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February 13th-17th 2006.
Reserve your tickets
on 0870 534 4444
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East Wintergarden atrium at Canary Wharf. Venue for 2006 Canary Wharf Classic



Title for Lincou at Wharf


Thierry Lincou took control in the fifth game to finally see off Anthony Ricketts 11-9, 7-10, 11-7, 7-11 11-3 and win the ISS Canary Wharf Classic.


At the end Anthony Ricketts was able to explain his feeling going into the match. “I was nervous,” he said. “I knew it would be a big crowd and I didn’t want to loss in 15 minutes and let everyone down.”

The thought was not in Ricketts mind alone but in everyone else’s. Could he keep going? It was also in compare Alan Thatcher mind. He gave Ricketts a little reminder while introducing the match as the players went on court.

“Thierry Lincou has played 112 minutes so far in this tournament, Anthony Ricketts has played 258 minutes,” he announced.

Those minutes were spent against Simon Parke, Gregory Gaultier, Karim Darwish in five game matches and there was another one to come against Thierry Lincou.

Lincou at the end was able to say, “I did the job.” He did but it took 85 minutes and it was in doubt until the end.

Perhaps in hindsight Ricketts needed the first where he lost his hard earned advantage at 5-2 and again at 8-6 with a series of mistakes – they were going to be his bane all night – and although he saved the first game ball with a spectacular backhand volley nick of service it was only a temporary reprieve and Lincou slotted in a winner to take the game 11-9.

Ricketts responded with powerful hitting and volleying to level but again mistakes cost him in the third and it was his ability to keep chasing the ball down that allowed him to level again and set up the decider.

Lincou got away to a good start in the fifth, 3-0 and Ricketts responded with another backhand nick of serve then upped the pace a couple of notches with a long pressure rally. That was his last hand and he played it.

“It was a mental battle,” explained Lincou. “I won the point. He had finally got tired.”

Lincou’s shot was a classic forehand straight volley nick, set up beautiful and played quickly. He now took control of the match, the only time he was really in control and played beautifully varying the pace on his drives, floating the ball, controlling the rallies on the volley, working the ball and his opponent all the time. There was even time for several fine deceptive winners that had the tired Ricketts going completely the wrong way. Ricketts tried to respond, hit one of the best shots of the match an improvised backhand volley nick form a ball played into his body but there was little left he could threaten Lincou with.

“He doesn’t give you much time to organize yourself,” said Lincou to explain that only at the end did he have any time on the ball, which gave him the ability to play deceptive shots. “If you stay in his rhythm you are in trouble.”

“This is a good win for me. I have been waiting for it. The last tournament I won was in Pakistan last year. Mentally it is good to win, it will give me confidence.”



Saturday and Sunday, Feb 11-12:
Qualifying at Wimbledon Racquets Club.

Monday 13th Feb: 4 x last 16 from 5.30pm
Tuesday 14th Feb: 4 x last 16 from 5.30pm
Wednesday 15th Feb: 4 x quarter-finals from 5.30pm
Thursday 16th Feb: 2 x semi-finals from 6pm
Friday 17th Feb: Grand Final from 6pm

. Betting at Canary Wharf
. Playing Schedule
. Draw
. Qualifying
. Reports
. Previews
. Alan Thatcher reports

Anthony Ricketts goes through to the final with a five set win over Karim Darwish.

Retirement not me! Says Peter Nicol, Britain's most successful squash player.

Canary Wharf Classic
13 Feb - 17 Feb  2006
First Round
13th/14th Feb
15th Feb
16th Feb
17th Feb
[1] Anthony Ricketts (Aus)
11/6, 8/11, 8/11, 11/7, 11/4 (75m)
[Q] Simon Parke (Eng)
Anthony Ricketts
11-8, 4-11, 8-11, 11-7, 11-10 (4-2) (106m)
Gregory Gaultier
Anthony Ricketts
9-11, 11-4, 11-5, 1-11, 11-6  (78m)
Karim Darwish
Anthony Ricketts
11-9, 7-11,
11-7, 7-11, 
11-3 (85m)
Thierry Lincou
[8] Gregory Gaultier (Fra)
11/2, 11/8, 11/5, (28m)
[Q] Jonathan Kemp (Eng)
[3] James Willstrop (Eng)
11/9, 11/10(4-2), 11/10(6-4)  (43m)

