Hong Kong Afterthoughts
Back in Pontefract, Malcolm reflects on Hong Kong ...

Unable to re-arrange my flight home, I was unable to be with Lee in the semi-final and unable to complete my coverage of the championship. I was unhappy to have missed the match, and if anyone missed my account of events - probably doubtful [oh, I don't think so, Ed.] - I apologise.

The dignity of losers: Peter Nicol, John White, Anthony Ricketts, Azlan Iskandar, two of whom led 2-0, is a credit to them. James Willstrop struggled a bit after leading 2-0 and losing to Amr Shabana. He disappeared into the Hong Kong night!

The world no 1 spot is looking likely to change again, though the US Open will clearly affect matters. Thierry Lincou and Lee Beachill are principal contenders and Peter Nicol will need to score in Boston, since he goes there as champion.

Perhaps the dark spot of what was a quite exceptional event, was the refereeing. How you solve the problem I have no idea, but the quality of the play and the players deserved better. Several matches were very badly handled and when points are worth 15/11ths more than before, and when the finishing line is 4/15ths closer, points become more and more crucial.

With the Hong Kong Open behind them, the players will arrive in Boston next week better armed. What they produced last week was great to watch, so those at the US Open are guaranteed excitement and attack of a high order.

I can honestly say I have never been so well entertained at a squash tournament. There were many excellent matches, few disappointing ones, and there can only be one reason - the 11 points a game scoring. For those who think the game may be devalued by the reduction from 15 to 11, have no fear. It's the best thing to have happened for ages.

Clearly coaches and players will need to adapt, but apart from Nicol, the seeded players all made the last eight. Lincou's persistent precision, White's power, Power's racket skill, Palmer's all-round game and Beachill's control and delay will all reap rewards and there are plenty of others with enough to their game to be a threat. Nick Matthew is proof of that.


Congratulations to Heather Dayton and Tony Choi and the tournament committee on a job well done. They both made everyone feel very welcome and nothing was too much trouble.


Thanks, Malcolm
Malcolm was unable to stay in Hong Kong after the quarter-finals, so we would like to express our grateful thanks to Malcolm for his previews, his reports, his 'asides, which have made the coverage of this tournament a delight.

Thanks, Malcolm, you're a star!

Steve & Framboise

[8] Nick Matthew (ENG) bt [16] Adrian Grant (ENG) 
     7/11,  11/5, 11.8, 11/10 (3-1) (56m)
[4] David Palmer (AUS) bt [6] Jonathon Power (CAN) 
     11/9, 8/11, 11/5, 11/10 (5-3) (55m)
[3] Thierry Lincou (Fra) bt [7] Amr Shabana (Egy)
     11/5, 6/11, 11/1, 11/6 (33m)
[2] Lee Beachill (Eng) bt [5] John White (Sco)  
     9/11, 8/11, 11/10 (2-0), 11/10 (3-1), 11-5 (67m)

I doubt if anyone at the Cathay Pacific this week is not convinced about the 11 points scoring. Make no mistake, it is an unqualified success, producing attacking squash of the highest quality.

The first match of the night between two established stars, Lee Beachill and John White, produced a wonderful match with all the right ingredients. White was more or less unplayable for two games, as he thundered winners into the straight nick. But Beachill has not reached two in the world by accident and he strove manfully to hold back the tide, doing enough to keep him in the match.

In the third he found extra width and depth and won the tie-break 2-0. White was no longer dominant, but still dangerous and Beachill won another tie-break, this time 3-1, and the scores were level.

The flow though, was now with Beachill and when he led 9-2 White looked desperate. A brief flourish to five, bur then Beachill was home, a recovery of colossal proportions. This was a resolute performance and, on this evidence, Beachill is coming into his own.

To the credit of Nick Matthew and Adrian Grant, two close friends, they produced a splendid match, much to the delight of the very large crowd, played at a frightening pace.

