White's Home Victory Hopes Dashed By Ricketts
3 Nov 2004
Hopes of a local victory in the Harris British Open Squash Championships were dashed tonight at the Albert Hall in Nottingham when sixth seed John White was beaten in a five-game thriller by Australia's No11 seed Anthony Ricketts for the second year in a row.
Since reaching number one in the world rankings in March this year, Nottingham-based White has had a mixed run on the international circuit - but rediscovered his form last month to reach the final of the Super 8 Grand Prix in Manchester.
Twice behind in his marathon second round match against Ricketts, the Australian-born Scottish No1 fought back to forge a 5-1 lead in the fifth game decider. But Ricketts regained the initiative and, after two match balls, sealed the third to win 11-7 6-11 11-7 6-11 11-9.
"I just made too many errors," said a disconsolate White afterwards. "I was 4-0 up in the third, and 5-1 up in the fifth - both of which are huge leads under this new scoring system - and I let him back. I just lacked patience at those points and virtually beat myself."
It was Ricketts' fourth successive win over his former Australian rival, though the 25-year-old from Sydney admitted that he feels he is still a couple of months away from a complete recovery from his recent knee injury. "I'm still in that comeback phase," said Ricketts, who underwent two operations on his knee at the Australian Institute of Sport HQ in Canberra early in the year.
"Since making my comeback at the English Open in August, I haven't really had a good result - so this one tonight means a lot to me."
Earlier in the day, Egypt's world champion Amr Shabana fought back from a game down to beat unseeded Malaysian Mohd Azlan Iskandar - and later declared that this match marked the turning point on his mixed fortunes since winning the world title last December in Pakistan.
"I have had a tough time since becoming world champion," conceded the 25-year-old fifth seed from Cairo after his 9-11 11-6 11-9 11-5 triumph in 52 minutes. "Before it, people around me kept telling me it's time I won something, then afterwards there was this expectation that I would go on winning everything - and it really messed up my game.
"Instead of concentrating on my game on court, I spent my time thinking about things outside the court, like what others were thinking of me - I was completely stressed out for about six months.
"Then, about two months ago, I went completely the other way, and became far too relaxed on court.
"But tonight, it all seemed to fit into place - and for the first time since the win in Lahore I really felt that I was playing to my full potential. It would be great for my CV to win the British Open - and now I know I can do it," said Shabana.
The Egyptian, who has never before progressed beyond the first round, now meets England's fourth seed Nick Matthew for a place in the semi-finals. The 24-year-old world No6 from Sheffield has enjoyed a highly successful year on the PSA Tour, most recently reaching the final of the Hong Kong Open in September.
Matthew ended Mohd Azlan Iskandar's maiden run in the event, beating the unseeded Malaysian 11-2 11-9 11-10 in 42 minutes.
"I felt very confident today - and it's great to playing on the glass court at last after the slower courts at the Nottingham Squash Club," said Matthew after his straight games triumph. "I'm happy to get this over in three as Azlan is a dangerous player and I need to keep fresh for the matches ahead."
Cassie Jackman became the first English player to claim a semi-final berth in the event when she beat compatriot Linda Elriani in straight games in the second of two women's quarter-finals played today.
The long-time England No1 and former world No1 from Norwich came back from 4-8 down in the opening game to win 10-8 9-3 9-2 in 37 minutes to reach the semi-finals for the sixth time since making her debut in the event in 1987.
With a rest day before playing her semi on Friday, Jackman will be a guest of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth tomorrow (Thursday) when she receives an MBE for services to squash at Buckingham Palace.
Grainger, the US No1 fighting back to top form after an eight-month lay-off, was in sparkling form. "It's just so good to be back, getting some good victories under my belt. I can't wait to play Cassie on Thursday," added the 27-year-old from Washington DC, now playing her third WISPA World Tour event since last month, and undefeated in eleven matches.
Men's 2nd round:
 Amr Shabana (EGY) bt  Graham Ryding (CAN) 9-11, 11-6, 11-9, 11-5 (52m)
 Nick Matthew (ENG) bt Mohd Azlan Iskandar (MAS) 11-2, 11-9, 11-10 (2-0) (42m)
 Anthony Ricketts (AUS) bt  John White (SCO) 11-7, 6-11, 11-7, 6-11, 11-9 (70m)
 Thierry Lincou (FRA) bt  Adrian Grant (ENG) 11-6, 11-6, 11-9 (45m)