Shahid Zaman (Pak)
James Willstrop
11-6, 4-11, 10-12,
11-7, 11-5
Karim Darwish
[7] Karim Darwish (Egy)
11/8, 11/10(2-0), 11/7 (58m)
Olli Tuominen (Fin) 
Ben Garner (Eng)
11/8, 11/8, 11/4 (35m)

[5] Lee Beachill (Eng)
Lee Beachill
11-7, 11-7, 11-4 (42m)
Peter Nicol
Peter Nicol
11-9, 13-11,
11-9 (55m)
Thierry Lincou
[Q] Borja Golan (Esp)
11/8, 11/4, 11/4 (34m)
[4] Peter Nicol (Eng)
Alex Gough (Wal)
11/3, 11/10(3-1), 11/10(3-1) (49m)
[6] Nick Matthew (Eng)
Alex Gough
11/8, 11/7, 11/2 (37m)
Thierry Lincou
 [Q] Peter Barker (Eng)
11/6, 7/11, 11/8, 11/4 (44m)

[2] Thierry Lincou (Fra)

Qualifying Finals
Peter Barker 
bt Daryl Selby 11/5, 11/6, 4/11, 11/4 (52m)
Simon Parke bt Alex Stait 11/3, 11/7, 10/11(0-2), 8/11, 11/6 (70m)

Joey Kemp
bt Tom Richards 11/10(2-0), 11/8, 11/6 (23m)
Borja Golan
bt Joey Barrington 11/4, 11/5, 11/9 (41m)

1st Round Qualifying
Peter Barker
bt Sam Miller 11/9, 11/8, 9/11, 11/4,
Daryl Selby
bt Chris Gordon 11/7, 11/10(2-0), 11/4,
Simon Parke
bt Aaron Franckomb 11/3, 11/3, 11/2, 
Alex Stait
bt Saurav Ghosal 11/5, 11/3,  11/8,
Tom Richards
bt Davide Bianchetti 11/2, 10/11(0-2), 11/9, 11/4
Joey Kemp
bt Arthur Gaskin 11/8, 11/8, 11/9
Borja Golan
bt Laurence Delasaux 11/3, 10/2 retired.
Joey Barrington
bt Chris Simpson 11/8, 11/8, 11/4



Nicol down to Lincou
Thierry Lincou scored only his second win over Peter Nicol in PSA events here (before this clash the head to head count was 10-1 in Nicol's favour) to go through to face Anthony Ricketts in the final of the Canary Wharf Classic. Lincou won 11-9, 11-10 (3-1), 11-9 in 55 minutes.

After losing the point for point struggle in the first Nicol looked set to level at 9-6 in the second before Lincou came back with two great winners. Nicol tinned a boast and that put the Frenchman back in the frame and although Nicol had a chance at 10-9, he tinned again. Another two fine winners form Lincou, the second a wrong footing crosscourt drop and again Nicol tinned and so went his chances.

Lincou stayed ahead in the third while Nicol made an uncharacteristic number of errors. Perhaps the intimidating speed of old is not quite there, and the ability to get up for the second and third 'gets' has declined. He would not agree with that though.

"Yesterday I was good - I' m not that far off - today not so good. He played well. I wasn't extracting myself from the corners today - just today."

Lincou who lost to Nicol in the British and World Open's had tried to learn from those experiences and he directed his play more to the left-handed Nicol's backhand - and he tried to relax and pace himself through the match.

"I tried to play a game where I save my energy and I am efficient. If you don't do that against him you burn out in the first two games and have little chance."

Whether Lincou can pace himself against Ricketts pressure play is a different question and whether the Australian can apply it consistently could be the key to the final.

Ricketts takes his time
again with Darwish

Karim Darwish, had his wish to play his competitive squash at a higher level fulfilled when he tangled with the top seed Anthony Ricketts in the semi-finals. He started will in a match full of incident and shots but again the Australian came through in the fifth. Ricketts who had already spent three hours on court for his first two matches added another 78 minutes disposing of Darwish 9-11, 11-4, 11-5, 1-11, 11-6.


