Qatar Circuit 2003 #2
23-25 Mar, Doha, Qatar, $6k

26 Mar

Well, what a day! Todayís matches here in Qatar were very physical and testing affairs with the action moving to the permanent glass court for the Semis and Final.
read Mike Corren's Qatar report ...

[1] Mike Corren (AUS) bt [3] Marcus Smith (AUS)
     10-15, 15-11, 10-15, 15-12, 15-12

After two days of intense action on the permanently-sited all-glass court in the Gulf city of Doha, Australia's top seed Mike Corren finally emerged triumphant in the Qatar Squash Circuit Event No2 after a final battle against compatriot Marcus Smith which went the full distance.

Both finalists were fully tested in their semi-finals earlier in the day - Smith seeing a 2-0 lead disappear before pulling out the stops to overcome Pakistan's unseeded 17-year-old Khalid Atlas Khan in five, and Corren having
to fight back from a game down to quash Ireland's Nottingham-based sixth seed John Rooney in four games.

Corren, the 29-year-old from Adelaide appearing in his 10th PSA Tour final, twice went behind to third-seeded Smith, but ultimately held out to win 10-15 15-11 10-15 15-12 15-12 to claim his sixth Tour title.  The Qatar success also marked Corren's third successive PSA Tour final win over a fellow Australian.

Mike Corren's Qatar Report


Draw & Results

24-Mar: Roon off to war to pay the rent

23-Mar: All quiet in Qatar as Brits stay home

21-Mar: Qatar event goes on despite Gulf conflict

20-Mar: Corren & Co fly into the war zone

John Rooney

Qatar Circuit #2
First Round
Mon 24th
Mon 24th
Tue 25th
Tue 25th
[1] Mike Corren (AUS) bt Umar Zaman (UAE) 
  11-15, 15-8, 15-12, 15-12

Ali Alqashoti (QAT) bt Safeerullah Khan (PAK)   w/o

[4] Arshad Iqbal Burki (PAK) bt James Powley (ENG)
15-7, 15-7, 15-4

[6] John Rooney (IRL) bt Khalid Alqashoti (QAT) w/o

Bahi Taher (QAT) bt Amr Mansi (EGY) w/o

Khalid Atlas Khan (PAK) bt [5] Saud Alsulaiti (QAT)
15-7, 15-8, 15-7

Mark Price (AUS) bt Adam Stevenson (ENG)    w/o

[3] Marcus Smith (AUS) bt Amjad Iqbal (QAT) 15-11, 15-7, 15-3
Mike Corren
15-7, 15-9, 15-11
Ali al-Kashooti
Mike Corren
12-15, 15-6, 15-8, 17-16
John Rooney
Mike Corren

10-15, 15-11, 10-15, 15-12, 15-12

Marcus Smith

John Rooney
15-9, 17-14, 15-7
Arshad Iqbal Burki
Khalid Atlas
15-9, 10-15, 15-4, 15-10
Bahi Taher
Marcus Smith
17-16, 15-14, 8-15,
15-17, 15-11

Khalid Atlas
Marcus Smith
15-9, 15-11, 15-12
Mark Price

Grapevine correspondent Mike Corren, the top seed from Adelaide, battled his way through to win the Qatar Satellite event. Here he files his final report from the front line, and presents an interesting look at his profit and loss account after winning the tournament.

Well, what a day! Todayís matches here in Qatar were very physical and testing affairs with the action moving to the permanent glass court for the Semis and Final.

The glass court here plays very fast, yet seems to be very difficult to get a length on at times. There is a 'dead' zone on the backhand especially, or maybe my drives are just up the duff!!!

I was first on against the Mad Irish John Rooney, or 'John Rodney' as he is known here in Doha! The pace was pretty high for most of the first game and I led early, but John was playing a lot more precise squash and I was getting frustrated with the nature of the court.

He took the first 15-12 and I was having that sinking feeling that always comes when you know you are going to have to grind it out.

I was pretty determined to get straight onto things in the second and I immediately started to get a better length, which in turn, improved my short game.

It was Johní turn to start getting frustrated with the court and we had to stop countless times to wipe sweat from the floor. This was good for a breather, though!

My persistence seemed to be bearing fruit and I took the second and third 15-6 and 15-8. John dug in though, like I knew he would, and he was loudly urging himself to 'hack it out'...a good tactic on this court!!!

