Round One, Sat 21 Feb

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 games.

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
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Results, Saturday, February 21:
[1] Thierry Lincou (FRA) bt Mike Corren (AUS)  15-14, 15-13, 15-11
[12] Paul Price (AUS) bt Jean-Michel Arcucci (FRA)  15-12, 15-12, 9-15, 15-12
[11] Graham Ryding (CAN) bt Yasser El Halaby (EGY)  15-12, 15-10, 15-12
[6] Jonathon Power (CAN) bt Viktor Berg (CAN)  15-8, 15-11, 15-5
[16] Shahier Razik (CAN) bt Laurens Jan Anjema (NED)  15-11, 15-6, 13-15, 15-11
[15] Martin Heath (SCO) bt winner of Karim Yehia (EGY)  15-11, 15-12, 9-15, 15-11
[3] Peter Nicol (ENG) bt Rodney Durbach (RSA)  15-8, 15-10, 15-12
[13] James Willstrop (ENG) bt Dan Jenson (AUS)  15-14, 15-8, 15-12
[9] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt Gavin Jones (WAL)  15-14, 5-15, 7-15, ret.
[8] Nick Matthew (ENG) bt Moh'd Azlan Iskandar (MAS) 15-7, 15- 10, 10-15, 16-17, 15-9
[14] Alex Gough (WAL) bt Jonathon Kemp (ENG)  12-15, 12-15, 15-13, 15-8, 15-8
[10] Ong Beng Hee (MAS) bt John Rooney (IRL)  15-2, 15-13, 15-8
[2] John White (SCO) bt Borja Golan (ESP)  15-13, 15-12, 15-6
[5] David Palmer (AUS) bt Patrick Chifunda (ZAM)  17-16, 15-8, 15-6
[4] Lee Beachill (ENG) bt Simon Parke (ENG)  15-6, 15-6, 15-4
[7] Joseph Kneipp (AUS) bt Liam Kenny (IRL)  15-14, 15-3, 15-4