Neither gave an inch in precision or willingness to attack and the result was a match of which they can both be proud.

Grant won the first, but Matthew recovered to lead 2-1. Grant fought back, put together some quality rallies, but it was the Yorkshireman who took the tie-break in the fourth to clinch his well-earned place in the semi-finals.

The third match between Jonathon Power and David Palmer promised a great deal and delivered no less.

Palmer, with his family in the large and appreciative crowd, won a closely contested first, lost the second and then won the third comfortably 11/5. But the Canadian maestro was not done with, and wielding his racket as only he does and talking to the referee as only he can, he fought tooth and nail in his attempt to level things up. Some strange refereeing, which sadly has been in evidence all week, added to the tension before Palmer prevailed in a tie break.

Three matches gone and it is hard to imagine a crowd better entertained: every player giving his all and the 11 points a game proving an undoubted success, popular with players and spectators alike.

In the final match of a scintillating night's play, Thierry Lincou's precision was too much for Amr Shabana. Although the Egyptian won the second, from there it was one-way traffic on Lincou's way to a 3/1 win. He has had a comfortable run to the semi-finals - Beachill is likely to be a severer test.

Too close to call ...
Malcolm Willstrop looks at the last eight

Tonight's line-up is missing the major figure of Peter Nicol:

Nicol's loss has left a semi-final; place open for Grant or Matthew, both five set winners yesterday. It was Grant who put out Nicol for the best win of his life and Matthew beat Gaultier, less of a surprise. The two are close friends and their matches invariably tight.

Neither Palmer of Power have entirely convinced, but they are big time and will be improving as the tournament advances. They spent time practicing together in the Summer and will know where each other stands.

Lincou has eased through with the minimum of fuss so far, but he faces Shabana, who survived a five setter with James Willstrop and this will be the Frenchman's first real test. He will be fresh, but Shabana may be sharpened up the more.

Beachill has been impressive so far and Darwish never looked like beating him. His meeting with John White will be significant and eagerly awaited, since White disposed of Ong Beng Hee readily, last on yesterday.

Picking the four winners would be a feat, so I will not even attempt it.

Comeback for Beachill







Round 2, the Last 16:

As predicted, Nick Matthew and Gregory Gaultier produced a purposeful game, with Matthew emerging a deserved winner in the fifth. The Englishman played well in the first, winning it convincingly, but Gaultier led 2-1 before Matthew got his game together again to level matters. The Frenchman, as is his wont, argued regularly with the referee in the fifth, until a conduct warning shut him up. Justice was done when Matthew won it 11/7.

Meanwhile the shock of all shocks, as world no 1 Peter Nicol found himself 2-1 down to fellow countryman Adrian Grant, who only just survived the first round against Azlan Iskandar. Although Nicol got to two-all, Grant, not overawed at the prospect of beating him, played decisively to record the win of his career.

Whatever problems Jonathon Power appeared to have beforehand he dismissed against Joe Kneipp when he beat the Australian 3/0. Having taken the first easily, the second less so, he won the third after a protracted tie break. He faces heavier artillery when David Palmer is his quarter-final opponent. Palmer got rid of qualifier Hisham Ashour 3/1. Ashour took the first in a tiebreak, but the Australian asserted himself and is no doubt profiting from the match play.

Lee Beachill advanced to the quarter-finals in a match he generally controlled, although losing the second to Karim Darwish. With his win at the English Open under his belt, he is going to be hard to beat, though Thierry Lincou soon despatched Paul Price, who could not reproduce his heroics of the previous night.

Lincou’s next opponent is Amr Shabana, who was totally outplayed by James Willstrop in the first two games. The World Champion led clear in the third, then hung on to win it 11/9, and then drew level at two-all. Willstrop led 5-2 in the fifth, but Shabana recovered to win a tense last game and the match, much to his relief. Willstrop will see it as a chance lost.

It has to be said that the refereeing in this match failed the players badly – both of them – and at times reduced a quality, attacking match to a farce.

