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01/09/2006
WORLD OPEN 2006
 

Al Ahram Egypt

World Squash Open 2006


 Venue for the 2006 World Open

Eaton on Worlds
Palmer's comeback
Gaultier's sensation
Palmer in form
End for Nicol
Shabana in Trouble

Nicol's Cliffhanger
Willstrop Disaster

. MEN'S DRAW
. SCHEDULE OF PLAY

. NEWS
. RELEASES
. Round 1
. Qual Finals:
. Qual R1:

. Preview

. Final
. Semi-finals
. Quarters 1
. Quarters 2
. Round 2

FINAL:
Palmer Comes Back
to World Title

David Palmer can count himself the bravest and Gregory Gaultier the unluckiest player there has ever been in a World Open final after the Australian beat the Frenchman 9-11, 9-11, 11-9, 11-10, 11-2 in front of the illuminated Giza pyramids.

The up-and-down nature of this startling contest hardly paled into significance even by comparison with the ambience of one of the seven wonders of the world, and people will debate for a long time how Gaultier allowed five match points get away.

His gifted stroke-play dominated long periods of the match, and his performance was often even better than when he had dethroned world champion Amr Shabana and stunned the home crowd the night before.

Gaultier was within two points of a straight games victory at 9-7 in the third, but when the climax came in the fourth game he was unable by the narrowest of margins to get past the big frame and the considerable guts of Palmer.

One of the match points was saved by a slight mis-hit by Palmer, who flung himself about and took five spectacular tumbles in the later stages. A mixture of controversial and noisily contested refereeing decisions added to the dramatic cocktail.

But under pressure the former world champion continued to believed in himself, while at the end the 23-year-old eighth seed ran out of energy and, after an hour and 40 minutes, was no longer able to run the last few balls down.

"I have been telling myself that I'm not really in Cairo, but back in my home town in Lithgow (New South Wales)," said Palmer, when asked what he was thinking on all those match points.

"There is a mountain there and I tried to imagine I was doing just one more training run there with my dad. I tried to take the pressure off myself that way.

"Maybe Gregory deserved to win. He played a lot of the better squash, but I am proud of the way I gutsed this out and won it," added Palmer.

Gaultier led 8-3 and 10-6 in the fourth game, and drew Palmer into rallies in four of the five match points, often threatening to finish it off with the sudden sliced low drives which had caused his opponent such difficulty.

But amidst an increasing series of collisions between the two men, the referee shrank from awarding penalty points, and amidst a series of lets, the match somehow slipped away from the Frenchman.

Gaultier was already speechless with disappointment by the time the fifth game started, and was unable to utter a word afterwards. But his long-time coach Andre Delhoste gave his version of events.

"The referee (Nasser Zahran of Egypt) changed radically in the middle of the fourth game," he claimed.

"And the decisions were in Palmer's favour with no warning. It meant that the winners Gregory had been scoring on the backhand he couldn't get any more – it was either a stroke for Palmer or a no let.

"What was building to this were Gregory's backhand drop or volley drop and most of them had been winners and he didn't have them any more.

"What he had to do was to understand he couldn't make all these winners and maybe play a little boast (a ball of the sidewall) or a long kill.

"But it all happened in three minutes. It was almost all over and he was getting tireder and tireder. You need to be very alert mentally and quickly change the pattern."

But Palmer disagreed. "He (Gaultier) was really standing on the ball tonight," he alleged. "It was frustrating.

"Last night the referee was different. Now he was giving no lets and tonight I was really struggling to get around him. I didn't want to turn it into a physical match but I was getting no lets."
_________________________________
______________

SEMI-FINALS:
Gaultier's sensational win
World champion Amr Shabana lost his title in a shock defeat in the tournament which had principally been created to celebrate his brilliance. The World Open had been brought back to the Giza pyramids after an interval of seven years in the expectation that the king of squash would celebrate keeping his crown in front of the tomb of the pharoahs.

But a stunning 11-5,11-7,2-11,11-9 semi-final loss to Gregory Gaultier reduced the home crowd to silence, spoilt the projected celebrations, and almost certainly damaged attendance and viewing figures too.

Shabana had been close to serious difficulty in his second round match against his friend Mohammed Abbas, and although there were increasing flashes of his creative excellence in the third and fourth games, the outcome was not a complete surprise.

Shabana had not played a tournament for four months and admitted to hyper-tension, while Gaultier, the eighth-seeded European champion from France had been playing impressively all tournament.

"I feel great for myself but I feel sorry for the crowd," Gaultier said into the loudspeaker immediately afterwards. "I know you love Shabana.

"But I hope you will come back tomorrow and cheer for me - please, please."

