4/1 the Field
Malcolm previews a wide open draw

Peter Nicol, seeded 1, goes to Boston on the back of two disappointing performances in the Mamut English Open and the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Open. As holder he will need a big championship to hold on to his world no 1 spot.

Thierry Lincou, the Hong Kong winner is in Nicol's half, but first the world no 1 will have to stave off Anthony Ricketts and then probably in-form improver Nick Matthew. Jonathon Power, who hinted at better things to come in Hong Kong, stands in Lincou's way.

The bottom half contains Lee Beachill, John White, David Palmer and Amr Shabana. Palmer has James Willstrop for a first opponent and Shabana has Joe Kneipp, neither of which will be a pushover.

Beachill has a lot to play for, since he is a major contender for no 1 and he should make the semis.

The mix is different from Hong Kong and all the more intriguing for that.

The qualifier is frighteningly strong, even if you're not playing in it, and the four survivors will have to be taken seriously.

The quality of play, with the 11 scoring such a success in Hong Kong was supreme, and I have no doubt the players will produce similar fare in Boston.

Very strange is the timing of the first round matches, which means some players get a day's rest and some don't, when they will then meet in the second round. That doesn't seem right and an explanation would be of interest.

Missing from the draw are the two artful dodgers Karim Darwish and Gregory Gaultier, who seem happier playing lesser PSA events to preserve their ranking, rather than facing the big boys. It's hard to figure and again an explanation would be interesting.

If there was betting on the event, which sadly there is not yet - it has to come - it would be a wide open market, around 4/1 the field. Picking a winner would be quite an achievement, but I suppose on the back of Hong Kong and his excellent form there, Lincou's claims are as good as anyone's.

One thing is certain - the squash will be entertaining and exciting, and with 11 scoring we are entering a new era.

Nicol wins in 2003

First round:

[1] Peter Nicol (Eng)
Anthony Ricketts (Aus)

[8] Nick Matthew (Eng)

[3] Thierry Lincou (Fra)

[6] Jonathon Power (Can)
Omar Elborolossy (Egy)

[5] John White (Sco)

[4] David Palmer (Aus)
James Willstrop (Eng)

[7] Amr Shabana (Egy)
Joe Kneipp (Aus)

[2] Lee Beachill (Eng)


Squash @ Symphony Hall