronto and looks as if he fancies a world title. Iíll have to watch him.

Palmer against Shabana today (Wednesday) will be one to get a ticket for. They will all be tough matches and it will be important to come through them in good shape. This is the stage of the tournament you start to see who can win it. Two tough matches and it will be hard to be in good shape for the final.

QATAR 4: Crunch with Power

It's Jonathon Power today! I enjoyed my game with Mohamed Essam yesterday and felt I played well. I was moving well and was very happy with how I played for a first round. It was nice and quick but it wasnít so long that I would start the tournament with tired legs.

My movement was working well and I got my length and width working, especially my straight length. Mohamed hits it low and flat so I had to move well but most of the time I was in control of the situation. I need to get this length and width working today or I will be under a lot of pressure. I need to make it hard so that Jonathon canít take the ball in when he wants. That is what the match will revolve around. I need to attack when I get the chance.

I didnít see Jonathon play as he was on court 2 but I heard he played very well. Nick Matthew was on court two games before mine and I saw him play. He will be very disappointed to lose. He was in control for long period and was 2/1 up in the fourth but faded. He had problems in Toronto with his back and may not be quite as fit as he would like. There were a couple of short shots he didnít get up to in the end.

I feel for John White he will be very upset and disappointed with the manner of his loose to Olli. Thierry looked immaculate - in his physical appearance, his movement and his game plan.

There is almost a problem in squash that you almost have to be there for years and years before anyone recognises that you are a really good player Ė we donít seem to praise the quality of our players. Thierryís up there and he is not a bad player! He is in the other quarter to me and if he gets past Gregory could face Ricketts in the quarters. Jonathon or I will face Ryding or Gough.

QATAR 3: D Day

Iím in action today. Last night I was able to watch Lee, David and Amr blow the cobwebs out. David and Amr both had to work for their wins Ė which is how it should be in a first round Ė but they looked good and they were working their way into the tournament professionally.

 Shabana struggled to get it together and he looked like he blew out in the second and third game. I donít know how fit he is but he is defending the title here and he may be back  putting pressure on himself. I wouldnít right any of these three off though.

Simon Parke played will but lost 3/1 to Darwish in a very good game.

 Yesterday was just a relaxing day for me. I checked my e-mails and read my book. At the moment Iím reading ĎMemories, Dreams and Reflexionsí by Carl Gustav Jung which gives me something to think about in all the dead time we  have waiting to play. I watched the guys and the opening ceremony which included a juggling act and a Diablo and then turned my mind to todayís match.

Today I have the Egyptian Mohamed Essam A Hafiz who put out Peter Barker in a tough match on Saturday. Iím last on the centre court. Iíll let you know how I get on this evening.

QATAR 2: Out of the Sun

The opening ceremony is today. I have my first round match on Monday but I have already played Amr Shabana and Lee Beachill here in Qatar Ö but that was just practice. With Amr I played three-quarter court, along with Adrian Grant and Davide  Bianchetti, like we used to play as juniors. Lee seemed fine in our hit so he could be over his injury problem and as top seed he is the main contender.

Qatar is nice and easy for the players. Itís familiar and comfortable, like going down to the club. There are well prepared for events like this. The transport and practice courts work well.

The players like the sun and the pool but I will be staying indoors. They show all the Premier League matches on TV so I have been able to watch that. Yesterday I watched the 1 oíclock match, the 3 oíclock match and the 5 oíclock match. I want to focus on what I am here to do. There is a lot of waiting around in the hotel room but when it comes to matches I want to be ready and in shape Ė so no sun or pool for me.

Today Iíll have a hit today, support Lee and the other English guys and watch David Palmer and Shabana tonight.

The matches on this Qatar court should be short and shape. The court and the new scoring format will dictate that. There are different physical attribute required now and you have to be sharp. 

PREVIEW: My World Open

It hasnít been easy recently and I was gutted that an ankle injured put me out before the British Open but I am looking forward to the World Open in Qatar. I feel good. If I play well I can win it. Itís that simple. Itís getting tougher to get consistent results but if I play well I can win and that is what I am going out there to do.

 The ankle is fine now. I'm reinvigorated and ready to go again - itís been a difficult process. One of the problems is that I have lacked match practice since the injury.

 I knew I wasn't ready for the Canadian Classic in Toronto but I needed matches. Before the injury at the Gerard event I felt I was getting back into the form I wanted to be in after the US Open where Lee played so well in the final.

In Toronto I playing Jonathon in my second match and it was a sudden shock. I had practised well enough but in a match he doesn't give you much time on the ball.

 My fitness is getting there. Iíve been working on short, sharp court sessions, something between 40 min and an hour, every day at Lambs. I'm moving well now and hitting the ball well, I just need matches.

 Over the summer I didn't do enough work but I needed time off, especially with what happened in the British last year and the last part of the year where I was just hanging on. It is only now that I feel I can put in a good period of work. I did a few weeks ago but then I got injured.

 I'm looking forward to playing. I'd like to have more matches under my belt.

 The last world title I won was in 1999. I held the title for three years because there was not another World Open held until 2002. Iíd like another title here but the opposition will be tough.

 The top contenders are David Palmer, Lee Beachill and Thierry Lincou.  David is always going to be tough to beat as long as he is not injured. He is so strong physically and mentally.  Lee, if he is right physically, likes the court in Qatar. Thierry, who just won in Toronto it must be remembered, was a finalist last year.

 Also in contention is Shabana who could just term it on again as he did at the British Open. I talked to him there and he seems very relaxed and he has taken the pressure off himself. He is a natural squash player, a fantastic shot player and for five matches he could do it.

You can't exclude Jonathon, he won the World Open title here in 1998 and he loves the court although he hasn't won a major event in a while.

 Ricketts is coming back into form and with White you never know.

 Iíve got a qualifier first up, which can be tough, and if I get past him I could have Jonathon in the second round Ė strange after all the finals we have played.

 This will be a crucial match for both of us. I will need to get going but if I get past that one I can see myself getting better with each round. Come on the matches!

Nicol Joins The Squash Player Team for World Open Coverage

Peter Nicol joins the Squash Player commentary team to report for squash fans on the Qatar World Open. In an exclusive column he will report on his preparation, his matches, the play and the players.

To World's Page

"Palmer against Shabana today (Wednesday) will be one to get a ticket for."

" Two tough matches and it will be hard to be in good shape for the final."