He had devised a plan to play slow tight drives to frustrate the fast attacking brilliance of Shabana, to use his tremndous court coverage, and to switch pace and direction when he felt it might lure the under-pressure Egyptian into error.

It worked, until Gaultier played an indifferent third game, allowing Shabana and the partisan crowd into the match.

Suddenly he was faced with an opponent who was playing greatly better, and found himself 2-8 down in the fourth. Had Shabana converted that advantage he might well have rescued himself - and the event.

It was only by once again giving his opponent no pace and little room, that Gaultier turned the deteriorating situation around, gradually causing doubt in Shabana and eventually extracting volleying errors.

Gaultier explained why he was a much stronger player this year. "Mentally I am much stronger and I feel like I can fight for ever," he said.

"It was really hard, especially when he came back. I was feeling weird but he was playing much better so I just need a bit of luck at the end."

Shabana had disappeared like a cloud at the end and left the pyramids at a great rate of knots to hide his humiliation and disappointment, while Gaultier was asked to articulate his triumph.

"Actually I feel like nothing happened. I am really happy. I don't feel happy right now, because I can't believe it.

"I knew I was ready but I only played well in patches. But when I feel it, it has to be a good feeling to beat Amr Shabana because he's the best player in the world. So it means I am at the top."

But to prove that he will have to win a final against David Palmer, the second seeded Australian who beat Thierry Lincou, the older Frenchman, by 11-2,12-10,10-12,11-6, in a battle of former world champions.

Palmer has looked a dangerous all tournament, and has clearly become significantly fitter since losing the final of the Commonwealth Games to Peter Nicol of Briton in Melbourne in March.

Lincou however started very slowly, and had three very questionable penalty point decisions given against him in the second game, nullifying a brave fight back from 6-10 down to 10-10.

Lincou then got Palmer on the wrong end of some contentious exchanges in the third, raising his pace and reducing his error ratio.

Once palmer came out and complained to the referee: "When he goes the wrong way he's grabbing me and pushing me," but the crowd clearly felt that Lincou came worse off from the appeals to the officials.

When Palmer earned two more penalty points, quite rightly after mistimed drives by Lincou, and surged to 7-3 in the fourth game, the leeway became too much for the Frenchman to make up.

"After I had won the second game it was crucial, because it left him so much to do to come back," said Palmer.

Asked about the influence of coach Shaun Moxham, who is present in Cairo after recently getting married, Palmer agreed that this was important but added: "Unfortunately my wife is not here with me, but it gives me encouragement to speak to her and put baby on the web camera.

_____________________________
Schedule Of Play

Qualification:  
30th August        1st round National Stadium

31st August       2nd round National Stadium

Main Draw:     
1st September   1st round  National Stadium

2nd September    2nd round National Stadium

3rd September    Qtr finals (split) – Portable Court Pyramids

4th September    Qtr finals (split) – Portable Court Pyramids

5th September    Semi-finals – Portable Court Pyramids

6th September    Final – Portable Court Pyramids

Palmer comes back from 2/0 down to win world title.
Lincou can't get past Palmer in the semi-final
Gregory Gaultier sees off Ramy Ashour's challenge to earn a semi-final against Amr Shabana.
Peter Nicol goes down to Lincou in quarter-finals.
Lee Beachill carshes to Ashour in second round
Ramy Ashour is too fast and too incisive in his finish to give a match rusty and tiring Lee Beachill any chance at the end of their 83 minute encounter.

Peter Nicol is in survival mode as he saves matchball and scrapes a victory from Graham Ryding.

World  Open 2006: Men's Draw

30th August - 6th September 2006
First Round
1st  Sept
Second Round
2n
d Sept
Quarters
3rd/4th Sept
Semis
5th Sept
Final
6th Sept
[1] Amr Shabana (Egy)
11-7, 5-11, 11-4, 11-6
[Q] Peter Barker (Eng)
Shabana
11-6, 5-11, 11-9, 11-10 (3-1)
Abbas
Shabana
11-5, 11-7, 11-5
El Hindi
Shabana

11-5, 11-7, 2-11, 11-9

Gaultier

Gaultier

9-11, 9-11, 11-9, 11-10 (6-4), 11-2

Palmer

WORLD
CHAMPION
 

[12] Azlan Iskandar (Mas)
11-8, 11-5, 8-11, 11-10
(5-3) (69m)
Mohammed Abbas (Egy)  

[7] Nick Matthew (Eng)
11-10 (3-1), 11-3, 11-4
Alex Gough (Wal) 

 Matthew
11-8, 4-11, 11-4, 2-11, 11-10 (2-0)
 El Hindi

 
[9] Karim Darwish (Egy)
5-11, 11-3, 11-5, 11-10
(2-0)
Wael El Hindi (Egy)            
[4] James Willstrop (Eng)
Willstrop withdrew illness
Ramy Ashour (Egy)   
R. Ashour
11-4, 10-11
(0-2), 6-11, 11-8, 11-5 (83m)
Beachill
 
