An early look at
the British Closed

by Malcolm Willstrop

First thoughts were that John White had fallen on his feet when the draw was made at Sports City before the Manchester/Pontefract v Nottingham National League match. Second thoughts only confirmed the first, since whichever half Lee Beachill landed in was obviously a crucial factor. As if they don't meet enough he fell in Peter Nicol's half.

White's main opposition to the final would appear to be Nick Matthew, Adrian Grant and Alex Gough with perhaps Marcus Berrett to add.

Apart from the fact that it includes Nicol and Beachill, the bottom half looks nastier with James Willstrop, Mark Chaloner, Nick Taylor, David Evans and Simon Parke. Some of these may be past their best, but they are still capable of one-off results.

The top seed's recent form has been below par and three various losses in a row to Beachill are not designed to keep confidence. Opinion being that he is at his best in PSA events was hardly confirmed when Beachill beat him in Kuwait.

More form lines came from Kuwait when Nicol produced, according to him, his best form for a long time in beating Beachill comprehensively. Matthew, up to eleven in the world, surprisingly went down 3-0 to Dan Jenson in the qualifiers.

Certainly world form is in such a state of upheaval, anything can happen. One thing is for sure, whoever wins the British Championship will have to produce at least one and probably two world-class performances.

So who of the top three is most likely and can anybody outside the top three, who, after all, are two, three and four in the world, disturb them?

Nicol's form in Kuwait suggests he may be the man. Things didn't run his way in Qatar, Lahore and Vienna, but he seems to take delight in picking himself up off the floor.

After a 2003 in which he appeared to acquire greater consistency, White seems to have lost that thread and how much he wants to win this particular title is open to doubt.

Beachill, twice a winner and runner-up last time, would certainly like to register a third win, but the draw is not what he would choose.

The quarter-final between him and clubmate Willstrop would certainly not be either's preference, though it will create interest and may please the crowd.

There is no doubt the British Closed with its world-class players is a fascinating event and 2004's version promises much.


Full Details

Willstrop beats White in Kuwait ...

... where Nicol beats Beachill

British Junior Open
the potted version

Since I have written a comprehensive report for the Magazine, I didn't know how to approach a piece for the website or whether it was appropriate in the circimstances. Nor am I contracted to anyway, however, as Steve Cubbins has made clear it was nothing to do with the absence of English players.

It does appear to be a no win situation: I am obviously going to be criticised when I write, fair enough, but I am also, it seems, criticised when I don't: no report on the British Junior Open, no report on the World Women's game. It's a hard life, especially when I do it for fun! I have players to look after.

Anyway here goes the British Junior Open potted version.

The opening of the Prospec court by Jonah Barrington on the site of the historic Court 7 meant that six of the eight finals were played on an all-glass court for the first time. Appropriately the new court was named The Thomson Court in recognition of the contribution of the family, the late Geoff, Pat and currently Ian, the club chairman, have made and are making to Abbeydale Park SRC.

The composition of the finalists was 10 Egyptians, 3 Pakistanis, 2 Indians and 1 from Hong Kong - not a European or Australian in sight - disturbing reading for some.

The feature of the Championship was the appearance of the Queen of the British Junior Open, Omneya Abdel Kawy, who won the Under 19 title for an unprecedented fourth time in a row. The promising Indian Joshna Chinappa was her final opponent and was not disgraced. She is improving, has presence and will be back next time. El Kawy has recently shown how difficult Chinappa's task was by winning a quality WISPA event, the Vassar Class of '32.

The Under 19 Boys final was between the 5/8 seeds, Saurav Ghosal (India), who showed up well at the last World Junior Championship in Chennai, and Adel El Said (Egypt), contrasts in every way. One very tall, one diminutive, one relatively slow-moving, the other twitching and quick. In the event the Indian was far too good, though it was not a great match in any sense.

The best match was perversely the first one: the Under 15 Boys final between Amir Atlas Khan (Pakistan) and Mohamed Reda (Egypt).

The match was very high quality and Atlas prevailed 10/8 in the fourth. I was impressed with Atlas in 2003, no less so in 2004.

I suspect Farhan Mehboob (Pakistan) was considered a good thing in the Boys Under 17, but Omar Mosaed Abou Zeid was more than competent and he came through 9-7 in the fifth in what was the second best final for quality.