The first was a quality game with both player playing superbly, Ricketts hitting hard and volleying whole successions of shots while Darwish hit softly, played to the front frequently, and slotting in two winners form 9-all to take the game 11-9. Ricketts was a little in the way on the second winners and ended up in a position of disadvantage and was none to pleased to receive a 'no let.'


"Clueless," he said of the refereeing and added a little threat. "Now the game is going to turn ugly."


Perhaps that threat was aimed as much at Darwish as the referee although Darwish was not making the refereeing decisions. It did add a little psychological edge to the match, which was probably the intention.


Darwish had a poor start to second and was denied two lets early on, perhaps the referee feeling a precedent had been established earlier with Ricketts, and he obviously felt hard done by. This seemed to affect his play, for his motivation wavered throughout the second and third while Ricketts put in an athletic performance to pick up Darwish's frequent exploration frontcourt including some fine full swings on the forehand side that ended in the finest of touch drops.


Ricketts took the initiative 11-4, 11-5 but lost it the  fourth when the Egyptian had a good start and Ricketts for some strange reason thought he would take him on front court only to set Darwish up for a whole succession of winners. Ricketts fell behind so far that his commitment to the game wavered and then vanished. Darwish won in it 11-1.


It was 4-3 in the fifth when Darwish pointed out that Ricketts had a bleeding knee - which requires a stoppage  under the rules. Ricketts was mined to continue and none to pleased to be stopped in full flow but left begrudgingly firing a parting shot Darwish's way.


"OK Darwish ... There is one way you can win so don't worry."


Ricketts took some time to reappear with a fine bandage and proceeded to impose the pressure rallies that had served him so well. Winners helped him to 8-4 and when Darwish threatened with front court shots he still had the intimidating speed to go and blast an almost unplayable kills low across the floor.


A tough rally set up the opportunity to drop, which Ricketts again planted firmly in the tin and although Darwish was still in contention a fortunate bounce on a crosscourt and a stroke against the Egyptian gave him the match.


You can never relax against him," said Ricketts. "If you do he can run away with the whole match quickly."


Ricketts bounces through
Anthony Ricketts’s clash with Gregory Gaultier was an intense engrossing affair. Ricketts called it a ‘point for point’ struggle and asked why he lacked his dominance in patches he explained it was so close, so intense, that there were going to be slight lapses.

“It was any ones match,” he said. “We played as well as each other. Any one could have won.”

Ricketts drove hard and tight and picked his shots in a classic tactical performance, imposing long rallies in his opponent initially, while Gaultier staying with him, mixing the pace of his drives between low stinging kill’s – that Ricketts had to be constantly on his toes to get – and floating length where he dragged the strings across the ball. Ricketts domination gave him the first but his imposing length fell apart in the second. It was almost as if, now he had a game under his belt, he felt he was a shot-maker. He lost his length, sought of forgot about it, and in a string of errors lost the second, and all the good work he had done to dominate the match so far evaporated, in one hand 4-11.

Ricketts was ahead in the third 6-3, after Gaultier had his first clash with the referee but to great acclaim struck back with some wrong footing deception that had Ricketts looking like a straight-line roadster that could not corner to well. Gaultier shots impressed and with a little luck with a back wall nick on the penultimate ball he took the third 11-8.

Spectators, where left wondering where Ricketts early advantage had gone to and we can guess intelligently, for the message from his coach would have been obvious – ‘ get some length – go back to the game you had at the beginning.’

Ricketts was back onto his game in the fourth, which set up the winning opportunities to establish a 6-1 lead, fine shots from Gaultier, including another fortunate back wall nick closed the gap. Ricketts again went back to basics and imposed a long cruel rally, waiting for the mistake or opening to be gifted by his opponent and Gaultier finally cracked – just a little - with a backhand volley drop tinned – and then again unnecessarily with a backhand drop of service to level the games 11-7.

Gaultier was a little peeved with a harsh ‘no let’ early in the decider and his fine demeanor - it was as if he has been on an anger management course and it had been so successful that he had left a tip - got a little narked with the referee – ‘even you could have got that one’ he said – as Gaultier got a useful 4-1 lead. The Frenchman however hit a bad patch or errors forced into them with clinging balls and a miss hit to put Ricketts ahead 7-4. Then in engrossing climatic rallies in which twice Ricketts forced long grueling rallies on his opponent to prize out the weak ball and then carefully set up his drops only to bang the ball in the tin.

