WINNING THE BIG BATTLES
IN THE QATAR WAR ZONE
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
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
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
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,
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 out...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!
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
GRAND TOTAL $1,165
PRIZE MONEY EARNED: $555
LOSS : $610 US
MIKE CORREN'S GRAPEVINE
DIARY FROM QATAR
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
knows...how 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
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.
ALL QUIET ON THE QATAR FRONT
AS MOST BRITS STAY AT HOME
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
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
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
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
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
Corren & Co fly into the war
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
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
So we are going.........as 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
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
ROON OFF TO WAR
TO PAY THE RENT
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
Rooney has put his life on the line to squeeze a few quid out of the game in
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.