And so to the last match of the evening. John White, with his dad in support, was in no mood to let Ong Beng Hee spoil the family celebration and although the Malaysian managed to force a tie-break in the third, it was White who won it.

Friday’s quarter-finals line-up reads:
Beachill v White 5.15
Grant v Matthew 6.15
Palmer v Power 7.15
Shabana v Lincou 8.15

Nicol may have gone, but there are plenty of big names left, and all to play for.

Behind the Scenes
The two Championship courts are demanding and take some working out. They also make 11 scoring more significant, especially the Perspex.

Lee and James have kept me well entertained on this trip. Pontefract, where we are based, thrives on the 'insult' complex' favoured by some tribes and they have both given me a hard time, which I am not likely to forget.

It was odd that Mohammed Abbas in his match with Ong Beng Hee did not want the advice of his countrymen Darwish, Ashour or El Hindi. They were all in his corner, ready to help, but he swept by them without a look and sat far away between games, alone. Unhappily for him his tactic failed.

I am not sure if PSA have a rule to deal with it, but I would be in favour of any player showing insufficient effort - a rare occurrence happily - having his prize money withheld.

Ashour v Palmer

Lincou v Price

First round, Bottom Half:


John White
and James Willstrop kicked off the second phase of the first round of the Cathay Pacific and although White lost the third game to qualifier Peter Barker, he was not seriously troubled to win 3/1. Nor was Willstrop, even though he fell well behind in the second to Renan Lavigne. He recovered it stylishly and won the other two games with ease.

Willstrop's opponent tomorrow is world champion Amr Shabana, who brought Simon Parke's recent run of success to an end. Shabana's racket skills are obvious to all, but Parke played without the composure he displayed at Th eCrucible and only tested Shabana's fitness in infrequent patches. Tomorrow's match should be worth watching.

Lee Beachill had no bother disposing of Mark Chaloner, using his trademark delay to good effect. His meeting tomorrow with Karin Darwish should be a classic squash encounter.

Nor did Thierry Lincou waste much time in putting aside Jonathan Kemp, who had done well to qualify. The Frenchman will be more tested by Paul Price, the talented Aussie who beat Anthony Ricketts in the fifth.

Price probably likes the idea of scoring to 11 and the quality of his squash always looked likely to prevail over Ricketts' more indiscriminate squash. He led two-one before Ricketts levelled, but played a quality fifth to win the match 11/4, much to his delight and to the disappointment of his opponent. In evidence throughout the match was Price's backhand drop, a priceless asset which rarely fails him.

Ong Beng Hee has generally got the better of his meetings with Mohammed Abbas, although they are always close and this was no exception. The gifted Egyptian got a bit testy in the third as it ran away from him, but, despite being unwilling to talk to any of his three friends, El Hindi, Ashour or Darwish between games, he came out and played some exquisite squash to level at two all. He now looked the winner, but having led 8-6 in the decider, he lapsed, as he sometimes does, and Ong swept through to a victory that late on looked improbable.

To bring matters to a close Darwish demolished Mansoor Zaman, who folded, as he often does, like the proverbial pack of cards.

Tomorrow is full of imponderables, and eagerly awaited.

Malcolm Willstrop previews day Two

There has been some exceptional squash at the Cathay Pacific Open and Wednesday night promises much.

Second-seeded Lee Beachill, winner of the recent English Open, has Mark Chaloner as his first hurdle and Thierry Lincou and John White have qualifiers Jonathan Kemp and Peter Barker to start them off.

World Champion Amr Shabana will have to be in a going mood to withstand the most dangerous qualifier, Simon Parke, but there are three matches of major interest lined up before the qualifier goes onto court.

Paul Price, of musical fame, versus Anthony Ricketts, happily returned to fitness; Ong Beng Hee, close to home and eager to restore his reputation, versus the talented Mohammed Abbas; and Mansoor Zaman v Egyptian Karim Darwish, the former world junior champion. Another former world junior champion, James Willstrop, has Frenchman Renan Lavigne as his first opponent.