Instead of driving my advantage home, I kept playing the percentages and looking back, it was the wrong tactic at that time.

John led most of the game but somehow I stood at match ball 14-13, John fed me up a humdinger forehand volley which I promptly smacked into the tin, my first miss on that shot for the match! Wouldn't that rot your jocks?!

I was annoyed and even more so when I found myself 16-14 down. I got back though and it was soon 16 all match ball.

A couple of lets followed and the play was getting pretty frantic. I was keen to get off court and luckily for me John hit the ball out to give me the match.

A happy and relieved boy indeed, I was pleased to win but I hadn't taken the match by the scruff of the neck. Still, I hadn't lost it either so...

The other semi was between Marcus Smith and young Pakistani Khalid Atlas Khan. This match was a real struggle and it seemed to me that Marcus was not at his best. He was hitting a nice ball but was going wrong in the tactics department. He was looking by far the better player but only just managed to sneak the first two 17-16, 15-14.

A stream of errors at crucial stages let the young Pakistani back in, however, and the match started to get messy.

Atlas was starting to block and push the Australian and was doing the classic 'chasing' tactic looking for cheap strokes. Also, a couple of very dodgy pick-ups were had.

It is a such a shame to see such talented squash players from a country with a history like Pakistan resort to such lowly tactics. My only thought was that had the match been in Pakistan, Marcus would have surely lost three love!!!

The match was level at two all and Atlas had an 8-5 Lead but he was tiring and Marcus then played his best squash of the match. With no real risks or errors, good length and better tactics, he was pretty relieved to take the game 15-11 and escape a close shave.

Going into the final I was confident as my record against Marcus was pretty good, but in the back of my mind I knew that I was not in form and that the court certainly seemed to favour Marcus. Also I was carrying a groin strain that wasn't making life sweet.

My fears were soon realised and Marcus was all over me like a rash. He had me under a ton of pressure and I was down 15-10 in about 13 minutes.

I tried to talk myself round between games but to tell the truth I really didn't know what to do (or say)! But as always, trying to get a length going was the order of the day.

I got an early lead which I held for the game, but I was certainly not controlling things and he was never more than a couple of points behind.

The third took the same pattern as the first and once again I was getting plastered! Marcus was playing a far superior game and I was getting really frustrated at my lack of answers to his attack.

I nabbed a few points late in the game which flattered me somewhat when you look at the score and I found myself looking down the barrel at 10-15, 15-11, 10-15 down.

I grafted a 7-3 lead in the fourth but Marcus came back at me and was leading 9-8. I got to 9-9 and gave it the big fist! Ha ha, funny now because Iím not really the 'fisty type'! But at this point I realised that the only way out of this match was to throw everything I had at him and just fight it wasn't going to be pretty but what the heck!

I scrambled the fourth 15-12 and got a good start to the fifth. I led 10-4 but once again, Marcus came back and I was going off the boil. He led 12-10 and it was looking gloomy for me. I steadied, though, found some winning drops and volleys and was helped by a couple of errors to take the match 15-12.

All I can say is that Marcus played a great match. I still donít know how I was able to win. I never felt comfortable on court and the whole tournament was a real struggle for me.

Still I am really pleased to win. The last few months I have worked pretty hard and have been assisted a great deal by a Joe Shaw fitness program and with invaluable input from Roger Flynn and the VIS.

Thanks, guys. This one was for you.

It has been a testing time for all involved here. The pressure of the war has loomed large and like I said the other night, the mood changed dramatically after seeing the US POW'S being dealt with live on TV.

Iím going to be a happy boy when I get home and sit my huge behind into my favourite chair in front of the TV!

Mike Corren

I thought readers might be interested in the financial affairs of a successful PSA campaign. Fellow players will just nod their head and say 'whatís new?í".  This is my 'financial account status' after my tournament win in Qatar.

Flight from KL to Doha return: $800
Hotel Charges: $210
Taxi Fares: $45
Misc (food etc etc): $110



LOSS : $610 US

It's Monday morning here now, so I'm off to the courts in an hour and a half to start play. As it stands...well...who DOES it stand? There were no qualifying matches yesterday as nobody turned up! So, four locals have gone into the main draw and I have got Umar Zaman, apparently another one of Qamar's sons who has been one of the head coaches here for years ... full report

I THINK I am supposed to play that kid who won the Under-19 British in the quarters but I'm not sure. They have spelt his name differently on every piece of paper that I have seen since I've been here, but I expect I'll soon find out.

