01-06 November 2004 Nottingham, England


  British Open Squash  1997  



The 1997 event was held in
Cardiff at the Wales
National Ice Rink



the Perspex court in action

Howard Harding's Tournament Diary

Day One - Monday
Peter Marshall's long-awaited return to international competition after a two-year lay-off with chronic fatigue syndrome, ended in disappointment for the 25-year-old from Nottingham when he was beaten 15/12 15/8 15/9 in the first round of the Leekes British Open Squash Championships by Brett Martin of Australia.

Martin, the world No8 who was the last British Open player - in 1995 - beaten by Marshall, coolly worked the Englishman around the court in the 47-minute match until his understandably limited reserves were depleted.

"I'm simply not good enough yet," said the former world No2, who only resumed training three months ago. "I was really looking forward to playing again after so long away from the sport, but Brett had obviously thought hard about how to play me today, and was determined to get his revenge after two years. I am confident that I'm completely over my illness now, and am looking forward to getting a lot more games under my belt, and to the beginning of next season," said Marshall.

Scotland's Peter Nicol, the world No3 who in four years has never won a match in the British Open, controversially overcame his jinx today. His English opponent Paul Johnson, the 25-year-old world No21 who beat the Scot in the first round last year, acknowledged the applause from the crowd as he hit an apparent winner at match-ball at 14-12 in the third game, and shook hands with a disconsolate Nicol. The referee, however, called the ball down, and the players back onto court. The Scot then took the game, and the following two, to claim an extraordinary 7/15 15/17 15/14 15/7 15/6 victory in 98 minutes.

Canadian hotshot Jonathon Power, the Toronto-based 22-year-old who is seeded in the British Open for the first time, began today in fine style, defeating English qualifier Danny Meddings 15/10 15/5 15/2 in 34 minutes. Beaten in the last six months only by the world's top two players Jansher Khan and Rodney Eyles, world No6 Power meets Frenchman Julien Bonetat on Wednesday for a place in the quarter-finals.

Day Two - Tuesday
Australian Dan Jenson, 21, produced the first major upset in the Leekes British Open Squash Championships in Cardiff today when he beat England's world No4 Simon Parke, seeded to reach the semi-finals, 15/7 15/10 15/13 in 61 minutes. It was the world No18 from Adelaide's first victory over Parke, the 24-year-old Nottingham-based Yorkshireman who was competing in the British Open for the first time after surgery and chemotherapy treatment for testicular cancer.

Jenson's opponent in Thursday's second round match on the Perspex all-transparent court at Cardiff's Wales National Ice Rink, will be England's Del Harris, the Colchester-based No9 seed who beat Pakistan's Zarak Jahan Khan 15/8 13/15 15/8 15/5 in 56 minutes. Harris and Jenson last met in the International Tours event in France in February, the Englishman winning the encounter 3-0.

Jansher Khan v Derek RyanA minor Greek tragedy was perpetrated by another Australian, when Joseph Kneipp, a 23-year-old qualifier from Brisbane, beat No15 seed Paul Gregory. Based in London, where he was born, world No15 Gregory has recently taken on Greek nationality and was comprehensively outplayed 15/12 15/11 15/7 in 50 minutes. Kneipp now meets defending champion Jansher Khan, who avenged his recent loss to world No17 Derek Ryan in the Super Squash League in London by beating the Irishman 15/7 15/6 15/9 in 58 minutes.

England No1 Chris Walker was the unlikely recipient of Scottish generosity when his opponent Martin Heath withdrew from the event as a result of a foot injury, giving the London-based 29-year-old a safe passage through to the second round where he will meet local hero David Evans, the Welsh No1 who dismissed Nottingham's Jason Nicolle in straight games.

Berkshire's Stephen Meads dismissed the second member of the Jahan Khan family in today's play when Zubair, the younger brother of Zarak and seeded to reach the last sixteen, conceded the last match of the day at 15/9 15/9 15/3 after injuring his leg.

In the women's event, the antipodean clash between Australia's defending champion Michelle Martin and New Zealand's Jade Wilson was concluded in just 27 minutes, the No2 seed Martin coming through 9/7 9/0 9/1. She meets fellow Australian Robyn Cooper who also beat a New Zealander, Sarah Cook, 9/6 9/5 5/9 9/2.