R. Ashour
11-10 (3-1), 11-9, 11-2
Gaultier
[10] Lee Beachill (Eng)
11-7, 11-5, 11-7 (41m)
[Q] Borja Golan (Esp)      
[8] Gregory Gaultier (Fra)
11-6, 11-5, 11-6 (31m)
[Q] Tarek Momen (Egy)     
Gaultier
11-3, 11-6, 11-8
White
[11] John White (Sco)
11-6, 11-6, 7-11, 8-11, 11-8 (68m)
[Q] Laurens Jan Anjema(Ned)
[Q] Hisham Ashour (Egy)
11-9, 11-5, 11-8 (39m)
[15] Stewart Boswell (Aus)
 Boswell
7-11, 11-10 (2-0) 11-7, 11-2
 Nicol
Nicol
11-6, 5-11, 11-8, 11-5
Lincou
 
Lincou

11-2, 11-10 (2-0), 10-11
(0-2) 11-5

Palmer 

Graham Ryding (Can) 
11-4, 5-11, 11-9, 9-11, 11-10 (2-0) (73m)        
[6] Peter Nicol (Eng)    
Shahier Razik (Can)
8-11, 11-9, 5-11, 11-7, 11-10 (4-2) (96m)    
[14] Olli Tuominen (Fin)
Tuominen
11-10 (2-0), 9-11, 11-3, 11-8 (79m)
Lincou
[Q] Alister Walker (Eng)  
11-4, 7-11, 11-2, 11-6
[3] Thierry Lincou (Fra)
[Q] Davide Bianchetti (Ita) 
7-11, 11-8, 11-5, 9-11, 11-5 (100m)  
[16] Adrian Grant (Eng)
Grant
11-6, 9-11,
11-6, 11-8

 Ricketts
Ricketts
9-11, 11-3, 11-6, 11-7 (73m)
 Palmer 
Omar Mosaad (Egy) 
11-7, 11-5, 3-11, 11-6
[5] Anthony Ricketts (Aus)
Cameron Pilley (Aus)  
 11-5, 11-7, 11-3 (34m)
[13] Ong Beng Hee (Mas)
Ong Beng Hee
11-10 (4-2), 11-8, 11-8
David Palmer
 
[Q] Aamir Atlas Khan (Pak)
11-4, 11-3, 11-1  
[2] David Palmer (Aus)

Men's 1st qualifying round:
30th August

1st qualifying round:
Peter Barker (ENG) bt Sherif Moustafa Kamel (EGY) 11-3, 11-4, 11-6 (35m)
Omar Abdel Aziz (EGY) bt Simon Parke (ENG) 11-9, 11-9, 10-11 (0-2), 11-5 (80m)
Davide Bianchetti (ITA) bt Andre Holderegger (SUI) 11-7, 11-7, 11-3 (27m)
Amr Ramzy Swelim (EGY) bt Ritwik Bhattacharya (IND) 10-11 (1-3), 11-6, 11-7, 11-8 (42m)
Laurens Jan Anjema (NED) bt Christopher Gordon (USA) 11-5, 11-3, 11-3 (28m)
Amr Mansi (EGY) bt Saurav Ghosal (IND) 11-7, 11-6, 5-11, 4-11, 11-6 (51m)
Joey Barrington (ENG) bt Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) 9-11, 10-11 (1-3), 11-5, 11-0, 11-4 (88m)
Tarek Momen (EGY) bt Rafael F Alarcon (BRA) 7-11, 11-6, 11-6, 11-3 (42m)
Hisham Mohd Ashour (EGY) bt Ahmed Mohsen Hassaan (EGY) 11-8, 11-1, 11-5 (24m)
Renan Lavigne (FRA) bt Badr Abdel Aziz (SWE) 11-4, 11-6, 11-5 (31m)
Mark Chaloner (ENG) bt Mohd Ali Anwar Reda (EGY) 11-8, 11-3, 11-7 (50m)
Borja Golan (ESP) bt Steve Coppinger (RSA) 11-4, 11-5, 11-3 (35m)
Stacey Ross (ENG) bt Bradley Hindle (AUS) 11-4, 11-9, 11-4 (40m)
Aamir Atlas Khan (PAK) bt Mansoor Zaman (PAK) 11-9, 11-9, 11-7 (31m)
Alister Walker (ENG) bt Yasser El Halaby (EGY) 11-10 (2-0), 11-8, 11-8 (43m)
Jonathan Kemp (ENG) bt Dylan Bennett (NED) 11-10 (4-2), 11-3, 10-11 (2-4), 10-11 (1-3), 11-8 (55m)

