Form Holds as Seeds Advance
Beth Rasin reports from NY
New York, NY: Feb. 21 – Form held true this afternoon and evening
in opening round play at the Bear Stearns Tournament of Champions at Grand
Central Terminal where the day started with three successive matches
featuring players who have all been ranked #1 in the world.
Top seed Thierry Lincou is still getting used to the pressure that
goes along with being #1 in the world. “It felt good to get that first
match played,” said the Frenchman who just last month attained the #1
world ranking and played a steady game in the opening match of the
championships to dispatch Australian Mike Corren in three games.
Next up was four-time champion Jonathon Power who is seeded #7
after a drop in the rankings precipitated by a broken wrist and an ankle
injury in December.
“I’m feeling good,” said Power and quickly amended that to “great” when he
realized his longtime rival Peter Nicol had just walked up behind him.
Victor Berg, the young Canadian who was eliminated by Power in three
games, assessed Power’s game. “Jonathon has three or four shots that he
can hit really well while most players have one or two, so he tires you
out that much more quickly.”
Defending champion Peter Nicol, who held the #1 spot for 24
successive months until this past December, played the third match of the
day. Nicol had also lost some playing time recently due to a recurrence of
a virus that he had in 2003, but was pleased with his play against rising
South African Rodney Durbach. “I really enjoyed being out there on court
today,” said the two-time Tournament of Champions titleholder. Nicol
jumped out to big leads in each game, but the capacity crowd was hopeful
that the match would be extended as Durbach gamely fought back to close
the gap at 10-8 and 10-9 in the first and third games, respectively.
“Peter’s physical presence on court used to overwhelm players.” said
Durbach, “I don’t think Peter has the same intensity now that he used to,
so I think the players feel that we all feel we have a bit more of a
chance against him. But he’s still a fierce competitor.”
The longest match of the day was won by Alex Gough of Wales, who
prevailed over Englishman Jonathon Kemp in five games that took ninety
minutes to complete. Eighth seeded Nick Matthew also found himself
in a five-game match against Moh’d Azlan Iskander when the young
Englishman lost a bit of focus after winning the first two games without
too much difficulty. “I think I got back on my heels a bit after the first
two games and Iskander picked up the pace,” said Matthew.
The evening crowd found themselves cheering wildly for qualifier Patrick
Chifunda of Zambia. Chifunda, who now resides in Baltimore as teaching
professional, had never before reached the main draw of a major PSA event.
“This is the most thrilling thing that’s ever happened to me,” he said.
The agile and athletic Chifunda stayed even in the first game with #5 seed
David Palmer, who may not have been expecting so many balls back at
him from his relatively unknown opponent. After winning the opening game
17-16, Palmer played with more confidence and took the victory in three
Chifunda was undaunted. “This has been great,” said the engaging young
player. “Now I know I can play with the best in the world so I just need
to keep working hard and believing in myself.”
First round results
bottom of this report
Results, Saturday, February 21:
 Thierry Lincou (FRA) bt Mike Corren (AUS) 15-14, 15-13, 15-11
 Paul Price (AUS) bt Jean-Michel Arcucci (FRA) 15-12, 15-12, 9-15, 15-12
 Graham Ryding (CAN) bt Yasser El Halaby (EGY) 15-12, 15-10, 15-12
 Jonathon Power (CAN) bt Viktor Berg (CAN) 15-8, 15-11, 15-5
 Shahier Razik (CAN) bt Laurens Jan Anjema (NED) 15-11, 15-6, 13-15,
 Martin Heath (SCO) bt winner of Karim Yehia (EGY) 15-11, 15-12,
 Peter Nicol (ENG) bt Rodney Durbach (RSA) 15-8, 15-10, 15-12
 James Willstrop (ENG) bt Dan Jenson (AUS) 15-14, 15-8, 15-12
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt Gavin Jones (WAL) 15-14, 5-15, 7-15, ret.
 Nick Matthew (ENG) bt Moh'd Azlan Iskandar (MAS) 15-7, 15- 10, 10-15,
 Alex Gough (WAL) bt Jonathon Kemp (ENG) 12-15, 12-15, 15-13,
 Ong Beng Hee (MAS) bt John Rooney (IRL) 15-2, 15-13, 15-8
 John White (SCO) bt Borja Golan (ESP) 15-13, 15-12, 15-6
 David Palmer (AUS) bt Patrick Chifunda (ZAM) 17-16, 15-8, 15-6
 Lee Beachill (ENG) bt Simon Parke (ENG) 15-6, 15-6, 15-4
 Joseph Kneipp (AUS) bt Liam Kenny (IRL) 15-14, 15-3, 15-4