I would go for Beachill, White, Lincou, Ricketts, Beng Hee, Darwish, Shabana and Willstrop to progress, but expect at least three matches to be close calls.

Kick-off 5.15pm Hong Kong time, with James Willstrop v Renan Lavigne and John White v Peter Barker first on.


White v Barker


Beng Hee v Abbas




To meet James Barrington, the marketing and sales director of Cathay Pacific again after many years was a pleasure. He was an England U19 player when at Lancing College, near Brighton, years ago, and we shared an amazing squash experience when I taught at Gresham's. He was eager to tell it to James, probably to get his version in first!

I am not into being too critical of referees, but there have been too many cheap strokes, which does nothing for the game and too many freely-given lets when players at a disadvantage from their own play have not been adequately punished.

Once the top players entered the fray and the championship courts were in sole use, the scoring to 11 produced what I expected: attacking play of a frightening pace, intensity and bodies being put through all manner of gymnastics. Great value for watchers.

Crowds to date have been excellent, large and appreciative, and it is good to see so many children in the Centre, on and off court.

The whole Cathay Pacific championship is top-class. Heather Dayton and Tony Choi, with their organising committee, have done and are doing a first-class job of work.


First round, Top Half:


Malcolm Willstrop on the first round action ...

Peter Nicol
, the world no one, began his quest for his fourth Cathay Pacific title with a 3-1 win over local wildcard Wong Wai Hang, which was designed to keep the crowd entertained and did so. Nicol was never out of cruise control and with a refreshing Summer behind him, may still be the man to beat.

The first match on the main court promised a great deal and Joe Kneipp and Graham Ryding did not let anybody down. Played at an exacting pace, which I think the game to 11 will be amongst the top players, with plenty of attack, Ryding looked to hold sway at 2-1, but truth to tell he played a moderate fourth and it was the skilful Kneipp who won the fifth convincingly.

Jonathon Power may or may not have a leg problem, but even in a not too convincing 3-1 win over qualifier Philip Barker, he seemed for the most part to be moving well enough. It may be, after setbacks he has had, that he is not too sure about his current form.

In the event I am not convinced he will get past Joe Kneipp and/or David Palmer, especially in view of the fact that Kneipp looked sharp enough tonight and, having trained recently with Palmer, Power will know how fit Palmer is.

Gregory Gaultier, looking physically strong, but playing quite conservatively, brought Bradley Ball's winning run to an end. After a close first game he eased away to win comfortably and awaits the winner of the Nick Matthew/Dan Jenson match.

Hisham Ashour, after his late-night win over Cameron Pilley and a bout of food poisoning, was still strong enough to use his extreme racket skills to beat his benign and civilised senior countryman Omar El Borolossy 3/2. Ashour led 2/1, surprisingly lost the fourth, but romped away 11/3 in the fifth.

He is definitely a player to watch and there may be much more to come from him, though he has yet to meet anyone of the calibre of David Palmer, his next opponent.

Palmer himself did not find life easy. He feels he is going well in practice, but match play is another matter and his capable opponent Wael El Hindi, having been 2/0 down, levelled the score before Palmer asserted 11/6 in the fifth.

Two young Englishmen advanced to the last 16: Nick Matthew beat Dan Jenson 3/0 in a well-contested match, and he will be pleased with that, since Jenson has had the indian sign over him.

The match hinged on who had the front of the court and Matthew came off best, though the classy-looking Aussie had his moments, and had chances in the third.

Adrian Grant faced Azlan Iskandar, likely to be a handful on the glass court with scoring to 11, and, playing a little tensely found himself 2-0 down. He relaxed a little to win the third well but found himself 8-3 down in the fourth. A brilliant sustained spell by Grant saw him level at two-all without Iskander scoring again. The fifth was nip and tuck with the Malaysian continuing to attack at every opportunity, but it was Grant who held his game together to win the match 11/8.