The Under 17 Girls final, all-Egyptian, didn't amount to much: Raneem El Weilily proved far too good for a seemingly disinterested Sara Badr.

The intruder was in the Girld Under 15 final: Au Annie (Hong Kong) proved too controlled and resolute for a stressed-looking Shahenda Osama and won convincingly - a win that should give her country a lift.

The Under 13 finals were played on court 6. Waqer Mehboob, younger brother of Farhan, made up for his brother's disappointment beating Adel Zarka (Egypt) easily and in an all-Egyptian girls final Heba Alaa Ahmed resisted a strong challenge in the first game by Merhan Mahmoud to win, going away in the third 9/1.

I have to admit I do not deliberately read 'Points of View' - I don't like the anonimity, but a mischievous club member, Stan Cross, thrusts items at me, especially if they are damning!

So thanks to Ben for the vote of confidence - I hope you meant it!



Worthy U19 winners

BJO Gallery from SquashPics

New Era For
Court 7 At Abbeydale
Malcolm Willstrop reports on the opening
of the all-glass court in Sheffield

The opening of the all-glass Prospec court on the site of the historic championship court by Jonah Barrington, took place on Friday 2nd January, the first day of the 2004 British Junior Open.

The court was full to capacity to hear testimony to those dedicated members and players through the years at the club, many of whom were present on the night. British Open Champion of yesteryear Fran Marshall, Mike Grundy and Dennis Thorpe filled that category and other famous names, apart from Jonah, included Peter Nicol, Rehmat Khan, Chris Robertson and Sue Wright.

John Pearson, of pioneers Ellis Pearson, now of Prospec, related how glass courts came into existence through the company, and Peter Nicol and Tim Garner of Eventis told how the Prospec court found its way to The Crucible for the inaugural English Open last August.

Ahmed Safwat, former professional at Abbeydale, who sadly died in 2003, was recalled with affection. A most popular man and a beautifully relaxed player of the highest class, he will be missed by everyone in the squash world.

Jonah was invited to recount his titanic British Open win over Geoff Hunt in the 1972 final, not having scored a point for the first half hour; his win in 1980 in the British Closed final over Gawain Briars at the age of 40, and finally Jahangir Khan's 27-0 demolition of Maqsood Ahmed in the ISPA final.

He paid tribute to the Abbeydale Club for its vision and particularly to the Thomson family, the late Geoffrey, his wife Pat and the club's current chairman, Ian, whose dedication to Abbeydale and squash has been instrumental in bringing the Prospec court to Court 7.

Appropriately the court has been named after the Thomson family.

Nick Matthew, at at all-time high of 11 in the world, and world junior champion James Willstrop, at an all-time high of 18, provided a singles exhibition and were joined by Abbeydale professional Mark Hornby and former England international Ian Robinson for a doubles challenge.

Graham Dixon organised the evening, which is another significant chapter in the history of the Abbeydale Club.


The new court is opened

Malcolm with Fran Marshall

The old Showcourt



Looking Back 2003

Malcolm reflects on a turbulent
year at the top of the men's game ...

2003 hardly provided a smooth passage for the world's leading players and few of them emerged unscathed.

David Palmer had an appendix operation which became complicated. A hip injury, which handicapped him in Qatar and Lahore, certainly didn't help his cause and he will look back on a troubled year.

Jonathon Power was hard done by in the final of the inaugural English Open, though that is not to say he would have won, and an injury sustained in Qatar prevented his appearance in the World Championships. He had two massive clashes with Peter Nicol, at the British Open in Nottingham and the World Teams in Vienna, looked to have them sewn up and lost them both.

Nicol wasn't especially well in Vienna and the draws gave him no respite there. Nor was he well in Lahore and his demise there means that he has lost his treasured number one ranking. If he wants it back, I have no doubt it is still within his reach.

The ill-fated Lee Beachill had an ankle operation in the Spring, but after a traumatic experience in the World Teams semi-final, came good in the Qatar Classic, beating Nicol and John White, for his most significant win ever. A minor groin injury did him no favours in Lahore.

Of the top players White, Anthony Ricketts and Thierry Lincou appeared to remain sound, but that didn't exclude them from the vagaries of the sport.

