|Malcolm Willstrop reports
from Canary Wharf
prefaced his final report with "sorry to have to write about James".
It's not his fault he won,
after all (or maybe,
as his coach, it is!)
9/7, 9/5, 5/9,
9/4, 9/10, 9/2
Great crowds all week were topped by a sell-out on finals night and Peter
Nicol and world no 1 John White, which sounds like a final, played the
They were determined to entertain, which is a part of what these players
need to do, and that was no problem to two of the most popular players in
the world. They swapped shots, ran like demented dervishes, talked to
anyone who would listen and gave the crowd, freed from their City Labours,
an hour's worth of pure skill and comedy.
The serious stuff was about to happen however, since Thierry Lincou,
rediscovering some form through the event, and ambitious James Willstrop
were not too concerned with the lighter side.
Personal pride, prestige at such a high-profile event and Anglo-French
relationships were all at stake. And anyway the crowd wanted the real
thing and the players delivered.
Willstrop had been in fine form with the racket throughout the event and
Lincou's win over Nicol showed there was not too much wrong with him.
Urged on by the crowd and especially by Darren and his men from Datchet,
the youngster went 2-0 up effortlessly as Lincou struggled to cope with
Willstrop's racket skills. However Lincou doesn't lie down and making life
more difficult and aided by five marginal, but unforced, errors from his
opponent he won the third.
Willstrop extended his lead in the best of seven final - some reward for
all their hard work during the week - to 3/1 and then came a titanic
fourth, which after three match balls he eventually lost 13/11 (or 10/9 if
you prefer the call of 'deuce', which I do not).
This seemed likely to reinforce Lincou, but defence is not Willstrop's way
and producing four beautifully-executed cross-court deceptions he quickly
asserted to 5/1 and the gallant Frenchman knew, as did the demonstrative
crowd, that the game was up, metaphorically and literally.
Willstrop took the title and his joy, after a demanding week and a fierce
87-minute battle, was there for all to see.
The Frenchman was gracious in defeat, declaring how difficult his opponent
was to read, but the signs are that after a troublesome ankle injury, now
repaired, he is well on his way back and the Canary Wharf Classic may have
The Champion praised, and rightly, the entrepreneurial efforts of Peter
Nicol, Tim Garner and Angus Kirkland, aided and suavely abetted by Alan
Thatcher who gave the proceedings an added touch of class.
The sort of profile this marvellous event gave to squash in heartland
London is just what the game needs.
Praise, too, to the crowds who came all week, were well-rewarded by
Squash's excellent and approachable star players, and especially to the
full house on finals night, who shared their delight in all they saw.
Ong Beng Hee had an 81-minute match late on Wednesday night when he beat
Thierry Lincou in the fifth and since Nick Matthew has a good record
against him it was something of a surprise that the Malaysian controlled
each of the three games to record his second win in the Jubilee group.
Matthew seemed unable to raise the tempo, something that he has recently
done very effectively, and Ong was relatively untroubled to win in three
Just as Ong had done, Thierry Lincou came up fresher than might have been
expected against the unbeaten Peter Nicol. The local hero was always
slightly ahead in the first game until 7/6 when the Frenchman caught up
with him to steal the game 9/7.
Nicol romped away to 8/3 in the second, eventually taking it 9/5 and it
seemed reasonable to think that Lincou's efforts of the night before might
begin to tell. It didn't happen though and Lincou was soon at 8/3. A
spirited recovery took Nicol to 6/9, but that was it and Lincou led 2-1.
Nicol led 4/2, 7/3 and 8/5 in the fourth, but failed to capitalise and not
only lost the match, but his place in the final on countback, probably to
Lee Beachill had blister problems, but put up a game performance in an
entertaining match with John White. They were definitely enjoying
themselves and soon the crowd were too. The world no 4 won the first, the
world no 1 the second 13/11 and then very quickly took a 2-12 lead, 9/2.
The Yorkshireman threatened to get level, leading 8/9 in the fourth, but
it was White who took it 10/8 to guarantee a place in the top four.
If David Palmer were to beat James Willstrop in the last match of the night, White
would be in the final, but if Willstrop were to succeed he would become Lincou's opponent.
Willstrop had played well to beat White the night before and he was soon
in impressive form, attacking uninhibitedly, missing very little. He
controlled three games to win conclusively and to set up an England v
France final, a prelude to Saturday's rugby showdown.
So Friday's line-up is:
3rd/4th: Nicol v White
Final: Lincou v Willstrop
at the East Wintergarden, which will be a total sellout, after splendid
crowds all week.
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)
|Day THREE preview:
With Ong Beng Hee having defeated Thierry Lincou in the longest match of
the tournament to date by far, Peter Nicol should make tomorrow's final
from the Jubilee Group.
The heavier Canada Group is anybody's guess. Each player has won once and
the winners tonight will provide the finalist, the deciding factor when
wins are equal being head-to-head.
Lee Beachill has blistered feet and may struggle with John White, in which
case the world number one will want David Palmer to beat James Willstrop.
Should Willstrop and White win the youngster will be in the final. Any of
the four can win through, so entertainment is guaranteed.
After Michael Douglas spectating in Bermuda and apparently loving it,
Andrew Castle, a squash enthusiast appearing on Tuesday and Ellery Hanley,
Rugby League icon in the crown on Wednesday, squash is certainly drawing
some star names, as well as large crowds, to Canary Wharf.