Also at this point, it's still very quiet. So far the only players booked into the tournament hotel are myself, the mad Irishman, Pricey, Smitty and a young Pakistani, Khalid Atlas - and that's it!

I had a hit on the glass court yesterday, and that's a totally different ball game, mate. Hats off to Peter Nicol even more so for winning here the last two years. It really shouldn't suit his game. It's tailor made for Whitey and Power with the speed off the front wall and floor but ... that's the mark of the man, huh?

Alrighty, I will write in tonight with reports from the first round and quarters - hopefully. Question is ... who is going to be there?

I don't want to talk about the war. I watched the Iraqi channel last night with the US troop hostages and the dead bodies that had been executed and had been beaten beforehand. Nuff said.


Grapevine Special
From MIKE CORREN in Qatar ...

Well, glancing at the draw yesterday indicates that at least half the field has pulled out, including all of the English guys except Adam Stevenson and the mad Irishman John Rooney. I haven't seen either of them as yet, but no doubt they must arrive today.
On the eve of the qualifying something very strange is afoot here in Qatar. I have not seen a single squash player!!

I am here, obviously, Mark Price and Marcus Smith flew in safely last night and big Hafiz, the lanky Egyptian, is floating around on a two week stint playing with the juniors here.

Apart from that ... nothing. I am still to meet the organisers as well. I will start by pointing out that the prize money here in Qatar may be put down as a $6,000 dollar event on ranking, but the ACTUAL prize money on offer is somewhere in the vicinity of $3,700 US I believe.

So, in reference to Alan's comments on the Grapevine regarding the sacrifice players are putting in to come and play, consider this. Someone coming to this event who should lose in the first round would not even be able to pay one night's accommodation and meal (before main draw hospitality sets in of course), never mind his flight and other expenses!
This is in no way the fault of the organisers; as players we are well aware of the financial tightrope one must walk in order to succeed and try and scale those rankings to hopefully take a share of the bigger purses.
But add that to the current tensions in the area and you have a situation that most people outside the sport would find ... a bit odd!!
In any case, it is fair to say that the Qatar Squash Federation is one of the sport's biggest supporters alongside the fine group of people in Hong Kong and of course, John Nimick.
Qatar holds the Masters AND a huge men's and women's event each year and was the saviour behind the 1998 Men's World Open AND the hosts of the Women's Worlds last year...pheww!! Anything else??!!

 Last year they started running a group of satellite events which have now grown to Super Satellite status, next year must see Super Dooper Satellite status followed ultimately by the You Beaut Bonza Grouse You little Ripper star events ... you get the picture!
In short, without Qatar we as players would be in a bit of strife.

So, as I said, I still have not seen any players. Unfortunately there has been a wave of pullouts from both the qualifying AND the main draw. We have lost most of the seeds including Andrew Whipp and Joey Barrington. I am actually expecting Jonah to come in the young fella's place as he often refers to squash as being the same as war!!
I respect and totally understand their decision on this. Coming from Malaysia I was fortunate in perhaps taking a much safer plane route than the fellas coming from Europe. I only hope that PSA takes the circumstances into consideration when it comes to ranking time and the penalties that are given out when one pulls out of an event.
So, you might ask, how are things here in reference to the war? To tell you the truth, you would never know! I know that doesn't make for an interesting story, but there you go.
The locals are going about their everyday business and pay no attention to us whatsoever. But everybody we meet has been very friendly and helpful.
And as the players who have been here before know, the squash facilities are great and my experiences so far on the normal courts show them to be very true and should produce some good fair squash.

It is also interesting to note that there is a Qatar Airlines Hostess Function going on at the Hotel which contains some lasses who probably have the ability to make the fellas chase sticks, roll around and perhaps spend a rainy night or two in a kennel should they choose to cast their spell.

In other words....they look pretty spiffy.

Me, I'm concentrating on the squash (!!!) and will bring you a report on the action from tomorrow's qualifiers ...