Qualifying Finals:
Qualifying finals:
Peter Barker (ENG) bt Omar Abdel Aziz (EGY) 11-6, 9-11, 11-6, 11-5 (67m)
Davide Bianchetti (ITA) bt Amr Ramzy Swelim (EGY) 11-5, 11-8, 11-5 (35m)
Laurens Jan Anjema (NED) bt Amr Mansi (EGY) 11-6, 11-6, 11-3 (35m)
Tarek Momen (EGY) bt Joey Barrington (ENG) 10-11 (0-2), 10-11 (1-3), 11-5, 11-10 (3-1), 5-1 ret. (84m)
Hisham Mohd Ashour (EGY) bt Renan Lavigne (FRA) 8-11, 11-9, 11-7, 11-6 (58m)
Borja Golan (ESP) bt Mark Chaloner (ENG) 11-10 (3-1), 11-7, 11-3 (45m)
Aamir Atlas Khan (PAK) bt Stacey Ross (ENG) 11-8, 11-10 (2-0), 11-10 (2-0) (43m)
Alister Walker (ENG) bt Jonathan Kemp (ENG) 11-8, 11-7, 11-10 (2-0) (35m)

QUARTER-FINALS:2
Palmer hits impressive form


Former world champion David Palmer has been looking at his baby daughter on the webcam as inspiration to help him win his title back.

On the evidence of his impressive 9-11,11-3,11-6,11-7 quarter-final win over British Open champion Anthony Ricketts in front of the Giza pyramids it is certainly succeeding.

The 30-year-old from New South Wales looked to be playing as well as he has for at least a couple of years as he overcame both a dangerous fifth-seeded opponent and the difficulty of having to beat a friend.

Palmer looked significantly fitter than when he finished runner-up in the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in March, and always looked controlled and well balanced even under pressure in the many long rallies.

He was also extremely accurate in the tight exchanges along the backhand wall, from which many of the rallies' intricate patterns opened up, dangerous when the ball was played short, and polished the match off
without fuss.

"I was pretty solid and I was pleased, especially as sometimes when trying to finish matches I have had a few demons in my head," Palmer said.

"I feel that I only have a couple of years left in me and I feel I really want to take any chances when I get them. And I have a new baby daughter and I talk to her every day. I look at her on the webcam every day and that gives me inspiration."

Palmer admitted that he and Ricketts had both been disappointed with the draw which put them in the same quarter. But although the spirit between the two men was visibly good, there was no evidence that either was
distracted by this and the quality of the contest was extremely high.

Ricketts however may have been hindered by a problem with his arm, and after the first game could not find a way of halting the slow but seemingly inexorable tide which was seeping against him.

It earned Palmer a semi-final with another former world champion Thierry Lincou, who reached the same stage the night before when he brought to an end the career of Peter Nicol, the outstanding Briton.

Lincou's compatriot Gregory Gaultier later made sure that two Frenchman reached the semi-finals of the World Open for the first time when he scored an impressive straight games win over Ramy Ashour, and a noisily
partisan Egyptian crowd.

The European champion's 11-10,11-9,11-2 win over the 18-year-old world junior champion signaled him as a serious threat for the title for the first time and suggested that his semi-final against the defending
champion Amr Shabana tomorrow (Tuesday) could be a highlight.

Gaultier was brilliant with his court coverage, changes of pace with sudden low kills, and encouragingly solid in his mental approach. In particular he hung on well when Ashour, who looks a great talent in the making, saved five game points in a row from 4-10 down in the second
game and had the crowd roaring.

But a tough and resilient piece of containing in the next game extracted the error from the youngster he needed, and in the third it was always the Frenchman in charge.

"He was on fire and had nothing to lose and the crowd gave him a boost, so it was twice harder for me," said Gaultier.

"But I stayed pretty relaxed. I just concentrated on playing against Ramy and nothing else, and I controlled the game pretty well.

"I have become pretty strong mentally. I have been working hard since the beginning of the year to do this, and I believe in myself much more."

________________________________________________

EATON ON THE WORLDS: QUARTER-FINALS:1:
The End for Nicol
Peter Nicol, arguably the most successful squash player of the past ten years, passed into retirement before the 4,500-year-old tomb of King Kufu when he was beaten in the quarter-finals of the World Open.

The 33-year-old Briton went down 11-6, 5-11, 11-8, 11-5 to Thierry Lincou of France in a struggle between two former world champions in front of the Giza pyramids.

Nicol had always hoped he would finish a famous 15-year career at the iconic venue where seven years ago he became the only British man ever to win the World Open, and his final performance suggested that this was both a good tome as well as a good place to retire.