Day TWO, Wed
DAY TWO SETS UP
FIREWORKS FOR THURSDAY
When world no1 John White and James Willstrop meet they
rarely disappoint, and kicking off the second evening of the Canary Wharf
Classic they gave the large crowd another match of brutal pace and intense
power from White and fine racket control from Willstrop.
White led early in the first 5/3 and 7/3, but Willstrop finished with a
flurry and stole the game 9/7. White again led in the second, this time
4/0 and 6/4, but Willstrop was now matching him and levelled at six-all
before White got home 9/6.
In the third it was Willstrop who made the quicker start, 4/2 and 6/3 and
the 8/6 and he held his nerve to win the game 9/7 and take a 2-1 lead.
The pace had hardly relented and at 5/1 down the World Junior
Champion looked set for another five set match, but he came back strongly
to five-all, took the lead for the first time at 8/7 and clinched the
Peter Nicol is clearly determined to leave his mark before he sets
off into the mountains on his charity venture and he was always in control
against Nick Matthew, although the Yorkshireman resisted stoutly.
The scoreline was tight - 9/7, 9/6, 9/7, but Nicol was never seriously
challenged in terms of winning and losing. With two wins he is well set up
to win the Jubilee Group, though Thierry Lincou may yet have a say in
Lee Beachill, after his exertions in Bermuda and a quite demanding
hour's work on Tuesday night, struggled from the beginning against
David Palmer, who himself had a hard time of it on the first night
with his match against John White, train ride to Birmingham and a five set
encounter with Gregory Gaultier.
Palmer seemed to have recovered from his exertions and won the first two
quickly. Despite looking uncomfortable Beachill had two game balls in the
third, but it was Palmer who took it, and the match, 13/11 [recorded as
So Palmer, White, Beachill and Willstrop all have a win each, guaranteeing
fireworks on Thursday, when White plays Beachill and Palmer plays
Willstrop. Pick a winner or two!
9/7, 6/9, 9/7, 9/7 (45m)
9/4, 9/3, 10/8 (27m)
9/7, 9/6, 9/7 (29m)
Ong Beng Hee
9/6, 6/9, 10/8, 1/9, 10/8 (81m)
Day ONE, Tue 23rd:
AT CANARY WHARF
David Palmer and John White, close friends, finalists in the World
Championship 2002, opened proceedings in the Canary Wharf Classic and
Palmer began as if he had a train to catch - which he had, to Birmingham
to help Edgbaston in their National League playoff against Broxbourne.
He led in the first game 3/0, 5/3, 8/5 and eventually took it 9/7, both
players striking cleanly and powerfully. It was world no 1 White, however,
who called the tune in the second, leading at all stages - 3/1, 7/5 and
taking it 9/5.
With the train leaving Euston any time now maybe Palmer lacked some of his
normal stubborn resolve and White took a 2/1 lead. The Aussie is not good
at lying down however, and led 6/5 before White provided the extra to
power home in his bid to win the Canada Group.
The arena is intimate and spectacular with the river as a backdrop and the
large first night crowds thoroughly enjoyed the start of the event.
There was no lack of competitive edge to any of the next three matches and
the vastly improved Nick Matthew faced world number two Thierry Lincou,
who was no doubt eager to get revenge for his 3/2 defeat in Bermuda.
The match began at high tempo, which both players enjoy, and it was
maintained until the very late stages when the Frenchman took control.
The young Yorkshireman always led in the first and won it 9/6, showing his
improved finishing ability. Lincou, though, levelled, pulling away from
5-all to win the second readily.
A splendid third was decisive. Again five-all, Lincou only got away after
spirited resistance from Matthew.
The fourth was more comfortable and Lincou, holding his game together, ran
away from 4/3 to 9/4 as Matthew was reduced to occasional guesses in a
thoroughly entertaining match with France's champion a deserved winner.
Ong Beng Hee has not had a great time of it of late and he began slowly as
Peter Nicol flew into action, winning the first quickly 9/4. The Malaysian
improved and although he had the better of some rallies, invariably Nicol,
keen to impress at this tournament, won them and took a 2-0 lead.
Oddly Nicol began indifferently in the third and was soon 5/1 and 6/2
down. This did wonders for Ong's confidence, so that he not only won the
game, but held his former training partner to four-all in the fourth. He
lost a massive rally at this point and it was Nicol who gradually, but by
no means easily, drew sufficiently away to win the game and match 9/7.
For those who stayed, and that was almost everybody, the last and longest
match between Lee Beachill, Bermuda Open Champion and James Willstrop
Willstrop started the better, was always ahead in the first and won
it 10/8. In a similar pattern he again led in the second, but from 8/6
down it was the in-form Beachill who put together some excellent rallies
to steal the game 10/8. Once again the third was nip and tuck with the
younger player always just ahead to take it 9/7 and lead 2-1.
The quality of the approach play was such that chances had to be taken and
Beachill from 3-all in the fourth quickly asserted himself, 9/3 to level
As Willstrop began to chance his arm, Beachill came clear again from
three-all in the decider to win 9/4 after an hour.
7/9, 9/5, 9/4, 9/6 (34m)
6/9, 9/5, 9/6, 9/4
Ong Beng Hee
9/4, 9/7, 5/9, 9/7 (42m)
8/10, 10/8, 7/9, 9/3, 9/4 (59m)