Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
6 - 12 April 2000
Issue No. 476
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Issues navigation Current Issue Previous Issue Back Issues

 
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No 1 remains as is

By Nashwa Abdel-Tawab

In one of the strongest fields ever assembled on a squash court in one championship, Peter Nicol turned in a masterful performance to claim the first Al-Ahram PSA (Professional Squash Association) Masters and retain the world's No 1 position.

It took the Scotsman only 55 minutes and three straight sets to down Canada's Jonathon Power, who remained No 2. It was Nicol's second successive straight sets victory over Power since the latter won the British Open title last December after Nicol was forced to concede the final due to food poisoning.

In a virtual re-run of the Irish Open final earlier in the month, Nicol again ran Power ragged, this time in the Egyptian resort of Hurghada. Power, 25, started well but his drops and counter-drops had none of the precision of earlier rounds and Nicol was able to thump the ball past him time and again, keeping the lanky Power effectively trapped in back court.

With Power leading 13-12, a careless error levelled the score, followed by a scream of frustration from the Canadian who had already fallen foul of the referee. Two mistakes later cost him the game 15-13.

From then on it was all uphill for Power. Nicol ran down his shots, kept the pressure on and never looked back in a 15-13, 15-7, 15-6 lopsided win.

Peter Nicol
Masters champion Peter Nicol receiving his trophy
photo: Hossam Diab

"The first game was crucial," said Nicol. "I didn't play as well as I did in Ireland but I wasn't interested in doing well. All I wanted was to beat Power. Not only did I try to keep him at the back but I made sure that when he came forward he wasn't settled on the ball."

Nicol pocketed $10,500 in prize money out of a total $70,000 and plans to buy a house in England with the purse. Power took $6,900 and was flying back home within an hour after the final.

Out of the 32 players who entered the six-day Masters, Nicol and Power, who holds a 10-9 lead in head-to-head meetings, were certainly in a class by themselves. With Egypt's world No 3 Ahmed Barada absent from the competition after being stabbed in the back shortly before the tournament began, there was very little doubt the pair would clash in the final. In the first round Power dumped the talented but inexperienced Egyptian Amr Shabana after dropping the first set 10-15, 15-6, 15-10, 15-10. Power then cruised to another victory over Briton Mark Chaloner 15-6, 15-10, 15-3. In the quarter-finals he ousted Welshman Alex Gough, the world's No 7, 15-6, 15-6, 15-1. In the semi-finals Power easily despatched off Briton Paul Johnson, ranked fifth, 15-11, 15-5, 15-6.

In his first game, Nicol, on top of the world's rankings for three successive months, beat Englishman Mark Cairns 12-15, 15-8, 15-12, 15-9. Like Power, Nicol dropped the first of the first game, the only sets the two giants would lose all the way to the final. Nicol then beat Australia's Billy Haddrell 15-13, 15-4, 15-11. In the quarter-finals he beat Welshman David Evans, 15-10, 15-4, 15-9. In the semi-finals Nicol faced his most difficult test before defeating world No 4 Simon Parke 15-13, 15-6, 15-11.

After the men, the Hurghada venue will be used for the women's WISPA (Women's International Squash Professional Association) Grand Prix Finals from 4-8 April.

The polished ambassador

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