Qatar Squash Event To Carry On
Despite Gulf Conflict

Despite the military conflict in Iraq, top international squash players are arriving in Qatar to compete in the second event on the Qatar Squash Circuit which gets underway in the country's capital Doha on Monday (24 March).

Whilst some players have withdrawn from the event, following advice from their countries' foreign offices, top seeded Australian Mike Corren has no doubts about his participation.

"I arrived in Doha this morning and everything seems OK - in fact, you would never know there was a war on unless you turned on the TV or opened a paper," said the 29-year-old from Adelaide in a message to the UK-based PSA, organisers of the men's international circuit.

"All indications point to a good tournament," Corren concluded.

Ireland's John Rooney, the fifth seed based in Nottingham, is also confident about competing in Doha: "I discussed it with my Dad and he agreed that I should definitely go," said the 23-year-old. "I've never been to Qatar before and I'm hoping it will be third time lucky - I didn't do myself justice on my other two overseas trips this year, to Malaysia and the USA."

Qatar, boasting one of only a handful of permanently-sited all-glass courts in the world, has staged a number of top international squash events in recent years, including the Men's World Open in December 1998.

Entries closed this week for the 2003 PSA Qatar Masters, the $120,000 Super Series event which will take place in Doha from 22-27 April. The high quality field is led by England's world No1 Peter Nicol, and includes all of the world's top ten except Australia's world champion David Palmer who is still recuperating from the removal of his appendix in Bermuda earlier this month.

Corren & Co fly into the war zone
Iím off to Qatar tonight for the PSA Super Satellite event. Nervous? Yes, you could say that! It seems like a pretty insane thing to do, but, as a professional, what do you do? 

In about six hours I am boarding a plane to fly to Qatar. Tomorrow, my mates Pricey of the Mark variety and Marcus Smith are doing the same, and I am sure that all the English boys will be following in short order.

One must pose the question as to why we are flying into a war zone to play a squash tournament?

I have racked my brain on that over the last week or more as tensions between Iraq and the US have gone past boiling point up to the position where we are now, with military action finally under way.

Many (I expect all of us) players have received pleas from family and friends not to go, that it is only a game and not worth the risk.

This is where I beg to differ.

Perhaps it is the close to the 2,000 court sprints I did for this event, all the early mornings when I had to get up and run or having to watch what I eat all the time so that I can fit into my shorts!

We all have our reasons, but all in all, Squash has moulded all our characters to an extent, given us opportunities that we may not have had in different circumstances.

So we are you do.

The event itself I canít comment on at this stage. I think it is fair to say that it is best to wait and see who makes the journey to compete. As it stands I am top seed, followed by Andrew Whipp and big Marcus Smith.

I look forward to keeping you up to date on the results, and news of the action on and off court ...  Mike Corren

Rooney flies off to war zone


From Lee Horton of the People

PLUCKY Nottingham squash player John Rooney was last night touching down in the war-torn Middle-East - to try and earn enough money to pay next month's rent.

Rooney has put his life on the line to squeeze a few quid out of the game in high-risk Qatar.

And if he gets killed by Iraqi missiles, he says he'll be fuming with his dad.

"My dad told me to take the risk," said the 23-year-old, just before he left London for the Middle East. "If I die, I'll kill him!"

Rooney agonised for days about the event in Doha after several European-based players pulled out on government advice.

But although he's got the mettle to jet into a war zone, he couldn't summon up the courage to tell girlfriend Brandy Ross what he was up to.

"She doesn't know - but she soon will. I'll get her a bunch of flowers and she'll be OK."

Rooney, Ireland's No.3 who plays for Nottingham SC, told the SP: "I'm the only person who has flown out from England. Ten have pulled out. But there are some Aussies, Pakistanis and others going from the Middle East."

Rooney, who admits he hasn't a clue where Qatar is, is confident he can grab his share of the $6,000 prize pot.

"I don't know where Qatar is on the map but I know it's near Iraq.

"Anyway, I'll keep my head down, cross my fingers and hopefully it will pay the rent for April. I'll just focus on getting a result.

"This isn't like tennis where you can pick and choose where to play. You have to go where the money - even if it is in the middle of a war."

But he's hoping it will be third time lucky. Rooney had to pull out of the recent Malaysia PSA event through food-poisoning and crashed out of the Chicago event in the first round.


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