Ricketts was the first to match ball, well after the ninetieth minute of combat, but Gaultier was still dangerous and twice he forced his opponent to scrape and fire a loose ball into he back wall that he could attack. One a beautiful millimeter perfect boast with a typical flamboyant Gaultier deceptive flourish. Gaultier leveled and gained his own match ball on a harsh no let that penalised Ricketts that the referee would not have had many supporters for. They levelled at 10, 11, and 12 where Gaultier gifted an unforced backhand drive and then Ricketts took his turn at luck in the back court to fire for the back wall nick off serve – the ball struck it and rolled, to much general groaning, some special groaning from Gaultier and then some perverse laughter.

“I could feel it off the strings,” said Ricketts.

He was right it was anyone’s game. This was a mature performance form Gaultier – he is still prone to unforced errors and a little self-induced paranoia in his dealing with the referee, which can be distracting, but he was strong and threatening throughout this gruelling 105 minute battle and if he continues in this vein could expect to be one of the two or three players at the top of the game.



Willstrop Out To Darwish Attack
James Willstrop fell at the end of his point for point battle with Karim Darwish to give the Egyptian a semi-finals place 11-6, 4-11, 10-12, 11-7, 11-5 over 78 minutes.

Willstrop's shots held sway early on, and he held the initiative after saving game ball to strike with three winners, including a fine touch backhand half-volley drop to clinch the third 12-10 but then his challenge faded. Perhaps he was still feeling that semi-finals against Lee Beahcill from the Nationals.


"My plan was to move him and I used boasts and drops - the forehand is my favourite side and I like attacking with the forehand drop," said Darwish.


Willstrop was impressive at moving his opponent, dominated the T area, and at plucking the ball of the side walls on the volley but he lacked an energetic edge - not by much but he just faded a little.


That is what Darwish was waiting for, relying on. "He lost energy, that's why I had wanted to move him," said Darwish.


Willstrop, lead at 6-5 in the fourth, was caught by a trickle boast - a shot he had trouble reading all night - and had a heavy tumble, with just an outside chance of running a dying length backhand down - but conceded it. A miss hit off serve followed at the resumption, Darwish slotting in another winning forehand drop and at 9-6 had a lead the fading Willstrop was not able to threaten.


From 3-5 in the fifth Darwish went away to 10-3 in a hand pulling Willstrop short with shots and then punching dying length drives in that eventually took their toll to win the fifth convincingly 11-5.


"It is an important win for me, beating the English No.1 in England," said Darwish. "I want to get up to the next group of players and establish myself at 4 or 5 in the world. I have been playing too many small tournaments and now I have to beat these players in big tournaments and make semi-finals and finals.


Nationals Fallout:

Beachill Pays The Price at Wharf

It wasn't just James Willstrop that was jaded at Canary Wharf, Lee Beachill looked as if he had enough of squash for a while and who could blame him after his epic 105 minutes battle against Nick Matthew on Sunday. Matthew, the National Champion, did not make it through to the second round here, Willstrop, who was the top seed in Manchester, fell to Darwish, and Beachill lost to Nicol 11-7, 11-7, 11-4.


Nicol, may have come out of the Nationals the best of the four semi-finals. Here he was efficient, moved his opponent and played consistently to get through. Importantly he got through comfortably enough - 42 minutes - so he will have something in reserve for Alex Gough or Thierry Lincou and he has a good record over both players.



National Stars Progress
At Canary Wharf

Four players returning to international competition after battling for national honours recorded impressive victories on the second day of first round action in the ISS Canary Wharf Squash Classic at East Wintergarden in Canary Wharf, London.

Unlike Nick Matthew, who crashed out on Monday after only a 24-hour break since his British National Championship triumph in Manchester, runner-up Lee Beachill clearly benefited from his two-day break when he faced fellow Englishman Ben Garner.  The fifth seed from Yorkshire beat Surrey champion Garner 11-8 11-8 11-4 in 35 minutes – and will now face fourth seed Peter Nicol, his England team-mate, for a place in the last four.

Third seed James Willstrop, beaten by Beachill in the British semi-finals, played what he described as "probably the worst match I ever played in my life" when he pipped Pakistan's Shahid Zaman 11-9 11-10 11-10 in 43 minutes.