England's second round hopes will be led by Newcastle's Jane Martin and Gloucester's Fiona Geaves, ranked Nos 5 & 6, respectively, domestically. The former beat Kent youngster Stephanie Brind 9/2 7/9 9/3 9/7, while Geaves, the No10 seed, defeated Australia's Natarsha Tippett 9/2 9/0 9/6.

Day Three - Wednesday
After nervously overcoming his four-year jinx in the first round of the world's most prestigious squash event, a confident Peter Nicol stormed past the second hurdle in the Leekes British Open in Cardiff today, beating Australia's Anthony Hill 15/5 10/15 15/8 15/12 in exactly one hour.

Nicol, 23, from Inverurie, near Aberdeen in Scotland, looked more like the world No3 that he is, in a match that was the first significant test for his 27-year-old opponent from Melbourne who was returning from a three-month ban by the PSA, the men's players' organisation.

In his second round match against the event's No2 seed Rodney Eyles from Australia, England's Mark Chaloner, the world No12 from Lincolnshire, showed signs that he has returned to the sparkling form which helped England to historic World Championship success eighteen months ago. After narrowly losing the opening game, Chaloner pulled back to take the next, but then the powerful 29-year-old Australian, seeded to reach Sunday's final, maintained the upperhand to reach a 15/13 11/15 15/8 15/9 victory in 74 minutes.

In the women's event, Sussex's Linda Charman defied the seedings to beat world No6 compatriot Suzanne Horner, from Yorkshire, 9/3 9/3 8/10 5/9 9/1. It was the opening day of the tournament's move to the Wales National Ice Rink, where the Perspex showcourt has been erected on the covered rink. It took Horner some time to acclimatise to the initially cold conditions, and she saved two match balls in the third before going down to her England colleague in five.

Charman's quarter-final opponent on Friday's also had a narrow escape. British champion Sue Wright, the No4 seed and Britain's top prospect, was staring defeat in the face when two games down to Rebecca Macree, the profoundly deaf 25-year-old from Essex. A ball rifled into her thigh helped her to focus her thoughts, after which the 26-year-old from Kent surged to a 7/9 3/9 9/4 9/6 9/4 victory.

Australia's top seed Sarah Fitz-Gerald sailed through to the last eight, defeating South Africa's world No9 Claire Nitch 9/4 9/2 9/1 in just 24 minutes.

Day Four - Thursday
Remarkable racket skills and death-defying dives were not enough to prevent England's No9 seed Del Harris going down to the unseeded Australian Dan Jenson 15/5 12/15 10/15 15/14 17/14 in today's second round of the Leekes British Open Squash Championships at the Wales National Ice Rink in Cardiff.

It was the Adelaide 21-year-old's second giant-killing act against an Englishman, having beaten the No4 seed Simon Parke in the first round. This time, however, it took him one hour and 48 minutes - the longest match of the tournament - to subdue the inspired Colchester-based 27-year-old, who had squandered two match balls in the fourth game.

Jenson now faces the youngest player in the event, the 19-year-old world No7 Ahmed Barada from Egypt, who beat Berkshire's former British champion Stephen Meads 15/9 15/9 15/9 to reach Friday's quarter-finals.

After receiving a walk-over in the first round, England No1 Chris Walker was making his British Open debut on the fourth day, and facing local hero David Evans, the Welsh No1 who came through the qualifying rounds. The confident Evans took a two-game lead, but after 84 minutes was beaten into submission by the left-hander from London, whose 13/15 12/15 15/9 15/6 15/12 victory makes him the only Englishman to reach the last eight.

Walker's reward is a meeting with event favourite Jansher Khan, the Pakistani world No1 who dismissed Australian qualifier Joseph Kneipp 15/9 15/8 15/9 in 37 minutes.

In the women's event, defending champion Michelle Martin of Australia moved comfortably into the quarter-finals with a 38-minute win over compatriot Robyn Cooper. She now faces a further Aussie, No7 seed Carol Owens who beat New Zealand's Philippa Beams 9/2 9/4 9/1 in just 24 minutes.

