7:34 pm
21 Nov 2017

New Scoring 'A Move In The Right Direction' Says Nicol

31 Aug 2004

England's Peter Nicol, the top-seeded world No1 and defending champion, launched the new PSA World Tour 11-point PAR scoring era into main round play in the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Open today with adroit skill. His opponent, Hong Kong No1 Wong Wai Hang, was pleased with a game and a strong finish against the best in the game; the enthusiastic packed audience around the three-sided glass showcourt of the Hong Kong Squash Centre were overjoyed with the prowess of their man under such pressure; and professional players were satisfied that their decision to shorten the game format can work in competitive conditions.

Nicol won 11-4 11-8 8-11 11-5 in 38 minutes, but admitted later that the rapidity with which matters concluded in each game caused him some tension, especially as the local hero adjusted to the pace and rhythm of the play and stepped up to claim the third game and a piece of the fourth. "I think the 11 point scoring is a move in the right direction," Nicol expanded. "Personally, I think we should have gone to nine points to create a common feel to the game at all levels. But I am sure that this takes us forward from the 15 point game we have been playing on the professional circuit for the past few years.

"I could sense the audience was in touch with this scoring, aware that it creates opportunities for the committed player. As Wai Hang showed when he stepped up from a slightly negative beginning, good attacking play on a court like this Hong Kong Squash Centre glass court, which takes a shot at the front and holds a drive in the deep, can bring results."

The 27-year-old Hong Kong man is no pushover, as he showed in the World Team Championships in Vienna last year when he took out Malaysia's Mohd Azlan Iskandar and Finland's Juha Raumolin, helping Hong Kong to their best results in the championship. He looked frankly overawed in the opening game against Nicol, but was finding his range in the second and, when the four-times champion relaxed a little into his two game lead, forged to leads of 4-1, 8-6 and 11-8 in the third by cutting in long drop shots on either hand and deftly exploiting gaps with clean drops and measured drives.

Tournament Director Tony Choi and Hong Kong Squash Chairman David Mui were first on their feet behind the court as their man came off to wild applause with a game to his credit. "He played so well to take that game," said Choi, himself a successful touring pro a decade or so ago. "Wild cards can sometimes just be flattened by top professionals, but Wai Hang gave a good account of himself and showed he could play at this level with more exposure."

That is Wong's view also. He plans to move to Amsterdam later this year to play in the European leagues and possibly the smaller PSA tournaments around Europe. "I want to join the main tour if that sort of experience can take me that way," he explained.

England's Adrian Grant, the 16th seed who meets Nicol in the second round, emerged relieved but satisfied from a 53-minute 8-11 8-11 11-6 11-8 11-8 win over Malaysia's Mohd Azlan Iskandar. "I had a really good summer training for the 11 point scoring and thought I was on top of it," he said. "But I went on court so aware that things had to be crisper and faster that I was complete tensed up and overeager. In the third I just settled down and started again as if it were the first game of the match and I found my proper rhythm and my swing to show that if you have a better game you ought to win whatever the scoring framework."

Grant's training partner, eighth-seeded Nick Matthew, came through 11-8 11-9 11-10 (2-0) in 49 minutes against Dan Jenson - his first win over the Australian in three successive Tour meetings - and in the second round will meet Gregory Gaultier, the 10th seeded Frenchman who removed English qualifier Bradley Ball in straight games.

Fourth seed David Palmer, the Antwerp-based Australian and a former Hong Kong Champion, needed five games to get past one rising young Egyptian, Wael El Hindi, only to find himself unexpectedly up against another after Hisham Mohd Ashour made the most of his qualification for the main draw by overturning compatriot Omar Elborolossy, the 14th seed, 9-11 11-3 11-6 9-11 11-3 in 39 minutes.

The remaining second round match of the top half of the draw will be Jonathon Power, the sixth-seeded Canadian and yet another former Hong Kong Champion, against Australia's 11th seed Joseph Kneipp. In his first PSA match since injuring his ankle in the Super Series Finals in London in May, Power defeated Phillip Barker, an English qualifier, 11-3 10-11 (2-0) 11-8 11-5 in 34 minutes, while Kneipp defeated Power's old Canadian training partner Graham Ryding 11-8 5-11 7-11 11-8 11-7 in 50 minutes.

1st round:
[1] Peter Nicol (ENG) bt Wai Hang Wong (HKG) 11-4, 11-8, 8-11, 11-5 (38m)
[16] Adrian Grant (ENG) bt [Q] Mohd Azlan Iskandar (MAS) 8-11, 8-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-8 (53m)
[8] Nick Matthew (ENG) bt Dan Jenson (AUS) 11-8, 11-9, 11-10 (2-0) (49m)
[10] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt [Q] Bradley Ball (ENG) 11-10 (3-1), 11-8, 11-3 (39m)
[4] David Palmer (AUS) bt [Q] Wael El Hindi (EGY) 11-8, 11-7, 8-11, 10-11 (0-2), 11-6 (53m)
[Q] Hisham Mohd Ashour (EGY) bt [14] Omar Elborolossy (EGY) 9-11, 11-3, 11-6, 9-11, 11-3 (39m)
[6] Jonathon Power (CAN) bt [Q] Phillip Barker (ENG) 11-3, 10-11 (0-2), 11-8, 11-5 (34m)
[11] Joseph Kneipp (AUS) bt Graham Ryding (CAN) 11-8, 5-11, 7-11, 11-8, 11-7 (50m)