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Tue 23 Mar, Day ONE:

Framboise Gommendy
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 Beachill.


“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 Thierry Lincou.

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 Bermuda.

“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.


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 how!

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…

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 the court.

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.


(Corp Chall):
Mirror Group 2-1 Waitrose

Canada Place Group
John White bt David Palmer
7/9, 9/5, 9/4, 9/6 (34m)

Lee Beachill
bt James Willstrop
8/10, 10/8, 7/9, 9/3, 9/4 (59m)

Jubilee Place Group
Thierry Lincou
bt Nick Matthew
6/9, 9/5, 9/6, 9/4

Peter Nicol
bt Ong Beng Hee
9/4, 9/7, 5/9, 9/7 (42m)



Framboise Gommendy reports

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, 10-9.
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.


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