West Edmonton Mall
Canadian Open 2003

Edmonton, Canada, 30 Oct - 03 Nov, $80k

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03-Nov, FINAL:

[1] Peter Nicol (Eng) bt [5] Jonathon Power (Can)
15-13, 17-15, 15-7  (70m)

Nicol cools Canadian fire
"There isn't anyone on the planet that could have beaten me on this day," said Peter Nicol immediately after a straight games victory over Canadian rival Jonathon Power.

Nicol proved to all 600 in attendance that he's the best in the world, stunning the capacity crowd with a display of squash that can only be described as PHENOMENAL.

Ryan Barnett reports from Edmonton
with photos from Martin Rude

Nicol v Power - relive the rivalry

02-Nov, Semi-Finals:

[1] Peter Nicol (Eng) bt [4] Thierry Lincou (Fra)
     15-6, 15-8, 15-6 (49m)
[5] Jonathon Power (Can) bt [6] Anthony Ricketts (Aus)
     15-11, 15-11, 8-15, 15-10 (68m)

Hot action in the Ice Palace
Ryan Barnett reports on the semi-finals

Thank god squash is an indoor sport. Despite the matches being played in West Edmonton Mall's Ice palace it's definitely a lot warmer there than outside where old man winter has parked since I arrived. I don't think it has stopped snowing here in Edmonton as the white stuff continues to pile up on the streets and parked cars. I digress.

Full Report

Nicol & Power Revisit
Canadian Open Meeting Place
Howard Harding reports

Eight years after meeting for the first time in the final of the last Canadian Open in Burlington, arch rivals Peter Nicol and Jonathon Power will celebrate their 36th career clash in the final at the Ice Palace in Edmonton.

Only ten days after meeting in the semi-finals of the World Team Championship in Austria, England's top-seeded Peter Nicol, the world No1, faced France's fourth seed Thierry Lincou.  From the start, the Frenchman tried to keep the ball in the front of the court - but Nicol was having none of it, constantly keeping the ball deep in the back court, a strategy which worked to perfection as he jumped to a 6-0 lead before winning the game easily 15-6.  World No4 Lincou changed tactics in the second game, but it was to no avail as the Englishman moved 2/0 ahead.

In the third game, Lincou played with an air of desperation as he constantly experimented with different strategies to try to throw Nicol off his rhythm. 

But the world's leading player was able to handle everything that was thrown at him and after 49 minutes cruised to a 15-6 15-8 15-6 win - and revenge for his four-game defeat in Vienna.

In the other semi-final, the partisan audience once again noisily showed their support for local hero Jonathon Power, the world No5 from Montreal, in his battle against Australia's Anthony Ricketts, ranked one place below.  The first game was played at a fast pace, with both players moving well and hitting with great accuracy.  At 9-10 down, Power shifted his play into a higher gear, his backhand volley being especially effective.  Unable to contend with the Canadian's fierce attack, Ricketts conceded the game 15-11.

Power maintained his level of play in the second game racing to an 8-1 lead.  At 9-2, Ricketts mounted a comeback, but Power was able to fend him off and move 2/0 ahead.

With Power leading 2-1 in the third game, Ricketts hit Power hard on his left calf with a forehand cross-court shot.  Power yelled at his opponent and jabbed his racquet into Ricketts' midriff.  The referee was quick to warn both players and ordered play to continue.  It was evident that Power had lost his focus, however, and Ricketts quickly took advantage of the situation to take the game.

Power regained his momentum and started to display his unmatched deception.  Rally after rally, Ricketts was fooled into moving the wrong way.  Leading 9-5, a seemingly tired Power asked the referee for an injury time-out.  The referee denied his request stating that whatever injury Power may have had was not inflicted by Ricketts and ordered him to play on.  Power then stepped to the T and began to retie his shoelaces.  The referee, viewing Power's actions as a delay tactic, ordered Power to resume play.  He returned to his box to receive the Australian's serve - but as Ricketts served the ball, Power raised his hand asking for a let.  At this point, the referee's patience with the Canadian's antics had run out and he denied Power's let. 

However, despite losing the point, Power's tactics seemed to give him enough of a rest, allowing him to win the game and the match 15-11 15-11 8-15 15-10 in 68 minutes.