The 22-year-old from Pontefract will no doubt hope for a better performance in the quarter-finals against fellow former world junior champion Karim Darwish, the seventh seed from Egypt.

The contest for the top player in France produced a significant upset at the weekend when Gregory Gaultier beat the 2005 world number one Thierry Lincou in the final of the French Nationals in NimesGaultier, the eighth seed at Canary Wharf, continued his winning ways with an 11-2 11-8 11-5 defeat of English qualifier Jonathan Kemp in just 28 minutes.

Second seed Lincou was taken to four games by left-hander Peter Barker, but ultimately triumphed 11-6 7-11 11-8 11-4 over the English qualifier in 44 minutes.

Gaultier will now meet Australia's top seed Anthony Ricketts, while Lincou takes on unseeded Welshman Alex Gough in tonight's quarter-finals at London's Docklands.



British Champion Matthew Downed In Docklands
Competing in the ISS Canary Wharf Squash Classic just 24 hours after winning the British National Championship title for the first time, Nick Matthew admitted that he was running on empty as he went down to Welsh warhorse Alex Gough in straight games in the first round of the five-star PSA Tour event at East Wintergarden in Canary Wharf, London.

Matthew was unable to reproduce the previous night's heroics in Manchester where he fought back from 10-6 down to beat title-holder Lee Beachill in the fifth game of the national final.

"I tried to go on court and enjoy being the national champion," said the 25-year-old from Sheffield.  "But I simply didn't have enough energy in the tank."

Gough, 35, took advantage of his opponent's fatigue to win 11-3 11-10 11-10 on the all-glass court at Docklands – gaining revenge for his quarter-final defeat by Matthew last week in Manchester.

Fellow golden oldie Simon Parke, the 32-year-old former world No3 from Leeds, almost pulled off a surprise against top seed Anthony Ricketts but could not convert his 2/1 advantage in games against the tough Australian. 

Ricketts, the British Open champion from Sydney, beat the Yorkshire qualifier 11-6 8-11 8-11 11-7 11-4.

England's Peter Nicol, the fourth seed, cruised past Spanish qualifier Borja Golan 11-8 11-4 11-4, and Egypt's stylish Karim Darwish was too composed on the glass court for Finland's Olli Tuominen, winning 11-8 11-10 11-7.

New Champion Matthew Races To Canary Wharf Clash

Just 24 hours after winning one of the longest and most dramatic British National Championship finals on record, England international Nick Matthew will be back in action in tonight's first round of the ISS Canary Wharf Squash Classic at East Wintergarden in Canary Wharf, London.

Matthew, 25, from Sheffield, saved four match balls to beat England team-mate Lee Beachill in Sunday's final on the all-glass court at the National Squash Centre in
Manchester to win the title for the first time.  Three-times champion Beachill was celebrating a record sixth successive appearance in the final.

Sixth seed Matthew faces Welshman Alex Gough, ranked 19 in the world, in a repeat of their quarter-final clash last week in Manchester.

The $52,500 Canary Wharf event is making its debut on the PSA Tour in its third year in London's Docklands.  The five-star tournament boasts six of the world's top ten men, headed by Australia's British Open champion Anthony Ricketts, the world No4 and last year's runner-up, who faces English qualifier Simon Parke in the first round.

Parke joins fellow Englishmen Peter Barker and Jonathan Kemp who also survived the qualifying finals on the eve of the event.  Spaniard Borja Golan denied the host country maximum reward from the qualifiers when he beat England's Joey Barrington 11-4 11-5 11-9.

Golan is drawn to meet former world No1 Peter Nicol, the fourth seed, in the opening round.



Interview by ALAN THATCHER

Anthony Ricketts of Australia is heading for the top. The top seed for next week’s ISS Canary Wharf Squash Classic, he is almost the finished article, but is honest enough to know that some parts of his game still need polishing.

The world number one slot was in his grasp during December’s Saudi International. He and Jonathon Power entered the final knowing that whoever won the match would top the PSA January rankings, but the Canadian maestro turned on the style to get back to number one for the first time in more than four years.

