Tales from Toronto
Globe and Mail Reports
Power & Nicol - opposites attract
Power's temper chills with age
Power scores painful win
By BEVERLEY SMITH
From Friday's Globe and Mail
Toronto — Canada's star squash player Jonathon Power hobbled to victory
last night at the $75,000 YMG Capital Canadian Squash Classic, finally
grinding out a win over his nemesis, Peter Nicol of England, who was also
It seemed as if the winner of the event would be the last guy left
standing. Power was steaming his way to certain victory in front of a
sellout home crowd at BCE Place, before he wrenched his ankle in a freak
Power, 28, who grew up in Toronto and now lives in Montreal, had to be
carried off the court, but returned 35 minutes later to defeat Nicol 15-8,
15-3, 16-17 and 15-7.
Now Power and Nicol are even. They've met 32 times and each has 16 wins.
Last night, both were fighting painful injuries to their right ankles.
That's tough for a right-handed player, such as Power.
It was amazing that Nicol showed up at all. He wrenched his ankle 1½ weeks
ago, was on crutches last week, but still came to Toronto. He admitted
that during the second game, when Power blasted him 15-3, he was playing
on only one leg.
It was the battle of the walking wounded. Only three weeks before the
$150,000 World Open in Antwerp, Belgium, the top two players in the world
are nursing gimpy ankles. Nicol has been the world's No. 1 player for 43
months out of the past five years, with Power snatching the spot from him
Last night, Power was blasting along in the first two games, dominating
Nicol, refusing to let up on him even though it was clear the
Scottish-born player was troubled. Then disaster struck in the third game.
Power made a lunge to return a shot, but his right foot landed on Nicol's
foot, slid off sideways, and threw him off balance and seriously twisted
his right ankle.
Power lay writhing on the floor while Nicol and the crowd watched in
stunned amazement. The Canadian player was treated on court, before he was
carried off to an athletes area.
Power was lucky. Dr. Peter Bletcher said the Canadian did not tear any
ligaments in the ankle, and there was no internal bleeding. The ankle was
solidly taped. Bletcher urged him to continue. Although Power had an hour
to return to the court, he was back much sooner.
"It wasn't too bad," Power said. "I was moving all right, once I got
comfortable on it. The beginning was a little tough, but I didn't want to
give it to him. I was playing so well today, and he didn't deserve it. And
I just wanted to go for it, hard, get back out there and win the match."
At every point, Power said he kept saying to himself, "Don't think about
it. Don't think about it. No excuses. No excuses."
Even after he returned to the court, Power spent a lot of time scrambling
around on the injured ankle, slipping and sliding and ending up on his
back with his feet in the air. The audience cringed every time this
"It's a sealed floor, so the sweat sits on the top," Power said.
"Sometimes at a lunge, you'd slip."
Before Power's fall, he had been keying on on Nicol's problems. "I knew he
was having trouble changing directions," Power said. "That was my
strategy, to flick him [from side to side] and he got tired in the fourth.
He wasn't getting those cross-court shots anymore."
As for Nicol, he said his injury occurred when he went over on his ankle a
week ago Tuesday. "I was on crutches until Thursday afternoon, and then I
flew on Friday morning."
He said the organizers, who knew of his problem, helped him all they
could. "I arrived at 10 on Friday evening, and I met them at the clinic at
11:30. Three of them came in to see me and gave me an hour's treatment.
And that happened Friday, Saturday, Sunday and every night and day during
the tournament. Without their help, I wouldn't have been able to even
play, never mind getting to the final."
He said he was fine on Wednesday, but "it's always difficult playing
Jonathon. He's so much faster-paced than anyone else, and he moves and he
twists and he turns you. And you can't play him on one leg."
By BEVERLEY SMITH
Globe and Mail
Toronto — Jonathon Power thrives on pressure. He creates it, especially
for others. He thumbs his nose at it.
But last night, at the YMG Capital Canadian Squash Classic, Power was the
one who was under pressure. He grimaced. He bellowed. He seemed all out of
sorts. And the crowd was strangely hushed when Power lost the first game
of his quarter-final, 15-11, to 30-year-old Mark Chaloner of Britain, who
is ranked ninth in the world.
Like an old wagon rumbling up a stony hill, Power won the next three games
15-7, 15-12 and 15-11 for victory over Chaloner, setting up a semi-final
match against Joseph Kneipp of Australia tonight. But it wasn't an easy
win, taking 86 minutes.
Drained afterward, Power could only say initially that "it was all right.
I won, so that's all that matters."
