Thu 25 Mar, Day THREE:
LINCOU & WILLSTROP
MOVE INTO THE FINAL
Thierry Lincou will play in the Canary
Wharf final, after beating Peter Nicol in the final Jubilee Group match
and edging ahead on points countback.
Ong Beng Hee joined Nicol on two wins with a quickfire victory over Nick
Matthew, and then Lincou levelled it all up by beating Nicol (who let slip
an 8-4 lead in the fourth) to leave all three on two wins each.
Games countback eliminated Beng Hee, and on points countback the Frenchman
was a comfortable winner on +17 compared to Nicol's +9. Nicol will play in
the 3/4 play-off.
In the Canada Place group John White beat Lee Beachill in
just under an hour, leaving the world number one to sweat on the result of
the last match.
David Palmer could have done fellow-Aussie White a favour by Beating
James Willstrop and sending White into the final. But with Palmer
himself out of contention Willstrop knew that a win would send the
Yorkshire youngster into the final, and he made sure he stayed ahead
So it's Thierry Lincou v James Willstrop in tomorrow's final (who's
Framboise going to support ???), and Peter Nicol v John White in
the 3/4 playoff.
I CAN'T BELIEVE IT ...
Martin Bronstein, my eminent colleague, says very rightly that I can’t add
up. So I was absolutely convinced that if Nick Matthew, the charming young
English player from Sheffield (I think, don’t shoot me if I’m wrong, it’s
past midnight), lost against the born again player Ong Beng Hee, then
Thierry Lincou was out of the race.
So, once again (poor Ong must think I have something against him, and I
haven’t, cross my heart, he is such a lovely discreet young man), I wished
very hard that Matthew would win!
Well, just like Thierry Lincou yesterday , a very determined and
courageous Matthew couldn't find the key to the Malaysian iron defence.
Yes, Nick made a few nicks, retrieved the ball pretty well, but Ong was
lobbing, playing strong length drives, forcing Nick to retreat to the back
of the court, and then execute his opponent by a lethal drop shot.
Nick lost the first set 9/5 in 10 minutes.
decided then to quicken the pace, but Beng Hee's shots were glued to the
wall, and Nick had very little space to create his own game. He was also
driving and cross-court lobbing, and the rally at 4/5 with Nick serving
was a veritable demonstration in retrieving, but Ong played a forehand
drive too far for the Englishman. 6/4 for the Malaysian. Nick found the
tin, loses a stroke, and with a final boast ending also in the tin, Beng
Hee won the second game 9/4 in 7 minutes.
The third was quite close: 3/3, 4/3, 4/4, 5/4, 5/5, 6/5, 6/6, 7/6.
Not a relaxing walk in the park is it? So don’t think for a moment that
Ong had it easy, or that Nick didn’t do his best. But Nick Matthew played
2 loose shots. And Ong Beng Hee seized the moment, pressurising Nick to
make mistakes. One drop shot in the tin. 8/6. Nick reacted, and played a
fantastic drive that gripped to the wall like the Taxman on the world
citizens. 7/8. Then Ong ended the game with a sumptuous drive, securing
his place in the last day.
Or so I thought…
“It’s the first time I've played well in a year”, exclaimed Beng Hee with
a big smile. “I was on a stand still, I stayed 6 years with Neil Harvey,
and outstayed my stay in Chinford”. I did learn an awful lot with Neil,
but I think my biggest mistake was to stick with only one coach for so
many years. Now, I’m on my way to Leeds to train with the English boys [I
guess he means English Squash?], Lee Beachill, James Willstrop and the
After all the excitement, another good point to Nick Matthew - he is
a very smiling loser!
“You can’t peak all the time. There are moments when you stagnate! But if
I could choose the matches where I wanted to be good and win, I would have
chosen the matches I actually did win! So, it’s OK. But I enjoy winning
too much… Also, maybe there is something in my game that leads me to not
control the ball enough when I’m tired. That’s something I need to look at
and work on”…
So Matthew was out. John White then explained to me that Thierry could
still qualify for the final.
Hein??? [What, you philistines]
So, the dice were still rolling….
I MUST BE DREAMING!
If at this time last night, somebody told me that Thierry Lincou, the
French number one, and World number two (and in that order if you please…)
was going to play the final, I would have very kindly advised him to go
and stop smoking the carpet.
And you know, there is something funny. When Thierry plays against Peter
Nicol, the Boss, I’m never anxious. Last year for example, Peter and
Thierry played in the Super Series one of the best matches I ever saw (and
I saw quite a lot). Peter went up in the 1st game 14/2 without one fault
from either of the players. The perfect game also according to Neil
Harvey, Peter’s coach. Peter Nicol seems to always bring out the best in
So I was relaxed; pen (a new one) in hand, surrounded by the best people
you can find on the Squash circuit, and off we went.