The final will be Power and Nicol's third meeting within a month - with Nicol now ahead 18/17 in their career head-to-head tally after stunning five-game victories over his rival in the British Open in Nottingham and World Team Championship in Vienna.

Full Nicol v Power history

31-Oct, Round TWO:
Ryding Romps Into Canadian Quarters
Fourteenth seed Graham Ryding doubled the domestic interest in the quarter-finals of the when he upset seventh-seeded Malaysian Ong Beng Hee in a five-game marathon second round clash in Edmonton.

After four close games against the 23-year-old world No7 from Kuala Lumpur, the in-form Ryding - who also exceeded his seeding in the US Open and Motor City Open in September - ran away in the fifth to claim a 12-15 15-12 15-14 14-15 15-5 victory in 94 minutes.

Toronto-based Ryding, aged 28 and ranked 10 places below Beng Hee, now faces France's fourth seed Thierry Lincou, who needed just 30 minutes to end Finnish qualifier Olli Tuominen's run in a 15-5 15-7 15-11 scoreline.

Jonathon Power, the fifth seed from Montreal, became the second Canadian to reach the Canadian Open quarters when he overcame the other qualifier who had survived the first round.  In their second meeting in a month, world No5 Power despatched England's James Willstrop 15-7 15-8 15-11 to set up a clash with Australia's third seed David Palmer for a place in the semi-finals.

Palmer, the British and World Open champion, dismissed France's ninth seed Gregory Gaultier 15-10 15-7 15-6 in 38 minutes.

The other two quarter-finals will be replays of clashes at the same stage in last month's British Open.  Top seed Peter Nicol will face eighth seed Lee Beachill in an all-English confrontation, while second-seeded Scot John White will meet Australia's sixth seed Anthony Ricketts in a match which White will hope to win after two successive losses to his lower-ranked rival.

30-Oct, Round ONE:
Willstrop & Tuominen Maintain
British Open Momentum In Canada

Four weeks after reaching the quarter-finals of the British Open as qualifiers, England's James Willstrop and Finland's Olli Tuominen again upset the seedings on the opening day's play in the $80,000 West Edmonton Mall Canadian Open Squash Championship to become the only two qualifiers to reach the second round of the new PSA Super Series event in Edmonton.

Willstrop, the 20-year-old world junior champion from Pontefract in Yorkshire, upset Welshman Alex Gough, the 15th seed, 15-7 15-10 15-10 in 54 minutes to earn a second round clash with local hero Jonathon Power.  The former world No1 and world champion from Montreal, seeded fifth, had the easiest ride of the day when his English opponent Jonathan Kemp, who qualified the previous day, conceded the match due to an injury sustained during qualification.

Power and Willstrop met for the first time in the British Open quarter-finals, with Power taking 77 minutes to quash the fast-improving youngster.

Olli Tuominen made up for Finland's disappointing show in last week's World Team Championship in Austria with a 15-5 7-15 15-10 15-9 victory over tenth-seeded Egyptian Amr Shabana in 57 minutes.  The flying Finn now meets France's fourth seed Thierry Lincou, who beat English qualifier Nick Taylor 15-10 15-13 15-10.

After the opening ceremony at the Ice Palace in West Edmonton Mall, at which all the main draw players were led into the court by two local children bearing the flag of Canada and the flag of the province of Alberta, top seed Peter Nicol and local Edmonton player Matthew Giuffre were introduced to the audience, to wild applause.

It was clear from the start that young Giuffre was outclassed by the world No1 from England.  In an entertaining match which thoroughly delighted the packed crowd, Nicol cruised to a 15-8 15-4 15-8 victory and a second round appointment with Scotland's 12th seed Martin Heath.

Power Pumped for the
WEM Canadian Open

Ryan Barnett speaks to the Canadian Maestro on the eve of the season's biggest event so far ...

"I'm as fit as I've ever been" stated Canada's Jonathon Power as qualifying begins for the West Edmonton Mall Canadian Open. "I'm going to have to beat 3 of the top players in the world just to get to the final and I'm ready for the challenge"

With John White, David Palmer and fellow Aussie Anthony Rickets possible combatants Power knows he has his work cut out for him if he is to make it through the bottom half of the draw. Having the home court or should I say home country advantage is something that Power relishes.

He says, "Playing back in Edmonton is something I'm really excited about. The city, the people, are absolutely fabulous and have always treated me like gold. I am truly thrilled to be heading back there."