Although there were flashes of the familiar Nicol style, soaking the pressure and then counter-attacking with a sudden telling drop or volley, for most of the match he was under too much pressure to look a likely winner.

Lincou kept in front of Nicol much of the time and made the older player do far more of the work. It was only some volleying gambles and some courageous retrieving by Nicol which kept him in it.

The third game was crucial and near the end it brought an uncharacteristically noisy threat from Nicol to the umpire, whom he thought was going to award a penalty point against him which would have put him two games to one down.

"Don’t you dare," bellowed. "I was nowhere near the ball," and he duly got his hoped-for let. But Thierry finished that game off with a well-judged volley kill in the next rally, and the outcome was always evident after that.

"Relief is one of my main emotions," Nicol said afterwards. "I feel very, very tired and I would like to have several months rest, not doing very much."

"I made sure I stood and had a good look at the pyramids before I went on court, and I sort of enjoyed the match, but I still wanted to win it."

Lincou humourously agreed that he would be pleased to see the back of a rival who had often beaten him, but called the moment "symbolic," meaning apparently that he thought it was the end of an era. "I hope he has a good future," he said.

Lincou will play the winner of Monday’s match between the two Australians, David Palmer, the second-seeded former world champion, and Anthony Ricketts, the fifth-seeded Super Series winner.

Earlier Amr Shabana’s attempt to retain the World Open title in front of his home crowd took its most impressive step forward so far with a 11-5,11-7,11-5 win over Wael El Hindi.

It was the second time in succession that Shabana had played a friend and compatriot but the first time in three matches that he played somewhere near his best.

"It was a relief because until now I have been tense," admitted the top-seeded titleholder. "I think I am back to one hundred percent sharpness and I am loving it again."

QUARTER-FINALS:
Shabana on Course
The match rusty defending champion who had struggled through the early rounds was nowhere in evidence on day 1 of the quarter-finals as Amr Shabana dominated WaeL El Hindi 11-5, 11-7, 11-5. El Hindi was no match for the champion in this mood with all his incisive skills in evidence. Shabana will face Ramy Ashour or Gregory Gaultier in the semi-finals (they play-off on Monday night) but first he has the advantage of a days rest.

Nicol, in his final tour match, says goodbye in front of the Pyramids but he cannot repeat his winning feat here of 1999. He does down to Lincou 11-6, 5-11, 11-8, 11-8 to end a great career in the most historic setting in squash


 

ROUND 2: Latest:
English Hopes Crash
English hopes crashed in Cairo on day two of the World Open with both Nick Matthew and Lee Beachill crashing out to Egyptian opponents.

It was heartbreak for Nick Matthew in the fifth, in a strangely fluctuating match, in which he he lost the decisive tiebreak 2-0 to be put on the plane back to England.

Lee Beachill suffered a similar fifth game disappointment when World Junior Champion sensation Ramy Ashour came back from 2/1 down to dominate the last two games and win a quarter-finals slot after 83 minutes. Ashour will face the Frenchman Gregory Gaultier, who convincingly put out John White in straight games.

Elsewhere the seeds progressed as they should, Peter Nicol keeping English hopes alive with a four set win over Stewart Boswell.
________________________________________________________________________

EATON ON THE WORLD: ROUND 2
Shabana in Trouble
World champion Amr Shabana was not far from losing his world title to his best friend before reaching the quarter finals at the Giza pyramids.

The local hero, for whose benefit the tournament has to a significant extent been created, was 2-8 down in the third game and had to save three game balls before surviving in four games against Mohammed Abbas.

“It wasn’t any easier than the previous night,” admitted Shabana, referring to his struggled to come from behind in the fourth game against England’s Peter Barker. “In fact it was more difficult.

Shabana not only had the pressure of immense home expectations this time, but was against an opponent against whom it was more difficult to rouse any killer instinct and who knew every aspect of his style inside out.

“We have been playing together for ten years and we do everything together,” said Shabana. “We practise together, go to the gym together, play together, go for a drink together and travel together. We are practically brothers.

“It’s hard mentally and I can’t surprise him with anything. I felt trapped out there. I was lucky not to lose out there today.”

Until Abbas unaccountably put an over-ambitious volley boast down when he had a long lead in the fourth game he looked well capable of taking charge. But after letting Shabana in the champion took six points in a row.

When Abbas led 10-7 in the next game he made errors on two of the next three points, though included a controversial penalty point decision when the referee deemed the unseeded player had struck the ball too close to himself, denying Shabana a fair view of the ball.

But Shabana did strike a high percentage of well-judge winners at the front of the court, with drops and volley drops, and, after four months away from competition, may be gradually gaining confidence-building match practice.

Shabana next plays another compatriot, Wael el Hindi, who upset the seedings for the second night in a row to reach the last eight.