British Open champion Ricketts arrives at Canary Wharf full of confidence, having launched 2006 with an impressive win over compatriot David Palmer to win the Australian Open in Melbourne.

He also partnered Stewart Boswell to victory in the World Doubles Championship that followed. Both tournaments were warm-up events for the forthcoming Commonwealth Games, and Ricketts will be aiming to continue his run of excellent form as he looks forward to the chance of winning a gold medal on home soil next month.

Ricketts, last year’s ISS Canary Wharf Classic runner-up to John White in a breathtaking, all-action final, is aiming to go one better this year.

Ricketts, who is based in Reading for most of the year, has enjoyed a rare rest during his build-up to Canary Wharf followed by a resumption of his renowned heavy training programme.

He made a disappointing exit in the quarter-finals in the Chicago tournament in mid-January and said: “I enjoyed a nice break after the Windy City Open. The schedule at the end of last year was insane and then it was straight into the Australian Open and World Open Doubles, then up to North America.

“In Chicago I just did not feel sharp. The travel took its toll and I lost to Jonathon Power in the quarter-finals. When I got back to Reading I had a rest and then got some valuable training in and caught up on some important work I had been missing out on.”

Tickets are available from Ticketmaster on 0870 534 4444. As well as the normal seating, visitors to the ISS Canary Wharf Classic can also enjoy top-class corporate hospitality in the Gallery Restaurant, overlooking the court. Tickets are also available to watch the action from the Gallery VIP Bar at a small extra cost.

The qualifying competition will be held at Wimbledon Racquets Club on the weekend of February 11 and 12, before the main draw switches to Canary Wharf.


Peter Nicol, the most successful British squash player of all time, is putting his retirement plans on hold. Nicol, 32, is keen to dispel speculation that he will quit the world tour after the Commonwealth Games in Australia in March.

He says he is as fit and hungry as ever after his mid-winter break and will continue to appear as long as he is able to compete at the highest level.

The London-based left-hander is looking forward to his third appearance in the Games as he bids for a third gold medal. In the short-term, however, his attention is focused on the ISS Canary Wharf Classic from February 13-17. A co-promoter of this PSA Five Star event, Nicol is keen to get a good performance under his belt at the superb East Wintergarden venue in London’s Docklands.

He said: “I will definitely continue playing after the Commonwealth Games. I am committed to playing in the Bermuda Open, the European Team Championships for England, and then it will be my 12th consecutive appearance in the PSA Super Series Finals in London in May.”

Nicol enjoyed a long and deserved rest during the Christmas and New Year period after a brutal playing schedule at the end of 2005, during which he helped England to their first World Team Championship title in Pakistan.

In an interview he said: “I had a fabulous rest with my family back home in Scotland. I ate well and slept well and managed to recharge my batteries in time to start training last week. I am feeling good about my fitness and am gearing up for a successful event at Canary Wharf and then the Commonwealth Games.”

He is refreshingly candid about his future in the sport and admitted: “I will carry on playing as long as I can compete. This season I know that when I have been fully focused and the body has been in good shape then I have been able to turn in some quality performances in major tournaments.”

Nicol knows that he has a successful future ahead with his steadily developing  Eventis Sports Marketing company, who are co-promoting the ISS Canary Wharf Classic with Squash UK, but he is clearly keen to delay the moment when he decides it is time to hang up his famous Prince racket.

Squash Fans Keen to See World Champion Amr Shabana London squash fans are looking forward to the chance of seeing world champion Amr Shabana in action at the 2006 ISS Canary Wharf Squash Classic.

Shabana recently won his second World Open title after a series of majestic performances in Hong Kong. The stylish left-hander from Cairo beat Canary Wharf promoter Peter Nicol in the semi-final and overcame Australia’s David Palmer in the final.

Co-promoter Tim Garner, a partner with Nicol in Eventis Sports Marketing, flew out to Hong Kong hoping to see his friend reach the final but came away impressed by Shabana’s dazzling brilliance. Garner said:  “Shabana was in great form in the World Open. He looked very relaxed but focused and saw the ball better than anyone. It looked like he was in championship winning form all week.

“Amr reached the British Open final in Nottingham last year but hasn’t always performed as well as he would have liked in the UK. However, he is clearly in top form at the moment and we are looking forward to seeing his special brand of attacking play at Canary Wharf in February.”