I don't blame him. I would be saying the exact same thing. It was almost seven months ago that Power captured his sixth Canadian National title in the very same city. During the Nationals he put on a clinic mowing through the field without dropping a single game. He then followed that success by capturing his first Super Series title in London directly following.

The difference however is that with $80,000US up for grabs all the players will be hungry, looking to finally put some serious cash in their accounts and some ranking points beside their names. In a season that has seen the majority of tournaments to date feature 16 man draws and small purses the WEM Canadian Open is definitely a welcome sight. The top 23 players in the world have all been guaranteed main draw spots and a total of 8 qualifiers will fight their way into the show. The local exemption is none other than Edmonton native Matthew Giuffre who gets a shot at World #1 Peter Nicol in the first round.

Having the Open return to the PSA schedule after a 12 year break is not only a welcome sight but another testament to the sport's resurgence in North America. Power adds "I've always been involved and have always wanted to be a part of growing the sport in Canada. Having this tournament back is huge for squash in Canada as I personally know of people coming from Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto and Detroit just to be a part of the event."

As fate would have it the Detroit Red Wings are in town for a Saturday night tilt against the hometown Edmonton Oilers (NHL ice hockey). For those of you in the know you know what I'm getting at. Power's business partner for his new clothing line just so happens to be Detroit's all-star netminder Dominik Hasek an avid fan and true squash nut.

Power reveals: "Dominik will be coming down to watch some games and sign some autographs. We will be launching the Dominator clothing line at the tournament which is also extremely exciting."

So the stage is set. Edmonton is known as the "City of Champions" for the proud tradition that comes with always being home to winning sports franchises. Fitting that another champion will crowned in West Edmonton Mall's Ice Palace on Monday night.

Ryan Barnett

Full Nicol v Power history

01-Nov, Quarter-Finals:

Pure Drama at the Ice Palace
Ryan Barnett reports from Edmonton

UNBELIEVABLE is the best way to describe the squash played at the WEM Canadian Open during Saturday's four quarterfinal matches. Over 700 people paid to watch and thousands more surrounded the all-glass court in West Edmonton Mall's Ice Palace.

Ricketts 3-1 White
Once the niceties were out of the way it was time to get serious and that's exactly what these two heavy hitters did.

Nicol 3-2 Beachill
In what was the closest quarterfinal match Saturday evening England team-mates Peter Nicol and Lee Beachill squared off in what became a classic 5 game battle.

Lincou 3-1 Ryding
The 3rd quarter-final saw the 1st of the Canadians take centre stage. Canada's Graham Ryding the 15th seed up against Monsieur Thierry Lincou the World #4. It's no secret that Ryding has been playing the best squash of his career and having the home country thing going on might provide that little extra and an upset could be possible.

Power 3-1 Palmer
World #3 David Palmer versus Canada's Jonathon Power ranked 5th. After being introduced to a standing ovation it was time for what promised to be an explosive confrontation. The crowd was boisterous from the start in their support for Power, however this didn't dissuade Palmer in the slightest.

Power Progresses To
Canadian Open Semis
Howard Harding reports

The quarter-final session ended with the result that all local fans were hoping for when Canadian No1 Jonathon Power, the fifth seed, fought back from a game down to beat Australia's David Palmer, the third seed, in four games at the Ice Palace in West Edmonton Mall.

The crowd roared as Jonathon Power made his appearance on the court for the most anticipated match of the evening. Both players were in brilliant form right from the start. The pace of the first game was fast and unrelenting but Power, the former world No1 and world champion from Montreal, made mistakes at key moments to allow Palmer, the reigning World and British Open champion, to take the first game. The second game continued with the same frantic pace, but this time it was Palmer who was making the errors and Power, with the crowd loudly behind him, levelled the match.

The turning point of the match came at 2-2 in the third game when Power started to dominate the play and scored 13 unanswered points to take the game. During the break after the third game, Palmer requested a three-minute injury time-out. There were concerns that he may not return to the court. The Australian did return, however, but his injury persisted and midway into the fourth game, Palmer decided to retire. Power, the 11-15 15-10 15-2 11-3 victor in 62 minutes, walked off the court to a standing ovation from the delighted audience.