After beating his ninth seeded fellow Egyptian Karim Darwish in the first round, El Hindi followed it by saving a match point to beat Nick Matthew, the seventh seeded Englishman by 11-8, 4-11, 11-4, 2-11, 12-10.

Earlier Thierry Lincou, the former world champion, continued his bid to win back the title with a brief scare and hard-worked 11-10, 9-11,11-3,11-8 win over Olli Tuominen.

It ensured that Lincou will progress to the stage of the tournament which is played entirely at the Giza pyramids, but in his second hard match in two days the 30-year-olds was made to work for a tough hour and a quarter.

“I was not bold enough, I didn’t vary my game enough today. The rallies were long, but seemed to be on the same pattern,” Lincou admitted.

“Overall, I lacked confidence and variety, but all credit to him, he was very present on the ball, was volleying extremely well, and was stepping in front of me, controlling the rallies much better than I was.”

Lincou was being a little harsh on himself, but he was possibly be trying to ensure he extracts a little extra from himself during a meeting with Peter Nicol, the former world champion from Britain, who beat him at the same stage of the World Open last year in Hongkong.

Nicol came through with his second remarkable escape in two days. He was match point down against Graham Ryding of Canada on Friday, and now he had to save three points to avoid going two games down against Stewart Boswell, a top 20 Australian.

Nicol eventually survived 7-11, 12-10, 11-7, 11-2 and thus ensured he will play his last match before the tomb of the pharaohs where he won the World Open seven years ago.

But the 33-year-old may find it hard to repeat his success against Lincou, who, despite his self-criticism looks strong and focused on making up for the loss of the title to Shabana.

Earlier a possible successor to Shabana emerged when Ramy Ashour, the 18-year-old local hope, upset the seedings.

He also made a fine recovery from two games to one down and from 2-5 in the fourth against Lee Beachill, the Englishman who was within one shot of the title two years ago in Doha.

Ashour eventually won 11-4, 10-12, 6-11, 11-8, 11-5 after a colossal collision at the start of the fifth game which left both men prostrate for so long the court had to be dried for several minutes before it was fit for play.
__________________________________________________________

EATON ON THE WORLD: ROUND 1
Nicol Survives Cliffhanger


Peter Nicol, arguably the most successful player on world squash tour over the past ten years, nearly saw his hopes of a climactic finish to his career go up in smoke.

The 33-year-old former world champion hopes to finish with another serious challenge for the World Open title over the next five days - but was within one point of defeat in his opening encounter.

Nicol was 4-9 down in the final game and match point down at 9-10 against Graham Ryding, the world number 20 from Canada, who has troubled him in the past.

The sixth-seeded Briton was at that moment only a couple of inches from retirement because, well out of position, he could only watch as Ryding played a backhand drop which just clipped the top of the tin.

"Throughout that rally I just thought 'get it back, get it back'" admitted Nicol. "But there wasn't much I could do about that one.  "In fact if he had decided not to hit that ball he might even have got a penalty stroke," admitted Nicol, referring to the fact that he may have been crowding Ryding a little. "But that was the spirit in which the whole match was played.

"He played better than I did and I was often just hanging on. He played very well throughout."

But that was limited consolation for Ryding. "It was a lot of work to put in and make a mistake like that," he said. "It means you are not doing yourself justice."

Nicol may now have a tough task recovering in time for what may be another difficult encounter, against Stewart Boswell, the top 20 Australian.

The winner of this could well play Thierry Lincou, another former world champion, who required a second game blip to accustom himself to the hot bouncy and rather airless conditions with a 11-4,7-11,11-2,11-6 win over an English qualifier, Alister Walker.

The third-seeded Frenchman is one of the main threats to Amr Shabana, the top-seeded defending champion from Egypt, but runs the risk of a repeat of the World Open quarter-final of last year, when he lost to Nicol.

Shabana began the defence of his world title with a slightly shaky start in the first match of the tournament played by the Giza pyramids. The top-seeded Egyptian was error-prone for at least half hour gainst Peter Barker, a qualifier from England, and only started to control he match after going 1-4 down in the fourth game of a 11-7,5-11,11-4,11-6
win.

"I've had a four-month break and you don't know how you are going to play after an interval like that," Shabana said. "For a second or two I thought it was going to be my last match (of the tournament). But thank God I had my will to win and hopefully I will play better next time."

Shabana next plays Ong Beng Hee, the 13th seeded Malaysian.

Earlier there was a minor seeding upset when Mohamed Azlan Iskandar, the 12th seeded Malaysian was beaten in four games by Mohamed Abbas, the top 20 Egyptian, which confirmed that several of the local players may prove to be unexpected threatsin home conditions.

