Round TWO, Sun 22 Feb

Lincou survives ... just,
Willstrop downs Palmer
Beth Rasin reports from New York

New York, NY: Feb. 22 – Top-seeded Thierry Lincou was a point away from elimination in the first match of the day at the Bear Stearns Tournament of Champions and nine hours later David Palmer became the first of the seeded players to make a premature exit from the championships at the hands of 20-year-old James Willstrop.

In between there was plenty of captivating squash that delighted the gallery spectators as well as the passersby who stopped to watch the matches on the big screen above the front wall of the glass court at Grand Central Terminal.

“My head was gone,” said Lincou about the first two games of his match against twelfth seeded Paul Price when the Frenchman found himself playing catch up as a result of being pinned to the back of the court by the deep hitting Australian. Down match ball at 14-12 in the third game, Lincou dug deep. “I said to myself you’ve done so much work to get here – just push and run to the maximum.”

The crowd roared as he did just that, battling to capture the third game at 15-14. Upon winning game point, Lincou breathed a sigh of relief and set about winning the match without too much more of a struggle.

Lincou will now face the player he eliminated in last year’s semifinals, four-time titleholder Jonathon Power. The Canadian faced his countryman Graham Ryding whom he alway finds it difficult to play.

“I hate playing Graham-he’s such a good friend and I have been playing him since I was 10,” said Power. It was Ryding for whom the match proved to be difficult as he lost in three to the player he describes as “being the best at competitive positioning, a great shotmaker, accurate and physical – and as a result, so difficult to play because the ball is always coming back.”

Defending champion Peter Nicol was a model of efficiency as he dispatched Canada’s Shahier Razik in 45 minutes. The thirty-year old who has been a dominant force in squash for the past decade will face one of the game’s up and coming young players, 23-year-old Nick Matthew.

The #8 seed was up 2-0 against Martin Heath when he found his head in the self-described “clouds” and dropped the third game before closing the match out in four. “I can’t afford to be slack against Peter and I’ll need to take my game up a couple of levels,” said Matthew. “But I have nothing to lose, so I’ll probably play my best squash.”

Gregory Gaultier made some remarkable retrievals and stunning shots, including a reverse corner nick at 14 all in the second game to even his match against #2 seed John White. The Frenchman who brings an often-described Gallic flair to the game kept pace with the hard-hitting White for half of the third game as both players covered a lot of court to keep the ball in play.

“I knew that if I was doing that much work,” said White, “he was doing the same and it would come down to who could last the longest.” In the end it was the more-experienced Scotsman who prevailed as Gaultier became discouraged by a few referee’s calls and lost his desire and the match.

White will be challenged by the game’s hottest player, 20-year-old James Willstrop, who played a remarkably mature match and upended fifth seed David Palmer. Willstrop, whose ranking has jumped from #23 in the world to #12 in just the last two months, got off to a tough start as he lost the first two games. “I just decided that if I was going to lose, I was at least going to go home knackered,” said Willstrop.
The young Englishman took some pace off the ball to defuse Palmer’s pace and started placing some feather drop shots just out of his opponent’s reach.

After winning the third by a fairly wide margin, Willstrop found himself in a true test of fortitude in the fourth. From 10-all, the game seesawed back and forth as each player strategically used length, pace and touch to full advantage, much to the delight of the totally immersed crowd. Willstrop prevailed, 15-13. “When I won that tough fourth game I knew I had the match,” he said.

And indeed he did, winning the fifth 15-7. It was the first time that Palmer had ever lost a PSA match after holding a 2-0 lead, and it was the first time that Willstrop secured a PSA match victory after being down 0-2.

As John White walked by Willstrop immediately after the well-fought victory, the Australian said with a smile, “And the scalps just keep on going.” As Willstrop’s next opponent, White is hoping to end the streak.

Second round results
bottom of this report

SquashPics in New York
more in the Gallery

Price can't finish off Lincou

Power wins all-Canadian clash

Matthew v Heath

Another scalp for Willstrop

White outlasts Gaultier

Beachill eases past Beng Hee

Kneipp too strong for Gough

SquashPics in New York
more in the Gallery


Results, Sunday February 22:

[1] Thierry Lincou (FRA) bt [12] Paul Price (AUS) 14-17, 6-15, 15-14, 15-8, 15-4 (83m)
[6] Jonathon Power (CAN) bt. [11] Graham Ryding (CAN) 15-3,15-11,15-10 (56m)
[3] Peter Nicol (ENG) bt. [16] Shahier Razik (CAN) 15-7, 15-8, 15-9 (47m)
[8] Nick Matthew (ENG) bt [15] Martin Heath (SCO) 15-10, 15-10, 13-15, 15-10 (56m)
[2] John White (SCO) bt [9] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 15-7, 14-15, 15-10, 15-4 (74m)
[13] James Willstrop (ENG) bt. [5] David Palmer (AUS) 13-15, 10-15, 15-6, 15-13, 15-7 (85m)
[4] Lee Beachill (ENG) bt. [10] Ong Beng Hee (MAS) 15-9, 15-14, 15-3 (57m)
[7] Joseph Kneipp (AUS) bt. [14] Alex Gough (WAL) 15-9, 15-12, 15- 12  (61m)