Gloucester's Fiona Geaves confounded the seedings - and guaranteed an English semi-finalist - when she beat Germany's No8 seed Sabine Schoene, ranked two places above her in the world, 9/6 10/8 4/9 9/4. Geaves now meets compatriot Jane Martin, ranked two places below in the world but one above in the England list, in Friday's quarters - after the 24-year-old from Newcastle beat Australian qualifier Rachael Grinham 9/6 9/2 9/2.

Simon Parke
and Cassie Jackman, England's two highest-ranked squash players in the world, were presented the 1996/97 Players' Player of the Season awards at the second SRA Awards Lunch on Thursday 3rd April in Cardiff.

The lunch, hosted by the Squash Rackets Association, was attended by more than one hundred players, officials and guests from the world of squash, and held during the world's most prestigious tournament, the Leekes British Open, at the Wales National Ice Rink.

Simon Parke, 24, a Yorkshireman based in Nottingham, had a remarkable year in 1996. After leading England to historic World Championships success in November 1995, he was diagnosed as suffering from testicular cancer on January 1st. Immediate surgery, followed by chemotherapy, led to an enforced lay-off from the sport. He returned to competitive action in May, and in December he regained his No5 world ranking, and returned to pole position in the England ranking list. Last month, Parke moved up to No4 in the world - his highest-ever position.

Cassie Jackman, 24, from North Walsham in Norfolk, is currently enjoying her best season. A finalist in last October's World Championships, she won the Carol Weymuller and Philadelphia Open titles at the end of last year, and has beaten Australia's defending British Open Champion Michelle Martin in their last four meetings. Jackman is ranked No3 in the world.

The "Players' Player of the Season" awards were sponsored by Prince, and jointly presented by the SRA and BSPA (British Squash Professionals' Association).

Day Five - Friday. Quarter-Finals
Hopes of a major North American upset on the fifth day of the Leekes British Open Squash Championships in Cardiff were dashed by Australia's No2 seed Rodney Eyles today when he beat Canadian hotshot Jonathon Power 15/13 5/15 9/15 15/12 15/11 in the quarter-finals.

The action on the see-through court in the unlikely setting of the Wales National Ice Rink was undeniably hot - with the precocious Toronto-based 22-year-old, sporting his distinctive "doo-rag" (a bandana-like head-scarf), clearly in command as he raced to a 2-1 lead. The world No2 from the Gold Coast in Queensland, who beat the Canadian 3-0 in their previous meeting in the Mahindra International in Bombay, led through the fourth - and fought back from 3/6 down in the final game to level at 8-all, before running through to clinch the match in five minutes over an hour and a half.

Eyles' opponent in Saturday's semi-final will be Scotland's Peter Nicol, who beat Australian Brett Martin 15/10 15/11 13/15 15/12 in 71 minutes. Whilst it was the first time since 1992 that the stylish Aussie had failed to progress beyond the quarters, it was also the first time in four years that Nicol, the No3 seed, had achieved his seeding status in a British Open.

English interest in the men's event evaporated in 49 minutes when Chris Walker, the 29-year-old London-based England No1 from Colchester, was swept aside by Pakistan's defending champion Jansher Khan in a 15/5 15/9 15/12 scoreline. Khan, the only man not to have conceded a game in the tournament, now meets Egypt's Ahmed Barada in the semis.

Barada, the 19-year-old world No7 from Cairo, had to fight back from two games down against Dan Jenson, the only unseeded player to reach the last eight. It was exactly midnight, and 91 minutes after the battle began, when the Egyptian finally clinched the 14/15 12/15 15/13 15/10 15/12 victory which put the 21-year-old giant-killer from Adelaide out of the 1997 competition.

Both women's semi-finals will be England v Australia affairs, the event favourite Sarah Fitz-Gerald conceding just six points in 29 minutes to fellow Australian Liz Irving to set up a Saturday semi against British champion Sue Wright. The Aylesbury-based Kent 26-year-old beat England team-mate Linda Charman, from Heathfield in Sussex, 9/7 9/5 9/4 in 45 minutes.

In the bottom half of the draw, defending champion and No 2 seed Michelle Martin defeated compatriot Carol Owens, the world No7, 9/3 9/3 9/4 in just 26 minutes. Her opponent in the last four will be Gloucester's former British champion Fiona Geaves who beat Newcastle's Jane Martin 9/2 9/10 9/4 9/2 in 49 minutes. Geaves, the 29-year-old tenth seed, is making her second successive semi-final appearance.