White, with the Qatar Masters and English Open in the bag, looked well set to go to no 1 for the first time in Lahore, but an inexplicable loss to Joe Kneipp in the last 16 put paid to that, which must have left him very disappointed.

Ricketts has burst on the scene in the last eighteen months, but he has also had some ups and downs as well as a couple of high profile contentious matches; Gregory Gaultier in the World Teams and Amr Shabana in the World Open. He may feel he has missed one or two opportunities, but he is young enough.

And so to Lincou, who must hardly be able to believe he is ranked no 1, so suddenly has it happened. He is quite awkward to play with his square-on style, but he will definitely face some serious challenges now.

If Lincou has had a problem believing his luck, Shabana, the talented Egyptian, must think he is in wonderland. I doubt if even he saw himself as World Champion, even though he had been talking about taking himself more seriously.

Two players, then, for whom Christmas came early, as it did for Nick Matthew. A semi-final in Qatar, aided by opponents' injuries, though he was one-all and 10-5 when Powr got injured, followed by a quarter0final in the World Championships means he finds himself in the Super Series Finals, along with another surprise, Joe Kneipp. With no Palmer or Power, the eligible eight has an odd look to it.

Karim Darwish made the world semi-final after two five-set wins over Olli Tuominen and James Willstrop and then lost a tight 3-1 to Shabana. He is young and may yet fulfil the expectations Egypt have of him, though Shabana's success may reduce the pressure.

Gaultier and Willstrop are the youngest challengers and the Frenchman has already an established high world ranking, whilst the World Junior Champion is moving up rapidly. They look to be serious threats, though Gaultier may have to sort out temperament problems first.

The January ranking list clearly reflects 2003 and makes for a 2004 full of interest.

Rank Prev Player Pts Ctry
1 [5] Thierry Lincou   808 Fra
2 [2] John White  745 Sco
3 [1] Peter Nicol   729 Eng
4 [9] Lee Beachill  567 Eng
5 [11] Amr Shabana   481 Egy
6 [3] David Palmer   470 Aus
7 [4] Jonathon Power   448 Can
8 [6] Anthony Ricketts   430 Aus
9 [7] Karim Darwish  415 Egy
10 [14] Joseph Kneipp   312 Aus

Palmer & Power (#6&7)

Darwish & Lincou (#9&1)

Shabana & Ricketts (#5&8)

White & Beachill (#2&4)

Nicol & Kneipp (#3&10)

Willstrop's Words - 2003 Archive

Aiming for Number One  |  Qatar Classic Observations
On the Inside |
Sort yourself out Greg  |   French Farce |
Bad timing from The Times Willstrop's Andy Gill | Prince John in Sheffield

Aiming for Number One
One of the most interesting areas for speculators in sport is when a player puts him or herself into contention for the world number one spot.

Once in contention an inability to reach the very top is seen as failure. Tim Henman is a prime example.

Despite playing top-class, watchable tennis, despite a wonderfully consistent Wimbledon record, and despite setting a fine example of how to behave, he is often more criticised than praised, which seems unjust. I hope and suspect he can live with the injustice.

Squash is currently in a fascinating phase: the redoubtable Peter Nicol remains at number one, where he has been for a long time, challenged hotly by the popular John White, who would have gone to number one had he won the Qatar Classic.

David Palmer has had illness and injury problems of late which have held him up; Thierry Lincou is knocking on the door, but is not quite there yet; Jonathon Power can still do it, but is more vulnerable; Anthony Ricketts has made notable progress, besides seeming to have the indian sign over White; Lee Beachill has tagged on to the pack after winning in Qatar and now needs to consolidate.

No other player outside this 'Magnificent Seven' is going to be number one immediately.

Age is a factor: Ricketts is the youngest, then Beachill, Lincou, Palmer, Power, White and Nicol, since with advancing years comes gathering senility finding desire desire to keep doing it, a troublesome combination.

Remember that very few players become established at number one - to see the truth of this look back over the record books to Hashim Khan - and there are some outstanding players who never quite made it: Chris Dittmar and Qamar Zaman are two who come to mind.

So, what are the requirements?

Talent, which inspires work ethic - all great champions in all sports emphasise hard work - and then to remain injury free - Stewart Boswell is a present example of an ill-fated player, it seems - and to be focused and ambitious, almost to the point of obsession.

