Tue 23 Mar, Day ONE:
reports from the Wharf
There goes David Palmer.
To tell you the truth, I saw only the last game. Yes, sorry, some of us
have to work for a living!
But I have the very strong feeling that I didn’t miss a match. What I saw
was a bit more than a great training session between two very good
players. John was dominating the game, hitting his beautiful shots away,
but there was no, how do you say in English… Sparkle? 3/1 for John White
in 34 minutes. They still fought hard, don’t misunderstand me, but it
lacked a bit of passion.
But I’m French, so, I want passion everywhere … don’t listen to me.
One spectator told me “it was a bit Light and Dairy”. Whatever that means,
but I’m sure you know what she meant more than I do.
I just hope that Palmer caught his train [he did, Ed.], did perform well
[he did, Ed.], and did win his match against my compatriot Grégory
Gaultier [he didn't ...]. Can’t wait to hear the results ...
Tomorrow, John White plays James Willstrop, and David Palmer plays Lee
“I didn’t want to lose twice against the same player, supposed to be
ranked under me! It wouldn’t have been good for my mental !!!!!!!!” said
You bet! But my God, Nick Matthew is such a good player. He lobs it up to
the sky, runs to pick up all the feathered drops that Thierry throws at
him, and every time Thierry makes a loose forehand drive, Nick deadly
boasts it. At some point, it was actually “a battle of cross courts lobs”.
I lob you, you lob me, and the first one who can’t get it out of the
corner buys the drinks!
Thierry was a bit nervous to start with. When I arrived, I just saw him
very quickly, John White and David Palmer were still on. His right ankle
firmly strapped, Thierry was extremely concentrated, very tense, didn’t
really get into any conversation. I was slightly surprised by a not so
warm reception, and then I remembered he was playing just after!
Well, I’ve got a good excuse; I have been up since 6.00 and working all
day in Milton Keynes, so give me a break ok???
No, Thierry didn’t want to lose this one. Apart from the first game won
very rightly by Matthew 9/6, Thierry was directing the game. It was a
weird game in a way, as the shots on the backhand were much more precise
than the ones on the forehand. And we are talking some pretty loose shots,
in particular from Thierry.
“I wanted to do so well, I was so nervous”, said the French Number 1. It
has been so hard to get back into shape after my injury. My first big test
was in New York, and I lost against John White 3/2, so I was rather happy,
if one can be happy to lose of course. But it has been very hard.”
I have not seen Nick Matthew play much this season. Only against Adrian
Grant at the Nationals where he lost pretty easily against Adrian for the
first time in 2 years. So that was obviously not his best game…. And yes,
tonight was not his night either, still tired by last week’s semi-final in
“I think that Nick was still jetlagged” commented Thierry afterward. “But
I still feel very happy. I felt pretty good tonight, and I felt that Nick
was a bit slow due to his long tournament last week”.
Tomorrow, Thierry plays Beng Hee and Nick Matthew plays Peter Nicol.
ANYTHING YOU CAN DO
I CAN DO BETTER!
The 2 last games were quite funny really. Each of them were training
partners, friends also I guess. Surely.
First, we had the wonderful Peter Nicol. You don’t present Peter Nicol, do
you? Pretty easy, he has won EVERYTHING. He is the Master in Retrieving.
His opponent tonight, Ong Beng Hee, doesn’t have the same prestigious
career yet. He was well up in the world rankings, world number 7, and then
last year, he seemed to float a bit. He is now ranked 14. But if we can
trust what we saw tonight, he has found the shore. Yes he did lose, but
Honestly, I wish you were here!
Do you know the song, “anything you can do…". Whatever Peter was throwing
at Ong Beng Hee, Ong would send it back with flowers and ribbons! Great
deception shots (you know, you think they are going to play a drop shot
left corner, and zoom, they slide it with a flick of the wrist on the
other side of the tin, right in the right corner), drop shots that are
still in the air as we speak, they haven’t landed yet, lobs that stop in
the air and look around thinking, “do I go down now? No, think I going to
stick around, the view is great up here!”, boasts that shave the tin… You
know what I mean.
And the retrieving!
Well, if you have rallies as brilliant as that, it’s also because the two
players retrieve like the lunatics they both are…. There was actually a
shot where Peter stumbled, fell on his knees, went on walking on his knees
as if he was standing up, went up again, and picked up the drop shot on
the right corner and won the rally. The crowd went wild!
The crowd loved it, and so did I. The atmosphere between those two was
warm, and smiling, and the match wonderful to look at. Quel bonheur! Such
a wonderful match!