Power said he felt "a little stale and flat" last night, and it was easy
to tell. "I was trying to pump myself up . . . " he said, perhaps
referring to a moment in the fourth game when he tossed his racquet and
received a warning for his conduct.
"I didn't feel like I had my normal speed and intensity, so I was maybe
trying to force that intensity a little bit," Power said, adding that he
felt a few lapses of concentration. "[Chaloner] was playing pretty well,
moving on the ball very quickly."
Once Power found his footing and his rhythm midway through the second
game, he stopped being so aggressive. He turned more patient, and found
opportunities better. "I think I just moved him around a little bit more,
and I got him on the wrong end of a few rallies where I was in the middle
[of the court] and he was doing most of the running," Power said. "Near
the end of every game, he was getting tired, so I was able to get those
run of points right at the end. I thought he was slowing down."
Power's difficulties weren't the only surprise last night. John White, the
No. 5-ranked Australian who plays for Scotland, was ousted by Kneipp, who
is ranked 13th.
Kneipp upset No. 6 Lee Beachill of England, earlier in the week. He had
never played Beachill before.
Kneipp said he hasn't played Power in three years, but defeated Power in
three games during the last match. "That was a joy," Kneipp said. "I've
been looking forward to playing Jonathon for ages. Unfortunately, I
haven't been getting through to the late rounds."
But the focus will be on Power, 28, a native of Comox, B.C., who grew up
in Toronto. "I like the attention." The Canadian Classic, with $75,000 in
prize money, is the tenth largest squash tournament on the Professional
Squash Association tour.
"Week after week, I have a lot of ups and downs," Power said. "But when
the time is right to win, I'm usually pretty competitive."
Power is taking aim at No. 1 Peter Nicol of Britain, who defeated him last
year at this event. Th final is tomorrow at BCE Place.
Power triumphed over Nicol in their first five matches earlier this
season. One of them was at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England,
where Nicol was under great pressure to win. By the time Nicol won the
doubles title, he had played 14 matches in 11 days. Then he played in Hong
Kong and at the U.S. Open. After 2½ months of intense competition, Nicol
said he had enough. He took a vacation, and has returned at the top of his
Power has been one of the world's best players for the past five years,
often trading places with Nicol at the top, but his unpredictable
behaviour on the court and his well-known jousts with referees have made
him a very visible figure in squash.
"Nothing is premeditated in anything I do," said Power, who has been known
to lie down on the court and toss his racquet to protest a call. He lost a
quarter-final match to White at the recent Qatar Open after a tussle with
"I just sort of roll with how things are going, in every situation," Power
But he said he would rather see high-level former players, rather than
recreational players, become referees. "They just don't understand the
game at this speed and at this level and it's very difficult to judge,"
Power said. "This is not like tennis, where you call the ball in or out
and you just need a pair of eyes to see it.
"You have to be able to anticipate and predict what is going to happen on
the court. So if there is interference, you have to be able to tell that
guy he's not fast enough to get to the ball. I think you really need
somebody that you respect, like a peer, or an ex-player who has that
knowledge . . . rather than some guy who just plays twice a week."
Power said he could never be a referee. "There's not a little bit of
policeman in me."
Nicol overruns Ryding
By BEVERLEY SMITH
Globe and Mail
TORONTO -- The world's No. 1 squash player, Peter
Nicol of England, knew it would be tough playing Graham Ryding of Toronto
on home ground last night at the $75,000 YMG Capital Canadian Classic.
Ryding pushed Nicol, making him run to the front
of the court. Ryding gave a gritty, determined effort, but Nicol won
15-12, 11-15, 15-13, 15-8.
In the first game, Ryding matched Nicol point for
point. In the second game, Ryding was behind 9-4 but came back to win.
"I felt good the first two games," Ryding said
afterward. "But I lost my concentration a little bit in the third. I
thought after the second game, I was really in there with a good shot to
win. But he upped the pace. He played like the fast-paced Peter Nicol I
Nicol injured an ankle about 1½ weeks ago, and in
the first couple of games looked a little tentative. Ryding took advantage
of it, forcing him to play at the front of the court, beating him on
tricky corner shots, and shots close to the wall.
Ryding said his strategy was to break up the
pace, to foul up Nicol, who tends to play quickly. Ryding tried to play
aggressively on some points, then slow down on others, "to take his
[Nicol's] rhythm away."
Two years ago, Nicol played Ryding, who is ranked
No. 23 in the world, and he was hard-pressed to hold him off. Ryding won
one match from him, and after 1½ hours, Nicol finally had his victory.
