Peter Nicol (Eng) bt  John White (Sco)
15-10, 17-15, 15-12 (67m)
NICOL CLAIMS THIRD ToC TITLE
Beth Rasin reports from New York
New York, NY: Feb. 26 -Two-time champion Peter Nicol got off to an
impressive start in the finals of the Bear Stearns Tournament of Champions
title match in Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Terminal when, in the
first game, he took the immediate lead and never relinquished it.
Nicol executed his pre-match strategy against second seed John White from
the very first point. By moving his opponent up and back in the court
Nicol was able to prevent White, the hardest-hitting player on the tour,
from unleashing his power.
White jumped ahead in the second but Nicol quickly caught him and surged
ahead to 9-6. A seesaw battle followed as White started finding his power
and had Nicol moving to the corners. But White failed to capitalize on his
advantage, putting several seeming volley winners into the tin. At 15-16
in the tiebreaker, White made yet another error after a long punishing
point to let Nicol take a 2-0 lead.
"I felt that I was playing the game I wanted to," said White. "But Peter
was returning the shots tonight that were winners in my last two matches.
I had several openings, but I just clipped the tin because of the pressure
Indeed, the expectation by many in the know was that this was Whiteís
tournament to win. Having achieved a career high #2 ranking at the end of
2003, White has been playing the most consistent squash of his career
while Nicol seemed to still be recovering from a recurring virus that
plagued him in 2003.
Although the overall match record of the finalists was 7-3 in Nicol's
favour, White had won the last two matches - in the semi-finals of both
the World Open in December 2002 and the PSA Masters in May last year. And
regardless of the outcome of this match, White would become the top-ranked
player in the world in just a few days.
But the competitive fire, tenacity and mental toughness that has taken
Nicol to the top of the world rankings for all but 16 months out of the
last four and a half years was clearly in evidence in this final. Having
staved off the White charge at the end of the second game, Nicol blew out
to a 12-5 lead in the third, and the match looked to be over.
White was not quite ready to throw in the towel and fought his way back to
12-all. The overflow crowd was on the edge of its seats and roaring with
excitement as White chipped away at the lead. But a few more untimely
errors from White and it was 15-12 for Nicol, who felt that he had
certainly earned this third Tournament of Champions title.
"This one was brutal," said Nicol. "The entire match was played at such a
fast pace that weíre both completely exhausted. Iím so tired I canít even
be happy yet."
"Iím disappointed to lose 3-0," said White." But getting to my first
Tournament of Champions title and leaving here as the world #1 is not too
After having had a few minutes to collect his breath and reflect briefly
on his championship win, Nicol said, "It feels a bit strange right now
because Iíve spent my whole life solely dedicated to winning squash
matches." The 30-year-old went on. "But I am not doing that anymore. I am
getting out and doing more but I feel like I am playing better squash and
Iím still winning." Asked whether he was disappointed that White had
overtaken him for the #1 ranking, the gracious champion replied, "Not at
all. I think of all the players John has really earned the ranking because
he has won several titles in the past year."
Then, with a sly grin, Nicol finished, "But hopefully he wonít be there
The victory gave Nicol his 47th PSA tour trophy in 65
in New York
more in the Gallery
A packed gallery for the final
Nicol prevails in three
Nicol with the trophy, and with Sam Molinaro of Bear Sterns
in New York
more in the Gallery