And you know, what is absolutely amazing with Peter, is that he reinvents
himself at every point. You never know what he is going to play. As Neil
Harvey says “Squash is a question of choices”. Well, Peter never makes the
same choice twice.
I know, I know, I’m a bit enthusiastic, but it is such a pleasure to see
Peter back in his best form, and Beng Hee as imaginative and precise that
he’s ever been.
Can’t wait for their next matches…
JAMES ... FOR NOW
The other “pals’ match” was the last match of the night between the 2
Pontefract Players, the Willstrop group, Lee Beachill vs James Willstrop.
Before I begin, may I allow myself to mention (oh come on, I’ve been so
good tonight, it couldn’t last, could it?) how amazingly charismatic James
Willstrop is. In my line of work, we call that “presence”. It means that
somebody “shines” when he gets on stage, and in this case, on court.
Yes, James Willstrop has all the characteristics of a Star. Tall, well
built (we are far away from the skinny “Jansher” type, thank GOD for
that), a smile that makes the world shine with him, a heart that is bigger
than my phone bill… What more do you want????
But tonight, once again (I saw Lee Beachill disposing of James at the
Nationals ¼ finals), Lee was the best on the day.
Lee Beachill has got a wonderful talent. He can impose HIS game. HIS
rhythm. HIS style. He knows that attackers like James don’t like straight
games, straight shots that don’t give them any angle to attack. And Lee is
VERY patient. He can play drives and cross courts until the cows come
home, so the rallies last, and last, and his opponent enters in a sort of
rhythm, and then baoum! Lee shoots a drop shot out of nowhere that
surprises his opponent and lets him call for a taxi at the other side of
And James got caught. He had to attack at some point, and as usual, when
you are taking the risks, very often you find the tin!
In the 1st game, we lived an historical moment: the first DEUCE of Squash
History. In a few years, I’ll be able to say
“Yes, dear, I was there, I was watching. They were 8 all in the 1st game,
and the marker announced DEUCE! Lee Beachill, who obviously hadn’t been
informed of the rules, said: "What?". "Deuce", repeated the marker. And
then, he announced “Advantage Willstrop”. We only needed Cliff Richards to
start singing, a bit of rain, and we were in Wimbledon, dear. No, it’s
really nice to enter history.
8/10, 10/8. One all. 7/9, 9/3. Two all.
Both of the players were playing length, hitting the ball hard to try and
find the good angle that would make the shot impossible to retrieve. The
rallies were long, sustained, structured. The score was very close, 3/3,
but Lee put his foot on the accelerator, and slowly, James made more and
more mistakes, as he felt the pressure from his team mate more and more.
One great boast from Lee, 3 tins and one out of court from James, and Lee
was wining the last game 9/4.
The match, despite a score only up to 9, lasted 59 minutes.
It is obvious to me – and I’m sure to a lot of people – that James will
soon beat everybody on the circuit. He is still so young, but soon, very
soon. VERY soon.
Mirror Group 2-1 Waitrose
Canada Place Group
7/9, 9/5, 9/4, 9/6 (34m)
8/10, 10/8, 7/9, 9/3, 9/4 (59m)
Jubilee Place Group
6/9, 9/5, 9/6, 9/4
Ong Beng Hee
9/4, 9/7, 5/9, 9/7 (42m)
SAY IT WITH A FRENCH ACCENT
Framboise Gommendy reports
DAY ONE HIGHLIGHTS
from Alan Thatcher
The Canary Wharf Corporate Classic got
off to a flying start with Trinity Mirror beating Waitrose 2-1 inan
entertaining encounter on The Thunderdome court.
The players coped admirably with the sunlight shining through the East
Wintergarden windows onto the court and played some excellent squash. Clay
Pascal of Waitrose made a great start in the opning match top win teh
first game tiebreaker but Trinity Mirror senior lawyer Marcus Partington
hit back infine style to win 3-1.
Sunday People deputy sports editor Lee Horton clinched victory for his
side by beating Mark Brown in straight games but the experienced Mick
Hynes hit back to win the final rubber for Waitrose against David Bolger,
a classic 10-9 in the fifth.
1 Mick Hynes (Waitrose) bt David Bolger (TM) 9-7, 8-10, 9-5, 3-9,
2 Lee Horton (TM) bt Mark Brown (Waitrose) 9-2, 9-3, 9-2.
3 Marcus Partington (TM) bt Clay Pascal (Waitrose) 9-10, 9-2, 9-3, 9-2.