“Please refrain from hitting the ball in the dangerous position, Mr
Lincou” spoke the referee, after the Mr Lincou in question involuntarily
hit his opponent on the left calf. Peter, his smiling self, made the crowd
laugh by pretending to be mad at Thierry.
God, the Boss knows how to make the audience love him!
Very few mistakes in this game, not too many long rallies, not too long (7
minutes), and to my surprise (as Thierry has not played well in his first
games during the event) my compatriot takes the 1st set 9/7.
“Well”, I thought, “at least he is relaxed, and we are going to see a
In the second, Peter pined his drives to the wall, Thierry stretched his
drives and cross courts to the millimetre, Peter anticipated, Thierry then
mis-hit a few shots, and with a last back hand cross court deception, the
Boss equalised, 5/9.
In the 3rd, Nicol showed us how retrieving is spelled. In particular, the
Frenchman played a right side drive that was the perfect length. And a
fraction of a second before the ball died in the back well, Peter got it
out and attacked it.
Absolutely amazing stuff.
And his deception shots in front of the court. You know the ones - he is
about to play a delicate drop shot in the left corner, and a flick of the
wrist later, the ball lands in the right corner.
Peter was playing beautifully, but tonight, Thierry found the answers he
didn’t have the night before. And especially, he unleashed his mental
block. He had nothing to lose tonight.
He won the 3rd 9/6. Was he going to ... Naaaaa.
The rest of the match is anthology material. There was a point in the 4th
(7/8 on Thierry’s serve and 3 lets) where after the rally, both players
bent themselves in two, using their racquet as canes, to try and gasp a
bit of air. All the rallies were cheered by the crowd. Peter returned
Thierry's serve into the Tin. 8/8. After an interminable rally, Peter
tins. Advantage Thierry (still sounds funny, doesn’t it). Let. Let. Let. A
rally straight from Hell where Thierry refuses a stroke position and
chooses to play on. 10 seconds later, Peter returns the favour, and in a
last perfect shot that tear the air, my Thierry wins a 20 minute 4th set
“I’m out, aren’t I?” says Thierry as I approached him seconds after his
victory. “What do you mean” I shout! You are in!” “No, I don’t think I
am”. ”Don’t go anywhere” I say (as if the poor dripping thing had any
intention of moving).
I approach the tournament referee Linda Davie, join Colin McQuillan, my
other eminent colleague, and wait. A few seconds later, Linda whispers to
me “He is in the final”. “Are you sure?”. “Positive”, retorts the Lady in
I fly to Thierry, and in French; “Tu es en finale, pépère [you’re in the
final, old timer], and Peter is in the play-off”. He looks at me with
astonishment and complete incredulity. “Are you sure”. “Oui”! Silence. “Naaaaaa”.
“Mais si je te dis! [I promise you]”. Silence. “Until Peter tells me
officially, I won’t believe it”.
And indeed he was.
“It’s so great to play against Peter. He possesses such a rhythm when he
plays, his shots have so much substance the response is easier than when
you play with players that don’t give you anything to rebound off.”
And when Alan Thatcher, co-promoter and compere of the event, asked him
his impression; “I’m sorry for Ong, but after what he put me through last
night, it’s a nice revenge”, smiled Thierry. “The match was pretty tense,
but I stuck to my play, I was more relaxed and avoided the mistakes I made
Poor Ong. Not sure that Peter is THAT happy to be only in the Play-Off.
Thierry is ecstatic.
So, who is he going to play???
JOHN OR LEE?
Have you ever noticed how much John White looks like Nicolas Cage???? It’s
pretty amazing… Watching the tall Scot warm up, his swing is the most
natural I ever saw. He doesn’t hit, he caresses. And the ball shoots out.
I taught him EVERYTHING he knows.
Of course you did… Talk about smoking the carpet…
55 minutes and 4 sets. For somebody who had blisters and was suffering
like hell, Mr Beachill did pretty well! He wins the 1st one 9/5, with John
helping him doing so by placing a few shots in the tin.
The second game lasted forever. 5/5, 7/7, Deuce, Advantage Lee, Deuce,
Advantage, Deuce, Advantage. “Oh, go on, for Pete’s sake”, seemed to say
Lee. “I’m in pain here”! John eventually wins it in 19 minutes, after a
festival of volley kills, and other flamboyant shots and mistakes.
“John is making life very difficult for himself”, reflects Ellery Hanley,
John’s psychological coach. “The game of squash is something else you
know”, he replies to a fan who is asking him if he would have the stamina
to play squash at that level, “No way!” The higher in the hierarchy of a
sport, the more humble the man is. A great lesson for everybody…
The 2 boys are having fun now! They are in exhibition mode, and a sentence
comes to mind:
“Send in the clowns”.