The squash throughout the championship has been of sustained quality with scarcely a moderate match. The players deserve much credit and you can bet there's more to come.
  Also: Alex Wan reports 

Wong Wai Hang and Peter Nicol
at the tournament reception

Power and Barker


El Hindi stretches Palmer


Grant recovers against Azlan

First round Preview:

The top half of the draw, played today at 5.15pm (HK time) involves five of the eight qualifiers. There were five English qualifiers, three of the younger brigade and two old stagers; Simon Parke, currently playing like one of the young brigade, and Bradley Ball.

Azlan IskandarAzlan Iskandar
has looked sharp and will be keen to make an impression on Adrian Grant, in what should be an entertaining match.

Phil Barker, who has done well to qualify, meets the great Jonathon Power, who may have injury problems. The Barker bros will be happy to have qualified. Neither had easy passages, but both came through well.

Bradley Ball - enjoying the new scoring ...Bradley Ball, who has won both his matches convincingly, faces Gregory Gaultier; he is not to be underestimated, as the new scoring certainly suits him.

Wael el Hindi, the capable Egyptian, takes on David Palmer, a tough proposition, but he will not be overawed and Hisham Ashour, after his exceptional match with Cameron Pilley, plays Omar Elborolossy.

Simon Parke, Peter Barker and Jonathan Kemp are in Wednesday's split draw first round against Amr Shabana, John White and Thierry Lincou.

A big match tonight is the clash between Graham Ryding and Joseph Kneipp. The word is that Ryding is in good shape and may defy the rankings, though no doubt Kneipp will have his say.


I would like to wish Susan, the Pontefract Squash Club therapist,
a very happy birthday.

En Français



There are many eye-catching first round matches: Grant v Iskandar; Matthew who finds Jenson difficult; Borolossy and Ashour; Kneipp and Ryding; Parke and Shabana; Price and Ricketts; Ong Beng Hee and Abbas and Mansoor and Darwish.

It's always good to have the world's best woman referee on site, Chris Sinclair, setting the standard. She has an authority that benefits the game.

The Pilley-Ashour match was exceptional. Pilley will make the top ten - I liked his composure and toughness - and Ashour's racket skills are marvellous to behold.

Wael el Hindi


Players at the welcome cocktail party

Malcolm Willstrop reports on Qualifying finals ...

  Qualifying Finals:  
   Bradley Ball bt Raj Nanda  11/5, 11/3, 11/5
   Peter Barker bt Alister Walker 
9/11, 11/10, 11/5, 11/8 
   Azlan Iskandar bt Jan Koukal  
11/7, 11/8, 11/5
   Phil Barker bt Arshad Burki  
11/4, 9/11, 11/9, 8/11, 11/4
   Simon Parke bt Joey Barrington  
11/10, 11/2, 11/10
   Wael El Hindi bt Gavin Jones  1
1/8, 11/3, 11/1
   Hisham Ashour bt Cameron Pilley
11/10, 4/11, 8/11, 11/6, 11/10 
   Joey Kemp bt Davide Bianchetti
11/8, 11/9, 11/4
   Full results and updated main draw

Bradley Ball, more than most, will be very happy that the scoring has been reduced to 11. He has long had a reputation in the English National League (to 9 points) and the change will give him a new lease of life. Having brushed aside top seeded qualifier Olli Tuominen, he had little trouble with Aussie Raj Nanda, who promised more than he delivered. Should anyone decide to reduce it to 7 points or less, Ball, with his positive low striking, may see himself as a threat to Peter Nicol!

It was not likely that Jan Koukal, as lean as a north country whippet, who looks as if he should have been in Athens running the marathon, would trouble Azlan Iskandar on the Centre Court.  In truth Koukal doesn't offer much with the racket and Iskandar's range, which is good anyway, was far too much for him. Koukal's chances are on concrete, not glass.