Nicol, who has been on top of the squash world
for 43 months, has had some of his most dramatic matches against Canadian
star Jonathon Power. Nicol, the defending champion in the YMG Capital
Classic, has the edge on the unpredictable Power, going 16-15 against him.
Although Ryding is ranked No. 2 in Canada, Nicol fears him, too.
"He plays a different game and has a different
style from Power," Nicol said yesterday. "Graham steps forward and uses a
different type of deception. Everyone says [Power] is very deceptive, but
if you actually break his game down, he plays an incredible lot at the
back [of the court]. He generally hits the same shots, but he just does it
very well . . . Watching him, you might not agree with that, but I've
played with him a lot, and you're stuck in the back corners a remarkable
"Graham will flick the ball a little bit more.
He'll do a little bit more with the ball."
Power calls Ryding one of his most fearsome
opponents. He should know better than anyone, having played the
Winnipeg-born Ryding since both were teenagers.
"He has a very good counterattack," Power said of
Ryding. "He's a dangerous player, because on his day, he can beat some of
the guys in the top five in the world."
The trouble is, Ryding doesn't always play at his
highest level, riding a bit of a roller coaster. That's easy to do in
squash, where the loss of a moment of mental focus can turn a score around
completely. "His game can go really high, but he can have some bad losses
also," Power said. "He's been playing really well lately."
Ryding has never defeated Power as a pro player,
although he defeated him several times when they were juniors. "We've had
some good games . . . a couple of five gamers," Power said. "He's come
close, but not yet. I hope I can hold him off. I'm sure we'll still be
going at it when we're 40."
Nicol is fresh off a win at the Qatar Open, where
Power was defeated in a semi-final. Power returned to Canada six days ago,
taking two days to get home, with a stopover in London, England. "It took
a while to get over the jet lag," Power said. On Sunday night, he finally
got a full night's sleep.
Nicol started playing tennis at a club when he
was a youngster, but the club set up a squash court and he became
addicted. "What better?" he said. "The ball kept coming back continuously.
Tennis bored me by the sheer fact that I had to keep picking the balls up
and trying again."
The YMG Classic is the only major professional softball event in
Canada, but the media are gradually beginning to take an interest
in the game, largely thanks to the achievements and charisma of Jonathon
Power. Grapevine's Canadian correspondent, Ryan Barnett, emails the
The hype has already started here in Canada for the YMG Classic, with
an interesting interview published in the Canadian Press on the
Power-Nicol rivalry. If Peter can't go because
of his ankle and, with David Palmer sitting this one out, Power will never
have a better opportunity to retake the title.
POWER AND NICOL:
Nicol and Jonathon Power are always working toward the same goal - to be
the best squash player in the world. But the two men couldn't be more
Power is notorious for being outspoken and opinionated and for throwing
temper tantrums on the court. He's emotional to say the least. Nicol, on
the other hand, is more reserved and soft-spoken.
"Everything in life, we couldn't be farther apart," Power said Thursday
from his home in Montreal. "At the same time, we've managed to arrive at
the same goal but we've done it completely different ways with different
philosophies. It just proves my theory that there's more than one way to
In July, Power scored a big victory when he beat his English rival in the
Commonwealth Games final in Manchester, England. The victory tied the
career record between the two at 15 wins apiece. But Nicol made it 16-15
when he beat Power at the Hong Kong Open in August. Power, who was
battling back spasms at the time, wasn't happy.
The two have a chance to meet again at the $75,000 YMG Capital Classic in
Toronto. It's the only professional squash tournament played in Canada,
making it a major event on Power's calendar.
"It's one of the biggest tournaments of the year and that's how I treat
it," said Power, who lived in Toronto for 12 years before moving to
Montreal. "I'm feeling in good shape, so I'm pretty excited to play him
After taking Nicol down on his home court, the 28-year-old Power would
relish the chance to do the same on his own turf. And Power wouldn't mind
capturing the No.1 ranking that Nicol currently holds. Power, who is No.2,
hasn't been in that top spot all year.
I'd like to get back there by the end of the
year because I haven't been No.1 yet this year," he said. After the win in
Manchester, Power thought he had a shot at passing Nicol, but he's "messed
up" the last few tournaments he's played in, preventing him from getting
But Power admits that being ranked No. 1 isn't always the best place to
be. "When I get up there I like to celebrate that I'm there rather than
keep working and stay there," he said. "That's just one of the things that
makes me different from him (Nicol)."