I would emphasise though, the desirability of staying as normal as possible; a social life and other interests, not too difficult in squash, where even the best in the world are club-based.

If the player wants it badly, then not making number one may seem a disaster.

But being amongst the world's best is hardly a failure and ought not to be seen as such.

Malcolm Willstrop

Observations on
the Qatar Classic ...

The defeat of Anthony Ricketts by Mohammed Abbas was one of many shock results in the Qatar Classic. I doubt if many thought that the elegant and skilful Egyptian could curtail the athletic and powerful Aussie.

Nick Matthew must have thought Christmas had come early, as his opponents dropped like flies. However he was one-all and 10-5 up against Jonathon Power, and David Palmer was fit enough to put out Joe Kneipp 3/0, so Matthew deserves credit for taking his opportunities.

Another surprise, to me at least, was Mark Chaloner's win over Gregory Gaultier. I didn't quite understand why he took the selectors to task for not picking him for the World Team Championship - the two players for whom he might have seen himself as a replacement both won all their matches and he could hardly have been selected ahead of Peter Nicol or Lee Beachill. However you look at it, he could not have played Gaultier in the match against France and his form prior to selection had been moderate by his standards. Good to see him back to form.

Adrian Grant was another young English player to take advantage of his opportunities. A win over Ong Beng Hee, then over Mark Chaloner gave him a quarter-final slot before Thierry Lincou proved too strong for him.

With Jonathon Power having already withdrawn from the World Open and some doubts about David Palmer's fitness after his problems in Doha, there is a wide open look about the championship in Pakistan. It would be just like Peter Nicol to come back with a bang, but there will be many players fancying their chances.

Lee Beachill has hardly been the luckiest of players, but when Ricketts lost to Abbas he must have felt Lady Luck was at last in his corner. To his credit he won the title by beating the world number one and two, and those close to him will hope that this is the beginning of the fulfilment of an obvious talent.

Having Peter Nicol in his corner in the final can hardly have done him any harm!

John White constantly performs on the big PSA occasions: winner of the Qatar Masters, the inaugural English Open, runner-up in last year's World Open and now in the Qatar Classic. No mean record for the popular Aussie/Scot.

Stewart Boswell's future seems in serious doubt. Although the problem has been diagnosed, the cure is harder to find, it seems. It is very hard on him - he was a major player and a leading contender for the top spot.

England Squash's World Performance Team have had more than their fair share of criticism, so the recent successes of Jenny Duncalf, Nick Matthew, Adrian Grant and James Willstrop, as well as Alison Waters and Peter Barker, should quell the critics.

Interestingly all six are coached by World Performance Coaches on a personal basis.

On The Inside
As an insider perhaps I can add to the Willstrop-Darwish debate. One of the many anonymous website writers has James's size as a major disadvantage and cites his lack of patience and dedication as main problems, while 'Alasdair' emphasises 'his relative lack of mobility'.

James and I realised a long time ago that his size and slowness were going to be serious issues and since we have failed to overcome them and haven't, sadly, heard of the Aussie style of movement, whatever that is, we decided that the end of 2004 was his deadline to make the grade. After all, he is 20 now and we can't wait forever.

I suppose we had been falsely encouraged by him winning the World and European U19 titles, 12 British titles, 3 PSA titles (only modest events) and the Variety Club of Great Britain's Young Sportsman of the Year 2002, to go on as long as 2004.

However we have almost come to terms that he will never make it and he has been considering alternative careers for a while.

Readers may not know that he is quite musical and he is currently in talks with a recording agency of some standing. He is also on the books of a New York modelling agency. They are not interested in his looks, of course, but have told him that if very tall men are required he could be in work. Obviously being tall is not all negative!

University is, of course, an alternative as he has suitable qualifications, but he is not sure he can afford Blair's £3,000 a year.

Apart from acknowledging his glaring weaknesses, it may be that making him play squash from a very early age, I have burnt him out and that is maybe why he set 2004 as a deadline.

To those contributors who saw some magic in his racket, some merit in his willingness to play the ball and in his calm disposition and that he does win from time to time, we would both like to say thank you for your confidence and support.