For those of you who don’t know, it’s a wonderful song from Stephen
Sondheim, a musicals American composer. Stick around, people, and you’ll
learn a few things…
Yes, those two are having a great time in entertaining the crowds. And so
do we. But good things always come to an end, and after wining the 3rd
game pretty quickly 9/2, John White takes the 4th 10/8.
There was a pretty amazing retrieving from the Tall Man at 3/2 in the 4th,
Lee serving. John once again (he has done it a lot this event) threw
himself on the floor. Flat down he went, stood up, runs to the other side
of the court, battles with Lee to recover the direction of the rally, and
plays a backhand volley kill nick! What more do you want????
Now we know that Beachill is out. So is it going to be a
“John/Thierry’, or “James/Thierry” final ???
WHO TO CHOOSE,
DEAR LORD, WHO TO CHOOSE?
Well, I’m sure you do know by now. James Willstrop played a remarkable 27
minutes 3 setters against a not so motivated David Palmer. So Thierry
Lincou will now face the young James Willstrop.
As Steve Cubbins wrote in his report: “Who is Framboise going to
Beats me. Don’t know guys.
On one side, my compatriot, the first Frenchman ever to reach number one
ranking. Don’t forget I’ve been around a few years, and I come from a time
where there were no French players within the first 150 top players. So,
yes, I think Thierry Lincou is the best thing that ever happened to French
Squash. And also, he has always, always, a perfect behaviour on and off
the courts. I call him “Gentleman Thierry”. And I love his fragility and
On the other side, the next World Number One, ladies and gentlemen, j’ai
nommé (here it comes) James Willstrop. He is talented, he is hungry, and
he is (unfortunately for me) still extremely young. He is solid, has a
strong belief in his potential, a head firmly planted on his shoulders,
and a heart of gold.
You know what? I just don’t know. I just do not know.
A bribe could be the answer….
No, I think I’ll probably do what Malcolm Willstrop does when Lee Beachill
(who is has been coaching since Lee was 9) plays James Willstrop, his son.
Pray for them to play their best, and make the Game of Squash proud.
God I love squash!
Jubilee Place Group:
Ong Beng Hee
9/5, 9/4, 9/7 (32m)
9/7, 5/9, 9/6, 10/8 (50m)
Canada Place Group:
5/9, 10/9, 9/2, 10/8 (55m)
9/7, 9/5, 9/6 (27m)
THE FINAL TOUCH
at the Wharf
The cameras have arrived! I am in my element, at last! Robert Summers and
Simon Clapham, the Proactive people, just arrived from the Bermuda Open
(by the way, the weather was not that great, not really warm, quite
variable, so I don’t regret not having been there then)!
They have been working in partnership with PSA for years, and have been
filming the Super Series events for yonks. They are working very hard to
have everything in place for tomorrow’s finals.
"Today, we are going to shoot some exteriors shots, to offer a sort of
flavour of the place, and also film some action to explain the principle
of the event. We want to be ready before tomorrow’s panic."
Alan Thatcher is not only co-promoter of the event, he has been the
“compere” through the all event, and tomorrow, will also do the commenting
Busy busy busy….
THE LADIES REVENGE…
You men, ignore the pain in the racquet it is to go to public places and
queue for the loo when you are a woman.
Every time, queues for ever in the ladies’, in and out (the door) for the
Men’s. Well, in these kind of events, more men come and watch the games,
especially in a place like Canary Wharf.
So many men, so little time.
And guess who is queuing forever now?????
Revenge is sooooo sweet….
ALL MY APOLOGIES
I nearly caused a divorce two weeks ago. You see, when I was report about
the Inter Counties Finals, in
Lambs, in the City, I made a lovely little article about the referees,
and, like I do systematically, I listed all the refs. Linda Davie (yet
again), gave me a list with all the names, I just had to type them.
AND I FORGOT MARY SCOTT MILLER!
And as she told her husband that she was in Lambs refereeing, I let you
imagine the rest….
Only joking, but I am officially apologising to the lovely lady, and the
very professional referee that she is.
“Je suis vraiment désolée, Mary (I’m ever so sorry, Mary….)
on the Wharf
You're in the final.
Get away, I'm not ... am I ???
I'm out, aren't I?
NO, you're IN !
Bank of Scotland 2-1
1. Simon Middleton beat
Duleep Adhihetty 9-5, 9-6, 9-7
2. Ian Findlay lost to
Roger Garrett 6-9, 3-9, 2-9
3. Dennis Knockton beat
Phil Churms 9-7, 9-4, 9-4
John might make the final,
but Lee's out
James will play Thierry
in the final