This season’s tournament is a PSA Five Star event featuring 16 of the world’s top players and takes place from February 13-17, 2006, with action on the glass court inside the spectacular East Wintergarden atrium at Canary Wharf.

Alan Thatcher Reporting from Canary Wharf
England’s James Willstrop disappointed a full-house crowd when he was knocked out of the quarter-finals of the ISS Canary Wharf Squash Classic by Egypt’s Karim Darwish. England star Willstrop, from Pontefract, lost 11-6, 4-11, 10-11 (0-2), 11-7, 11-5 in 77 minutes of exciting, attacking squash between two former world junior champions.

World No.6 Willstrop, 22 years old and 6ft 5in tall, began sluggishly and allowed the more accurate Egyptian to win the opening game comfortably. But once Willstrop settled into his stride, he used his astonishing reach to attack at every opportunity.

He levelled matters with a near-perfect second game and withstood fierce resistance from Darwish to sneak the third on a tiebreak. But Willstrop wilted in the fourth as Darwish hit back and the Egyptian took complete control in the fifth to reach the semi-finals .

Willstrop's Pontefract and England team-mate Lee Beachill followed him out of the tournament when he lost in straight games to Peter Nicol. Nicol won 11-7, 11-7, 11-4 in 44 minutes of punishing, top-quality squash. Beachill reached the National Championship final in Manchester last week just a fortnight after a leg operation and was clearly feeling the effects as Nicol attacked in ruthless fashion.

Co-promoter Nicol said: "That was a tough match and the tournament schedule makes a brutal sport even more brutal. Full marks to Lee for his efforts. I enjoyed the match and just love this court. It allows you to attack you reap the dividends when you can achive a good length." Beachill had no complaints and admitted: "I had to work extremely hard
last week and it was obvious that I was still feeling the effects of those efforts. Peter was playing some excellent squash and he is looking in very good shape at the moment."
Both players were able to find a dying length on the glass court but Nicol's precision play was superior on the night. When Beachill's returns were loose, Nicol then switched the attack to the front corners with devastating effect.

TOP seed Anthony Ricketts of Australia was made to battle all the way
by rising French star Gregory Gaultier to reach the semi-finals of the ISS
Canary Wharf Squash Classic.

Ricketts, who is based most of the year in Reading, won 11-8, 4-11, 8-11, 11-7, 11-10 (4-2) in 105 minutes of absorbing and punishing squash.

Gaultier bounced back after losing the opening game to win the second and third but visibly tired in the fourth as Ricketts tightened up.

In the fifth, Gaultier began firing in audacious winners from the back of the court to lead 4-1, but a solid recovery from Ricketts took him to 7-4, 9-6 and match ball at 10-7, but Gaultier hit back again to force the decider to a tiebreak. Incredibly, both players made mistakes on match ball before Ricketts won the tiebreak 4-2 to clinch a semi-final match against Egyptian Karim Darwish, the No.7 seed.

No.2 seed Thierry Lincou faces Nicol in the semi-finals after beating Welsh outsider Alex Gough 11-8, 11-7, 11-2 in 31 minutes.

Historic Canary Wharf Classic Breakthrough With

At last, and for the first time, betting on the exchanges with is available on squash at the ISS Canary Wharf Classic, with four first round matches being played in the five-star PSA Tour event tonight (Tuesday).

The matches are [2] Thierry Lincou (FRA) v [Q] Peter Barker (ENG); [5] Lee Beachill (ENG) v Ben Garner (ENG); [3] James Willstrop (ENG) v Shahid Zaman (PAK); and [8] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v [Q] Jonathan Kemp (ENG).

Leading coach and gambling enthusiast Malcolm Willstrop said: "Betting, I have said endlessly, is crucial to the development of the professional game and squash has been, for a long time, one of the few sports where betting has not been available.

"It was once established through Stan James, but when promised live television did not appear at the time of the Eye Group, it fell through.

"Happily, have taken on squash and let no-one doubt how significant this is in the sport’s history.

"Betfair have also come on board at a time when the professional game is producing wonderful sporting entertainment and is wide open.

"Thanks to Betfair, and my advice to the squash public and the betting public is simple:  Get punting and show Betfair that their confidence in the sport is well-based."


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