Peter Barker took on Alister Walker in an all-English confrontation, which turned out to be entirely watchable and of good quality. Walker won the first, played excellently in the second, but lady luck turned her back and he lost it. Barker, who generally has the edge in their meetings, won the third convincingly, no doubt pleased to be one-all, and was helped by a series of errors from Walker, who to his credit played very positively throughout, in the fourth as he won 3-1.

Phil Barker, playing much more precisely than he had the day before in a modest match with Tommy Berden, then gave the family a double when, after leading Arshad Burki 1-0 and 2-1, he got home 3-2, winning the fifth in decisive fashion, well-executed drop-shots helping to settle matters.

Man in form Simon Parke moved into the main draw when he beat off spirited resistance from Joey Barrington. Parke just nipped the first game, playing with the athletic Barrington rather than against him. Matters rectified, he won the second easily and, although he continued in control, he had to stave off a sustained challenge, winning the third narrowly.

The last match of the evening was by far the best, Hisham Ashour against Cameron Pilley. Ashour has racket skills of the highest order and the young Aussie, who, I am glad to say, I have always rated, is no mug either. Between them they rewarded a large crowd who stayed to the end. At 2-1 up Pilley's superior fitness and calm temperament looked more likely to win the day, but the Egyptian, using his racket like a wand, played marvellously to level the score at two-all.

Pilley, holding his game together, led 5-2 in the fifth, but Ashour opened up, fired winners to lead 6-5. Pilley led 7-7, then 7-all, before 9-7 to Ashour, then 10-7 after a magnificent rally. Another to 10-8, another to 10-9, squash of the highest quality. Unbelievably 10-all. 11-10 to Ashour, 11-all, 12-11 Pilley, 12-all, 13-12 Ashour, 14-12 on a stroke. A magnificent match and if this is qualifying standard, the world tour is secure.

Wael El Hindi beat Gavin Jones comfortably 3-0 and more surprisingly Jon Kemp beat Davide Bianchetti, also 3-0.

Full results and updated main draw


Malcolm Willstrop reports on Qualifying day one ...   

When the first of the qualifying matches began at 1.30pm Hong Kong time, history was being made as the PSA tour adopted 11 points a game scoring.

Olli Tuominen, the no 1 qualifier, faced Bradley Ball on Centre Court and the Englishman's deserved win was no surprise to those of us who know how well he plays English National League scoring to nine.

The Barker brothers had a double success, Peter winning 3/2 against the variable Irishman John Rooney, and Phil by a similar score over Tommy Berden in a match of moderate quality.

Wael El Hindi, Cameron Pilley, Azlan Iskandar, Jon Kemp and Davide Bianchetti all had expected wins, as did Hisham Ashour. Alister Walker beat Majid Khan 3/1, and Arshad Burki prevailed against the odds in the all-Pakistani clash with Farrukh Zaman.

Aussie Raj Nanda beat Ben Garner 3/1 and Joey Barrington beat another Aussie, Timothy Manning, by the same score. Jonathan Kemp and Gavin Jones were two other British qualifiers,

Simon Parke, fresh from his Crucible successes, won convincingly against Lee Drew in an enjoyable match and he will be a threat to any opponent.

Finding the eight winners is no easy matter. With so much to play for, endeavour and excitement are guaranteed.

En Français

Wet Welcome in HK
Going from England in August, with its record rainfall, to Hong Kong in the rainy season, seems to be one and the same thing. Twice I have been caught in it, when brollies were of little use. We were all half-drowned and I have to admit my language was profane!

The irrepressible Joe Shaw is in town with his favourite sons David Palmer and John White, along with David's parents and John's Dad. How David ever learnt to talk with Joe for a coach and John for a father is beyond belief.

Joe and I had a long one-way conversation, where I was out-talked 95-5%! He certainly hasn't changed; he expresses his theories, fights authority as ever and his enthusiasm is undiminished.