Nicol, Power says, is content to work hard to keep that No. 1 spot while
the Canadian is less likely to stay focused when there's nothing to shoot
for. Their styles of play are so drastically different. Power plays an
aggressive game, constantly attacking his opponent and trying to open the
game up. Nicol, on the other hand, plays a more calculated game, keeping
the rallies going for as long as possible in order to wear down his
"We're like the St. Louis Rams and the Baltimore Ravens," said Power. "I'm
all offence and he's all defence."
So, does Power ever get tired of always having to worry about Nicol? The
answer is yes and no. "It's one of those things, you love it and you hate
it," said Power. "It just depends on the day. When you win, you love it,
when you lose, you hate it."
While he doesn't plan on retiring any time soon, Power is already planning
for his future. He recently launched his own line of shoes and clothing.
He designed the shoes himself and has been wearing them in competition for
the past few months. Part of his motivation for coming up with the new
product line was style -or lack of it.
"I just felt it was kind of a bland sport," he said. "I think through
footwear and clothing, I felt I could make a more youthful image and help
make squash a cooler sport in North America."
With the Commonwealth Games medal already under his belt, Power is looking
ahead to next summer's Pan American Games in the Dominican Republic. "I'm
pumped up for that. I like multi-sport games," he said.
But without Nicol in the field, Power sees fellow Canadian Graham Ryding
as his biggest competition. The two are the best of friends. Ryding was
the best man at Power's wedding. But there's no love between them when
they're on the court.
"We grew up together," said Power. "But we're fierce competitors."
chills a little with age
From the Toronto Globe and Mail
by JAMES CHRISTIE
TORONTO -- Jonathon Power made his name as a brat in squash, but the label
doesn't fit quite so well now that he's logged 12 years on the world
"At 28, I'm not the little brat any more, just a sour old man," Power said
in an interview this week before he headed to Toronto for the third annual
YMG Capital Canadian Classic. The tournament, which runs Sunday through
Thursday at BCE Place, features four of the world's top-five ranked
players, including Power, of Montreal, who is No. 2. His perennial
nemesis, Peter Nicol of England, is ranked No. 1, and is the tournament's
"My temper's been good lately as I get older," Power said. "Squash fosters
a lot of interaction with the ref. There's always going to be some
histrionics when I play, otherwise there's no drama out there. It'd be a
It hasn't been boring for Power this season. He
finished ahead of Nicol in five consecutive tournaments, including the
Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England, where the old rivals battled
for the gold medal. Aside from that win, Power had victories in the
Tournament of Champions in New York, the Pakistan Open, the Professional
Squash Association Masters Tournament and the Canadian nationals.
His winning streak was stopped at the Cathay
Pacific Open in Hong Kong in September, where Nicol prevailed in a
109-minute marathon. Both men lost early in the U.S. Open. Then Power went
on to the $200,000 (U.S.) Qatar Open, where he fell to John White of
Scotland in the quarter-final, after a run-in with a referee. White,
ranked No. 5 in the world, will be another of the title contenders in
Toronto. He's one of the few players who can match Power's fast pace
during a prolonged match.
White is an Australian who emigrated to Scotland to play there. He said he
feels there is better sponsorship and opportunities for support in
Scotland. Yet Nicol abandoned his native Scotland to play for England,
citing precisely the same reason -- better support than at home.
It's draining to follow the tour to its far-flung corners, Power said, but
he gears up for Toronto. A native of Comox, B.C., Power grew up in
"Toronto's a huge event for me, one of my major events of the year," Power
said. "I won it the first year and lost out to Peter last year. I don't
get much of a chance to play in front of a Canadian crowd.
"In Toronto, the squash community is fairly large. Over 100,000 people
play and know who I am, so all the people who come out I will feel I've
known since I was eight years old and started playing tournaments. I could
probably name 70 per cent of the people there."
That makes Toronto a stop with more pleasure
than pressure, even though Power is the home favourite. "I've won world
titles and been ranked No. 1 before, and sometimes it's hard to keep
getting charged up. But it's easier here in front of family and friends
than arriving tired in Pakistan or Qatar and trying to light a fire under
"I used to love jumping on that plane and flying around the world. First
crossed the country from PEI to Winnipeg travelling by myself when I was
eight. Travel was a big draw for me early on."
Power is not so weary of travel that he is contemplating walking out of
the glass cube court forever. He has stayed relatively free of injuries
this season, "and if you stay physically well, you can do it over 30. It's
a matter of getting mentally up."
After the Toronto event, he will end his season with the World Open, from
Dec. 6 to 14 in Antwerp, Belgium.