However Anthony Ricketts, the British Open and Super Series champion from Australia, survived to beat the Egyptian wild card player, Omasr Mosaad by 11-7,11-5,10-11, 11-3, though he did get a penalty point
awarded against him for a gesture to the referee.

Ricketts claimed he was merely blowing a kiss to spectators in the front row.

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Willstrop Out Disaster
There was major English disappointment in Cairo on the eve of the World Open when the country's top hope James Willstrop was forced to pull out of the event suffering from gastro-enteritis. The world no.4 from Pontefract in Yorkshire, who was seeded to reach the semi-finals, is recovering in hospital in Cairo. His opponent in the draw will now be given a walkover into the second round.

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Eaton on the Worlds: Preview
Pressure on Shabana
Few champions, and maybe none in squash, will have everhad so much pressure to bear as Amr Shabana when he tries to defend his world title in front of the Giza pyramids. The 2006 World Open championships have been located at one of the most spectacular sites in the whole of sport, enabling most of Egypt to see the local lad try to retain the crown within shouting distance of the entombed pharaohs.

But Shabana's task, which begins on Friday and ends next Wednesday if he lives up to his top-seeded billing, will be unusually difficult in a
field which is arguably the most open in the sport's history.

At least ten contenders have realistic chances of taking the title, but the crowd will be expecting only one to win. Asked whether this would be a help or a hindrance, Shabana said: "I can't tell.

"I played before many times in Egypt, and it can be an advantage for sure - it can raise your game. I don't think about it too much, but the pressure will only be in the days before I play. Once I start playing I will get the energy."

Shabana's main rival is arguably Thierry Lincou, the 2004 world champion from France, who warmed up impressively by capturing the English Open title a fortnight ago.

Neither Shabana, nor Karim Darwish, the other top ten Egyptian,took part in the Sheffield event, which may mean they start slightly fresher, but they will also be lacking in match practice.

Other serious rivals to the 27-year-old left-handed champion from Cairo should include two Australians - the highly experienced David Palmer, who is another former world champion, and the aggressive Anthony Ricketts, the British open and Super Series titleholder. Peter Nicol, now 33-year-old spent fully 60 months in total as world number one, and has chosen this to be the last event of the most successful career of anyone of the past ten years.

Nicol, probably still capable of beating anyone but perhaps these days lacking the stamina to construct a sequence of tough wins, will thus start the transition to his new life in front of the 4,500-year-old tomb of King Kufu.

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Qualifying Finals: News Release
Momen & Khan Celebrate
World Open Debuts


Teenagers Tarek Momen and Aamir Atlas Khan, from host country Egypt and Pakistan, respectively, will make their maiden appearances in the premier event in men's world squash after impressive wins over Englishmen in today's (Thursday) qualifying finals of the Al-Ahram World Open Squash Championship in Cairo.

Momen, an 18-year-old from Cairo who helped Egypt to success in the Men's World Junior Team Championships in New Zealand in July, fought back from 0/2 down against Joey Barrington to beat his opponent, ranked 29 in the world, 10-11 (0-2), 10-11 (1-3), 11-5, 11-10 (3-1), 5-1 when the Englishman retired after suffering with cramp in his right groin. The match had taken 84 minutes – just four minutes less than Barrington's first round encounter 24 hours earlier, which he survived in five games.

Momen will be joined in the first round of the $152,500 PSA Tour event by another Egyptian qualifier Hisham Mohd Ashour. The 24-year-old world No34 beat Frenchman Renan Lavigne 8-11, 11-9, 11-7, 11-6 and will now line up alongside younger brother Ramy Ashour, the record two-times world junior champion, in the event's main draw.

Aamir Atlas Khan, a 16-year-old from Peshawar who pulled off a major upset over higher-ranked compatriot Mansoor Zaman in the previous round, triumphed 11-8, 11-10 (2-0), 11-10 (2-0) in 43 minutes over experienced Stacey Ross, ranked 52 in the world.

Two Englishmen also survived today's qualifying finals: Peter Barker, the world No24 from Essex and the highest-ranked player in the qualifiers, defeated Egypt's Omar Abdel Aziz 11-6, 9-11, 11-6, 11-5 in 67 minutes, while Gloucestershire's Alister Walker upset higher-ranked compatriot Jonathan Kemp, from Shropshire, 11-8, 11-7, 11-10 (2-0) in just 35 minutes to earn an unexpected place in the main draw of the World Open.



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Qualifying R1:
England & Egypt Dominate Early World Open Action


Hosts Egypt and England dominated the early action on the first day of qualifying in the Al-Ahram World Open Squash Championship in Cairo. Today's (Thursday) qualifying finals will produce the eight players who will join the main draw of the $152,500 PSA Tour event which returns to the sport's most spectacular location by the country's famous pyramids at Giza for the first time since 1999.