It appeared to me that Jonathon Power was struggling with a muscle problem. He left the practice court for treatment and didn't look at all happy.

Simon Parke was quickly into gear, looking in the same mood as at The Crucible. He is a danger to everyone and main draw players will not want him in his current form with match play behind him.

Whenever I see Gavin Jones, I think of Welsh fly-halves as they used to be, when Wales could play rugby. How sad that the days of Barry John, Gareth Edwards, John Dawes and co are long gone.

How fortunate are Hong Kong to have Heather Dayton - her welcome, efficiency and general bonhomie are much to be admired.




Malcolm Willstrop

the Eccentric Genius
A major interview and feature on one of the world's top coaches, by Framboise Gommendy

Who did they get?
Iskandar plays Grant
Ball plays Gaultier
El Hindi plays Palmer
Ashour plays Elborolossy
Phil Barker plays Power
Parke plays Shabana
Kemp plays Lincou
Peter Barker plays White
updated main draw

Expect Some Upsets
Malcolm looks at the prospects for
the top players in Hong Kong ...

Most players are coming into the prestigious Cathay Pacific Open short of match play, but the Mamut English Open at the famous Crucible in Sheffield earlier this month gave some a chance to put their Summer's work to the test.

World no 2 Lee Beachill won there convincingly and world no 1 Peter Nicol, having repelled a strong challenge from Anthony Ricketts, returning after knee surgery, ran out of legs against the resurgent Simon Parke, who had a quite remarkable tournament, reaching the final from the qualifiers.

James Willstrop beat the holder John White from 2-0 down in a match rapturously received by an 800 strong crowd, before losing a quality match with Beachill 3-1 in the semi-final.

Much was expected of Nick Matthew, world no 8, in his home town, but he looked suspect and nearly lost to Alex Gough and was well outpointed by Parke.

Add to that collection Thierry Lincou, David Palmer, Jonathon Power, Amr Shabana and Karim Darwish and there is a fascinating mix with early season form, the scoring to 11 for the first time, which looks frightening in its demands, and preparedness all major factors.

Nicol looks to have a fair passage, with apparently Nick Matthew or Gregory Gaultier between him and a semi-final place. Provided he has made the extra physical progress from Sheffield, he will be hard to beat.

Palmer and Power are in his half and may do themselves a lot of damage should they meet, without knowing what shape they are in.

Beachill, who must be a major player, should meet White, though Darwish is in his way. Super Series Champion Lincou has to get past Ricketts to meet Shabana or Willstrop and that looks a difficult area of the draw.

Adjusting to the 11 points scoring will not be easy and, though it will be good for spectators and I welcome it, bodies will be ripped apart. Match play or lack of it will also be a crucial matter.

Add to all that the fact that the PSA tour is very competitive anyway and I am pretty sure there will be some upsets, especially as the qualifying is frighteningly strong.


The Qualifying Nightmare ...

Qualifying is every player's nightmare, whether an aspiring youngster or an older hand trying to hang on.

First the cost and possibility of no return in points or money. Then the hard matches, if successful, prior to meeting the fresh player, already ranked higher, in the main draw.

Nor does the qualifying get the attention it deserves, since if the 32 in Hong Kong were made into a tournament of its own, the player winning it would be thrilled to bits.

On offer are eight places which guarantee money, hotel and an advance up the world list. Unless you have suffered it, waiting in a herd for the qualifying draw is one of the worst experiences a squash player will have.

A favourable outcome and all's well with the world; a lousy draw and the first plane home, something outsiders will not understand. Why not stay and enjoy the view? Hong Kong, Doha, New York, Kuwait, Toronto ... but they rarely do.

The draw, with qualifiers


Malcolm Willstrop

the Eccentric Genius
A major interview and feature on one of the world's top coaches, by Framboise Gommendy

Malcolm Willstrop is in Hong Kong with Lee Beachill
and James Willstrop.