There is, I suppose, a chance he may change his mind about retirement, but as 'anon' so boldly says, 'he lacks dedication' and refuses to report for training before 8.30am on each day - and it is well known that he likes to drink and has a girlfriend, so I don't think there's much hope.

 Whatever the future holds we have always believed that it is best to achieve at the time. So James will at least look back and tell his grandchildren that although he didn't make the grade - whatever that implies - he was the best under 19 player in the world in 2003 by a country mile!

For the record I think Peter Nicol is the best mover in the modern game, and Jansher was perhaps the best ever and neither of them are Aussies.

My hope for the New Year is that people will put their real names to their opinions - there is surely no shame in that unless they have something to hide.

Also for the record, I see Anthony Ricketts as a more immediate challenger for the no. 1 spot and of the younger players being debated only three currently have a realistic chance of making it to no. 1 eventually, and they will remain anonymous!

Malcolm Willstrop

There has been a lively debate on 'points of view' about the relative merits of the crop of up and coming youngsters ... here is an inside view ...


The tall and the short of it ...



Thinks:  "I wish I'd had
Peter as a son instead ..."

Pontefract to host
inaugural Super 8's

Gerrard, the London-based management company who have sponsored a race at the world famous National Hunt Festival at Cheltenham for several years, move into squash sponsorship for the first time when they sponsor the Super 8's championship, starting at Pontefract this weekend.

Eight top under 23s, including world junior champion James Willstrop, England senior International Nick Matthew, Adrian Grant and Peter Barker make up the top event, and there are Super 8's for under-19, 17, 15 and 13 age groups. The Under 23s begin on Thursday, the younger events on Friday, with the finals on Sunday afternoon.

Local boy Willstrop is currently playing the Valid Dutch Open in Maastricht, but he comes into the event on the back of a quarter-final in the British Open and six wins out of six for England in the World Team Championships in Vienna.

Matthew was also a member of the England team, and both he and Grant reached finals of strong PSA events recently. Barker, the fourth of the leading players, arrives in Pontefract having just won a PSA title in Florida.

The Under 19, 17, 15 and 13 events include virtually all the country's leading players, and Pontefract's Kirsty McPhee, Shaun Le Roux, Neil Cordell, Adam Taylor, Sam Wileman, Deon Saffery and Andrew Cross are all likely to make an impression.

The Super 8 Championships are the brainchild of Steve Evans, the former Great Britain Rugby League International who works for Gerrard as Sponsorship Director, andc Paul Walters, the Marketing Director for Dunlop.

Squash Legend Sarah Fitz-Gerald will be in attendance throughout the Championships and she will present her unique view of the game to the spectators.


Full details
from the Super8s

More on Gaultier

It needs to be said that anyone who was not present to see the behaviour of Gregory Gaultier in the semi-final and final of the World Team Championships, a showpiece event for squash, is in no position to judge.

I have been involved in the game for most of my life, which must prove that I love it, and Gaultier's behaviour in his matches with Lee Beachill and Anthony Ricketts was probably the worst I have ever seen. I can only remember, and my recall is still good, one comparable situation, and that was twenty-five years ago!

Why I feel so strongly about it is not because England lost, but because there is no place in the game for such vulgar conduct.

Gaultier's repeated mouthing of the f-word at the referee in the semi-final were as obvious as they were disgusting. His mimicking of Beachill's shots (he also did it against Ricketts) is beyond contempt and illustrates his arrogance.

In face some time ago, when I heard he was offending senior players with his lack of respect, I discussed the problem with him in an effort to help him. He clearly didn't think my advice was worth much, though I may be proven right in the long term.

In an age when there is much wrong in sport, I believe that it is worth standing up for respect for opponents and referees, honesty and fair play - old-fashioned and naive as it may appear to some.

It would be easy for the French, whose players apart from Gaultier behave properly, to forget what he was like in the euphoria of the victory. They should not, and would be well advised to take action against him to make sure he does not transgress again.

One Frenchman in Vienna described Gaultier to me as having the physique of a 23-year-old and the mentality of a 13-year-old. Yes, a Frenchman. And it's true. Perhaps therein lies the problem.

I would say that while there will always be a minority who derive some pleasure out of such performances, all those players, coaches and referees who spoke to me were as disgusted as I was, and they included some distinguished figures.