Day Six - Saturday. Semi-Finals
Scotland's Peter Nicol, who five days ago was only a point away from losing his first round match in straight games, today overturned the seedings on his 24th birthday to beat Australia's Rodney Eyles for a place in the final of the Leekes British Open Squash Championships for the first time. The left-hander from Aberdeen's 5/15 15/12 17/14 15/2 victory at the Wales National Ice Rink in Cardiff was achieved in 75 minutes.

World No2 Eyles was meeting the No3 seed 24 hours after a close five-game victory over Canadian Jonathon Power - a match for which he was particularly fired up after hearing persistent courtside talk predicting a Power v Khan final. In the semi, Eyles caught his opponent unawares with a high-speed start, and took the first game with ease. The Scot fought back, taking the second, and in the third the Aussie reached game-ball at 14/13. A dubious decision gave his opponent the point, and soon a 2-1 advantage. By now the Queenslander was spent, perhaps revealing less of a focus on this match than on the earlier quarter-final, and Nicol raced to a place in Sunday's final.

Nicol's opponent in the final will be defending champion Jansher Khan. The 27-year-old Pakistani who is chasing his sixth consecutive title, lost the opening game to Egypt's Ahmed Barada - his first conceded in the tournament - but then visibly raised his game against an opponent who was still on court playing his quarterfinal at midnight the previous day. Khan duly clinched his seventh final appearance with a 13/15 15/8 15/8 15/4 win in 49 minutes.

Fitz-Gerald v Wright
earlier this seasonThe seeding committee's predictions came true in the women's event, with Sunday's final being an all-Australian encounter between world No1 Sarah Fitz-Gerald, and defending champion and world No2 Michelle Martin. Fitz-Gerald, the 28-year-old World Open champion from Victoria, started well against British champion Sue Wright, taking the first game for just two points. The 26-year-old from Kent fought back to take the second, but just over an hour after the start, the favourite clinched the match 9/2 7/9 9/2 9/1.

It was the No2 seed Michelle Martin who achieved the fastest victory of the day, beating England's Fiona Geaves from Gloucester 9/4 9/0 9/1 in 22 minutes. The 29-year-old from Fairlight in New South Wales - seeking her fifth British Open title - has the distinction of being the only finalist to reach the last stage without conceding a game.

Day Seven - The Finals
Jansher Khan
of Pakistan beat Scotland's Peter Nicol to win his sixth successive British Open squash title in Cardiff tonight, but not before being taken to five games in a British Open final for the first time.

It took the world No1 and eight-times world champion two hours and six minutes - the longest game in the 1997 Leekes-sponsored tournament - to overpower the plucky 24-year-old world No3 from Inverurie, near Aberdeen.

Remarkably, Nicol showed no signs of tiredness from his 75-minute semi-final match on Saturday when he had ousted the event's No2 seed Rodney Eyles.

Indeed, after fighting back from 2-1 to level the match in the fourth, Nicol looked as if he was on his way to becoming the first ever Scot to win the sport's oldest and most prestigious title.

However, the wily 27-year-old Pakistani still had plenty in reserve and, despite vociferous support for his Scottish opponent from the largely Welsh capacity crowd in the Wales National Ice Rink, Khan ultimately claimed his most hard-fought victory in a 17/15 9/15 15/12 8/15 15/8 scoreline.

There was an upset in the women's final when defending champion Michelle Martin, the Australian No2 seed, beat compatriot Sarah Fitz-Gerald 9/5 9/10 9/5 9/5 to take the title for the fifth successive year.

Fitz-Gerald, the 28-year-old top seed from Victoria, has been on top of the women's squash world since winning the World Open title for the first time last October, and shortly afterwards becoming the world No1. Martin, surprisingly a dark horse this year having come through a lean period since the world championships, clearly relished being the underdog for her fourth consecutive British Open meeting with Fitz-Gerald.

Again, at 66 minutes, the match was the longest in the women's competition this year - and the surprise victory by 29-year-old Martin from Fairlight in New South Wales was one she later claimed was "the best of them all".







Official site of the British Open Squash Championships ... by Squash Player