The world No5 will now face the player ranked one place below him in the Dunlop PSA world rankings after Australia's Anthony Ricketts pulled off his third successive PSA Tour upset over John White when he beat the world No2 from Scotland 15-10 13-15 15-8 15-9 in 69 minutes. The semi-final clash will be only the pair's second PSA Tour meeting in more than three years.

Unlike the Power/Ricketts encounter, the other semi-final will be the one predicted by the seedings, with English favourite Peter Nicol taking on France's fourth seed Thierry Lincou in a repeat of the pair's World Team Championship meeting in Austria last month which the Lincou won to take France into their first ever final.

World No1 Nicol twice survived comebacks by England team-mate Lee Beachill, the eighth seed, before beating his Commonwealth Games Doubles gold medal-winning partner 15-13 7-15 15-12 11-15 15-9 in 78 minutes.

Lincou ended dreams of two Canadians in the semi-finals when he beat surprise quarter-finalist Graham Ryding 15-7 12-15 15-9 15-5 in a 62-minute match which was suspended for five minutes in the second game while the Canadian recovered from a nose bleed sustained from a clash with Lincou's elbow.

Reports from the Edmonton Journal

  • World Champion
    squashes Egyptian
    "That was pretty basic, the way I wanted to play it, he didn't fight too much." Palmer on Abass
    "He sees the game before it even happens, he sees your racquet and knows where the ball is going." Guiffre on Nicol

The Ice Palace Awaits ...
Ryan Barnett previews the WEM Canadian Open

When it was announced on April 29th that the Canadian Open was once again reborn, back from a twelve-year absence, squash enthusiasts around the globe let out a collective cheer. From nowhere came a group calling themselves ProSquash Edmonton and they had big plans.

“The West Edmonton Mall Canadian Open will be the largest squash tournament in Canada,” trumpeted Tournament Director Kevin MacMillen. “The fact that the top professional squash players in the world will compete for $80,000US will make the Canadian Open one of the premier squash events in the world.”

ProSquash Edmonton in conjunction with West Edmonton Mall announced that they would set-up an all glass court in The Ice Palace, located in the heart of the mall. The tournament would take place from October 28th thru November 3rd and MacMillen told us “At any given time during play, there will be 1240 fans in the stands, up to 3000 fans standing and watching from the mall, and hundreds more viewing it by closed circuit TV in the Court Side Pub.”

Well it’s been over 5 months since that historic announcement and guess what? All is proceeding according to plan. That’s right - no surprises or Eye Group shenanigans on this side of the pond. (Perhaps the reason why PSA Chieftain Gawain Briars and Robert Edwards came for a look see in late July.) ProSquash has put together a good solid business plan.

In a conversation with MacMillen he confirmed that this deal is for real and preparations are now going full-steam ahead. He says, “The management team for the tournament have proven their worth, with key areas handled beautifully. We have had some interesting adventures in attempting to secure major sponsorship and our marketing team continues working at that.

"We are pleased to have CP Rail as our first Premier Sponsor as we have secured the WISPA court and CP is handling the shipping arrangements. They are awesome! Local support is strong, with numerous corporate sponsors on board, and we are encouraged by our ticket sales, which are well in advance of our big local sales push. This is a long-term investment for them (sponsors) as we plan on making this the first of many annual Canadian Open tournaments.”

The event will carry Super Series Silver status by PSA definition (say that as fast as you can 5 times in a row) and with the entry deadline having closed October 1st all the world’s top ten players, minus one (Stewart Boswell-injured) have confirmed their attendance.

MacMillen adds; “There will be a 32 man qualifier. In that qualifier we will place 4 local entrants. The top eight qualifiers will advance to the main draw. Those eight players will join the entered top 23 in the world plus our wild card entrant to make it a 32 man main draw. Samuel Carr of Network Production and Communications Inc will handle the TV coverage and he will look after the production for both TSN (The Sports Network-in Canada) and ProActive. (PSA TV rights holder) The Voice of Squash Robert Edwards will be here to provide color commentary and Tom Bedore will be doing Play by Play.”

Yes it’s been twelve years in the making. Sometimes good things are worth waiting for and this appears to be one of them. Stay tuned to the Grapevine for daily match reports and player interviews as I plan on being in attendance from the quarters onward. This is one show that definitely shouldn’t be missed.

Ryan Barnett

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