It is worth recalling that, at Manchester's Commonwealth Games, bad behaviour of a minor nature compared to Gaultier's left Olympic observers unimpressed, which they made plain.

For those who accuse me or the English camp of 'sour grapes, forget it. The game itself is bigger than any national bias, and I am concerned for it.

Malcolm Willstrop

Malcolm responds to some of the comments on his comments ...

I too am convinced about the need for players to be mentally tough, but that quality should not be confused with conduct of an unacceptable nature.

Gaultier's performances against Beachill and Ricketts were extraordinarily uneven and I would not associate such extremes with mental toughness, which surely implies consistency of effort.

Dan Kneipp says that Beachill did nothing about Gaultier's blocking, but I am not sure what he was meant to do. He appealed for lets appropriately and was often denied them. Surely it was up to the referee.

It is not Beachill's way to be demonstrative and it it more to his credit that he remained dignified under such provocation.

Nor do I disapprove of Ricketts' response. He remained cool for a long time, but eventually decided enough was enough. Once he took action there was only going to be one winner, and the ensuing game was 9/0 - not a great advertisement for Gaultier's mental toughness, or physical, for that matter.

Anyway, well done Ricketts, and congratulations to the Aussies on their success.

Ian McKenzie can hardly be accused of bias towards the English - he is  New Zealander, and although he lives in this country I have never heard him express any love for the English squash player. I shouldn't think for a moment that he cared whether France or England won the match - beforehand, anyway. As a journalist, he would probably have preferred a French win.

I don't agree with Martin Bronstein when he says that leaving James Willstrop out of the semi-final was a mistake by the England management. There is no way England would have gone into the match without Peter Nicol, despite the Power encounter, so Willstrop would have played at three. Since Nick Matthew, who replaced him, played exceptionally well and won 3-0, the result would have been the same.

I was not party to the decisions made, but I agreed with them totally. Willstrop needed a break after five matches in five days and a hard encounter with Canada's Shahier Razik. Matthew was a more than able deputy and had England made the final and selected Willstrop it would certainly have helped to have him fresh.

Sort yourself out, Greg ...

Although it was hard to imagine that Gregory Gaultier could come up with a more distasteful performance than he gave against England's Lee Beachill in the World Team semi-finals, he managed to disgrace himself and his country even more in the final against Australia.

Anthony Ricketts, suspecting he might be provoked by the unpopular Frenchman, clearly set out to remain calm. And so he did, until Gaultier's continual gestures and mimicking, as well as his vulgar haranguing of the referee, finally got the better of him.

The unsightly scenes at the end of the fourth game did little for the game of squash, but let it be made clear that Gaultier was entirely to blame.

Happily Ricketts won the fifth game 9-0 and Australia won the title, since it would have been a travesty for France to win.

What is hard to understand is why the French management and team didn't bring Gaultier into line. If they have tried and failed, then they should rid themselves of him until he learns to behave. If they don't do something soon, they will all be tarnished.

You have to wonder, too, at Gaultier's intelligence, or lack of it. Does he not realise that on the PSA tour he will soon be alienated and that not many of his opponents will remain as dignified as Lee Beachill did?

The referees didn't help much. Some penalty strokes for abusive conduct might have made some impression, even on Gaultier, but there wasn't even one in the two matches.

Sort yourself out, Gaultier, or find another sport. Squash doesn't need you on the evidence of Vienna.

  Full details from Vienna

Malcolm Willstrop on
THAT World Team semi-final ...

Tuesday's draw, which gave England a quarter-final against Canada, a match of final proportions, meant that the rest or the task was going to be problematic.

France had progressed to the semi-final with less damage and a 2-1 win over Scotland, who have no chance at this level at three.

I doubt if either camp envisaged a Nick Matthew v Jean-Michael Arcucci encounter: the English saw it Matthew v Renan Lavigne, the French probably James Willstrop v Arcucci.

In the event Matthew was far too good: striking purposefully, he only went from strength to strength and crushed the Frenchman impressively 3/0.

Peter Nicol, who followed and Lee Beachill, who played last, both hard extreme but opposite problems: it seemed unlikely that Nicol could recover in time from his epic with Power, which took him deep into his reserves.