Egyptian Omar Abdel Aziz battled for 80 minutes to deny Englishman Simon Parke the chance of competing in his 16th World Open since 1989. Aziz, the 22-year-old world No74 from Cairo, defeated the 34-year-old former world No3 from Yorkshire 11-9, 11-9, 10-11 (0-2), 11-5 – and will now meet another Englishman Peter Barker for a place in the main draw.

Barker, the world No24 from Essex and the highest-ranked player in the qualifiers, despatched Egypt's Sherif Moustafa Kamel 11-3, 11-4, 11-6 in 35 minutes.

Indian interest in the event was wiped out by two Egyptians when Amr Ramzy Swelim beat Indian No1 Ritwik Bhattacharya 10-11 (1-3), 11-6, 11-7, 11-8 in 42 minutes and Amr Mansi resisted a fight back by Saurav Ghosal to overcome the 20-year-old from Chennai 11-7, 11-6, 5-11, 4-11, 11-6 in 51 minutes.

England's Joey Barrington endured the longest tussle on the Cairo courts when he fought from two games down to beat Colombian Miguel Angel Rodriguez 9-11, 10-11 (1-3), 11-5, 11-0, 11-4 in 88 minutes. Another Englishman Jonathan Kemp also survived a five-game battle, beating Dutchman Dylan Bennett 11-10 (4-2), 11-3, 10-11 (2-4), 10-11 (1-3), 11-8.

But perhaps the most frustrating encounter took place after the lone pair of Pakistanis in the event – Mansoor Zaman and Aamir Atlas Khan – raced from Sri Lanka where they won the South Asian Games squash title for their country, only to discover that they were drawn to face each other for a place in the qualifying finals. Zaman, the 26-year-old world No28 from Peshawar was unable to outwit his younger compatriot as Khan, just 16, claimed an unexpected 11-9, 11-9, 11-7 victory.
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Preview
Pyramids Prepare For Elite Squash Invasion

The world's leading squash players converge on Cairo this week when the sport's premier competition returns to its most celebrated setting by Egypt's famous pyramids at Giza.

The 2006 Al-Ahram Men's World Open has attracted a powerful field which features all of the top twenty men in the world - led by the host country's hero Amr Shabana, Egypt's first ever world champion who will be hoping to defend his title in front of thousands of fans surrounding the open air all-glass court at the Giza Plateaux Cairo.

The World Open returns to the site alongside Egypt's internationally-renowned pyramids for the first time since September 1999, when Britain's Peter Nicol beat local hero Ahmed Barada in a final watched by an audience of more than 5,000 and shown live on national TV!

Nicol, who has since become one of the most successful squash players of all-time, has chosen to mark his retirement at the Al-Ahram World Open – with the aim of not only winning the sport's most prestigious title for the second time, but also of marking the 50th PSA Tour title of his illustrious career.

"I can't think of a more appropriate place to play my last event, by the pyramids where I won three Al-Ahram International titles and my one World Open trophy," said the 33-year-old when he announced details of his retirement at a press conference in London last month.

Two days of qualifying will get underway in Cairo tomorrow (30 August), with first round action beginning on Friday (1 September) with play split between the all-glass court in Giza and the National Stadium in Nasr City, Cairo. All matches from the quarter-finals on Sunday (3 Sept) onwards will be staged on the all-glass court at Giza, leading to the final on Wednesday (6 Sept).

Shabana will be the top seed in the draw which will be made on the site at Giza following the completion of qualifying on Thursday. The world No1 from Cairo is expected to face Australia's second seed David Palmer, the world No2 and a former world champion, in the final.

Victory in the richest event of the year, which boasts a $152,500 prize fund, would make Shabana the first player to successfully defend a World Open title since Pakistan's legendary Jansher Khan won his record eighth crown ten years ago in 1996.

Peter Nicol is the sixth seed and will be joined in the draw by a fourth former World Open champion, Thierry Lincou. Frenchman Lincou, the 2004 champion who won the Mamut English Open title earlier this month in Sheffield, is the No3 seed.

The top 16 seeds are: [1] Amr Shabana (Egypt); [2] David Palmer (Australia); [3] Thierry Lincou (France); [4] James Willstrop (England); [5] Anthony Ricketts (Australia); [6] Peter Nicol (England); [7] Nick Matthew (England); [8] Gregory Gaultier (France); [9] Karim Darwish (Egypt); [10] Lee Beachill (England); [11] John White (Scotland); [12] Mohd Azlan Iskandar (Malaysia); [13] Ong Beng Hee (Malaysia); [14] Olli Tuominen (Finland); [15] Stewart Boswell (Australia); and [16] Adrian Grant (England).