Although he gave Thierry Lincou a hard time of it, the tank actually ran dry and the Frenchman, who played some excellent squash, certainly contributed to that. It was a fine match, played in sporting manner, well received by an appreciative packed house.

Gregory Gaultier, who definitively, does not follow the sporting example of his captain and surprisingly urged on by the rest of his camp, gave a vulgar and arrogant display.

Beachill, who had not had a match of any consequence throughout the championship, understandably began slowly, but although Gaultier won the first, Beachill had began to play.

He quickly took the second, but a renewed effort by Gaultier, who played in fits and starts, gave him a 2/1 lead. Beachill quickly levelled at two all and with the ball cooling down romped to 7-1 in the fifth.

A burst ball with renewed bounce gave Gaultier hope and gradually and with much posturing, and mouthed abuse towards the weak referee, who admonished him not at all, and square-on blocking in the front right, he levelled at 7-all. Beachill saved match ball and served for the match at match at 9-8.

He didn¹t make it and it was the Frenchman who got home 10-9.

Throughout a distasteful display by Gaultier, which included mimicking one of his opponent¹s winning shots, how low can you sink?

Beachill remained sporting and dignified, so England may have lost a match, but gained some approval. Certainly several people, none of who were English, whom I respect, have said as much.


World Team Quarters ...
The draw did no favours to either Canada or England when it brought them together in the quarter-finals.

Nor did the intransigent organisers act sensibly when, despite protestations from England's management and incredulity from Jonathon Power, they insisted on playing the match on an outside court with limited viewing. The court was full at half past three for a start time of five o'clock. Spectators were right up to the glass back wall, reminiscent, for some, of the days when crowds were allowed to overspill at football and cricket matches.

There was little room for coaches and players and with matches in full flow in either side - one between Austria and USA, where noise was violent for obvious reasons, the scenarios was nightmarish.

To their credit Peter Nicol and Jonathon Power got on with it and it was Nicol who promptly asserted, with quality drops and finely paced lobs, to a 2/0 lead.

But then the lack of work since bronchitis at The British Open became apparent, the Canadian maestro applied subtle touches - 2/0 became 2/2 and in the fifth 5-1 to Power. But Nicol is never done with and showing fortitude that once would have served him well at Bannockburn and now at Agincourt, he levelled at 5 all, eked errors out of Power's increasing self-doubt and got to 8-5. The Canadian fell at this point, cramped violently, it seemed, and produced a performance of Oscar-winning dimensions. Referee Jack Allen found his way through the crowd onto the court like the Sheriff of Nottingham and instructed Power to play on, as the fall was self-inflicted. The Canadian rose to his feet, tottered almost comically around.

Nicol served for the match and that was that. So it was on James Willstrop's young, but square shoulder to close out England's semi-final place against Shahier Razik. The World Junior champion took immediate control and selecting shots appropriately from Razik's paceless game, he won the first 9-3 comfortably. Razik began to use delicately floated angles and feathered drops to effect and aided by errors in the middle part of the game he levelled at 1-1. Willstrop maintained composure and in the third he squeezed the errors and led 2/1. At the beginning of the fourth, Razik's knee with into Willstrop's calf and as the rules allow he was allowed time to recover.

After treatment for a dead leg Willstrop recovered in half an hour and quickly got back on course to lead 6-3. Two conduct strokes against Razik, both for racket abuse, settled the match and England were set for a semi-final with France.

Bad timing from The Times

It is hard to understand what was behind Matthew Syed's and The Times' disgracefully inaccurate and ill-timed article on the game of squash last Friday.

Whether Syed was trying to carve out a career in journalism by being sensational or whether The Times needed to bolster readership with mindless controversy would be interesting to know.

In the event Syed, a professional table tennis player who has a world ranking of over 100 and who plays a tediously defensive game, thought fit to criticise the sport of such wonderful champions as Peter Nicol and Sarah Fitz-Gerald, to say little of the great names of the past  - Jahangir Khan, Jonah Barrington and Geoff Hunt, all of who are still actively involved in the game.

The idea that the game is 'heading for oblivion' is clearly so ridiculous and proves that Syed is no advertisement for a Cambridge education. Nor is his dishonest, non-existent research.

He was in the Albert Hall for ten minutes, spoke to nobody despite the fact that players, coaches and administrators were all accessible. Clearly he did not want to know the truth.

As someone who has spent a lifetime in the game - I have coached rugby and cricket extensively when I was a schoolteacher - a sport which demands athleticism of the highest order, racket skills and a strong mind is never heading for oblivion.

That it is watchable and entertaining was amply shown at the Albert Hall, Nottingham, where Friday evening was almost full and Saturday and Sunday were sold out.

My advice to Syed would be to find another career, where his dishonesty will bring him greater rewards, and my advice to The Times is to serve sport better by reporting squash's many successes rather than support distortion and inaccuracy.

An apology from Syed and The Times would not go amiss.


 Full details of
THAT article in
The Times


Willstrop's Andy Gill

The Andy Gill Memorial is one of the longest-running tournaments in the country, and this was its twentieth running. At no time has it lost its standing, and indeed in recent times a C event has been added to the existing A and B events.

This year's champion was James Willstrop, beating Nick Taylor in the final. Full report

Prince John in Sheffield
English Open Final

Opinion was no doubt divided as to which of Jonathon Power and John White would become the first ever Prince English Open Champion, and appropriately it was White, Prince sponsored, who was that winner, 3/1. But it was by no means clear cut.

Although Power lead 7/5 in the first, a run of fine rallies took White to 9/5 and from there he was never headed as he steadily drew clear to win 15/11.

Power doesn't particularly like the pressure that White's hitting imposes on him, but in the second he took an early lead and from 9/5 he eased comfortably to 15/7 to level things up.

The third game was to prove crucial. The Canadian maestro led  early, and went to 11/6 effortlessly, although there were an increasing number of lets. White recovered to 12/11 and a conduct stroke, not really required in the context of a game which had been sporting enough, put him on level terms at 12/12.

Worse was to follow for Power: at 13/13 he hit a scorching backhand winner which, in his pleas to the referee he said he buried - and indeed he did. But White was given an unwarranted let and Power's game ball had gone. Maybe the whole match turned on that that misguided decision.

Anyway, White took a 2/1 lead and from early in the fourth asserted to 13/8. After fierce rallies which took Power to 9/13 and then 11/13 he was denied yet another stroke.

Even then we were not done with. At match ball 14/11 Power was refused another justifiable let and everyone was left in limbo as the referee eventually pronounced in White's favour.

It is not satisfactory to have to write about referees and decisions when the squash and the players are top class, but there is no denying that the referee played a crucial part in the outcome of the match.

No doubt, either, that the ref got plenty wrong. Tony parker was in the the crowd, and as the best referee on duty he should have been in charge.

White deserved his win - he looked good throughout the event. His improved contract should be on the table tomorrow morning!



Willstrop's Words
from Sheffield

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Willstrop's Words
from Sheffield

Kawy's a Star

The star of this year's British Junior Open was undoubtably Omneya Abdel Kawy, recording her third British U19 win in a row and her sixth in total.

Kasey Brown, her final opponent, played nervously and didn't do herself justice, but Abdel Kawy was in fine form and Brown will have another day.

After a titanic match Safeerullah Khan took the Boys U19 title beating the gifted, but delicately-balanced  - mentally that is - Dylan Bennett. Khan had a match ball to win 3/1 and the Dutchman led 8-4 in the fifth before finally losing 10-9. The quality of the final was fair, but the excitement was top class.

The likeable Joshna Chinappa scored a significant win for India in taking the U17 Girls title, beating a promising Australian newcomer Donna Urquhart, who, seeded 9/16, will be more than happy to have made the final.

Chinappa knew too much for her, and her success will do much for the emerging Indians, who performed so well at the Boys World Championships in Chennai in December.

Egypt dominated the younger age-groups, with Raneem el Weilily winning her 3rd Open in retaining the Girls U15 title, and the capable Tarek Momen winning his second Open in the Boys U15.

Amir Khan, younger brother of fourth-placed U19 Khalid, both sons of former player Atlas Khan, caught the eye in taking the U13 boys title with some ease.

35 countries were represented here, and it is hard to think of any potential winner who was not here, so the winners can count themselves the best in the world.


Willstrop's Words
from the

British Junior Open


Willstrop's Words
from the

British Junior Open