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21 Jun 2024

Ricketts & Duncalf Spring Surprises In New York

22 Feb 2005

Stunning upsets by Anthony Ricketts and Jenny Duncalf on the third day of action in the Bear Stearns Tournament of Champions gave the tenth-seeded Australian and unseeded Englishwoman unexpected places in the quarter-finals of the expanding international squash circuit's first major combined men's and women's event of the year at Grand Central Terminal in New York, USA.

The best was saved for last in the men's PSA Super Series event when Ricketts and fifth-seeded Englishman James Willstrop squared off in the evening's final match. The pairing had been much anticipated by the knowledgeable fans who waited until 10 PM to see the clash many predicted would be the best of the night - and they were not disappointed. The Australian, who describes himself as still on the comeback trail after being off the tour for eight months last year, went into the match believing himself to be the physically stronger of the two players. Willstrop was playing with confidence of a young man who had risen from 13 to 5 in the world rankings in just over a year.

Using the stylish and accurate shot-making that is becoming his trademark, 21-year-old Willstrop looked quite comfortable as he won the first game. Ricketts came back in the second and third by moving his opponent from corner to corner, attacking open balls and trying to speed up the tempo of play - more than once serving before his opponent was ready to receive the ball. In the fourth, Willstrop displayed true grit as he dug deep to retrieve shots that seemed just beyond his reach, eventually winning the game.

The higher-seeded Englishman jumped to a 5-1 lead in the decider, and seemed in full control of the match. But Ricketts kept the pressure on and chipped away to even the match at five all. "I never felt out of it," Ricketts said later. "I thought he'd have to make some errors eventually because he had been working so hard just to get to that point in the match."

The crowd moved ever closer to the edge of their seats as Willstrop surged ahead by two points and Ricketts closed the gap - first at 7-5 then at 9-7. An error by Ricketts gave Willstrop a match ball at 10-9, but he hit a forehand tin. At 10 all, both players tenaciously kept the ball tight on the backhand. "At that point all I thought was, I've got to keep that ball tight on the rail," Ricketts said. He did, and gave himself a match ball, but Willstrop hit a winner to even the match yet again. One more tin from Willstrop, followed by a stroke awarded to Ricketts, and the Australian was into the quarterfinals after his 6-11 11-10 11-2 9-11 11-10 victory in 78 minutes.

Ricketts' quarterfinal opponent will be England's defending champion Peter Nicol, who got off to an inauspicious start when he lost the first three points on strokes awarded by the referee to his opponent, compatriot and qualifier Peter Barker - who won the first game 11-9. "I wasn't moving freely, but I was hitting the ball well," said Nicol. "Once I relaxed, I started moving better." Better movement coupled with Nicol's textbook technique spelled the end of Barker's first-time presence in the championships as Nicol easily won the next three games to register a 9-11 11-4 11-3 11-5 scoreline.

Earlier in the evening, ninth-seeded Amr Shabana credited a piece of gum with turning around his match against Finland's Olli Tuominen when the match was tied at one-all. Having battled a cold for several days, the Egyptian was finding it hard to breathe on court. "A piece of gum made me forget the tightness in my chest," he said. Shabana won the next two games to take him into the quarterfinals where he will face No2 seed Lee Beachill, who dispatched Canadian Graham Ryding in three games with ease and efficiency.

Four-times title-holder Jonathon Power would very much like a fifth title - and he kept his title quest alive with a 34-minute victory over Australia's Dan Jenson. His opponent will be Australian David Palmer who did not have much difficulty with Egypt's Wael El Hindi. The first match on Tuesday evening will feature France's top seed Thierry Lincou, who defeated Mohammed Abbas, against England's 24-year-old Nick Matthew, who took out veteran Alex Gough.

In the women's draw, unseeded Jenny Duncalf eliminated third seed Natalie Grainger, the US No1 who was runner-up in the last staging of the women's event, two years ago. After winning a close first game, Duncalf dropped the next two. "Natalie was playing pretty well at that point - she was hammering me," remarked the 22-year-old from Harrogate in Yorkshire.

The Englishwoman kept her cool, however. After saving a match ball in the fourth, Duncalf won the game 10-9, and moved on to easily take the deciding game and the match 10-8 2-9 3-9 10-9 9-1 in 53 minutes. It was Duncalf's second victory over the world No6, whom she also defeated in five games in the US Open in 2003.

Duncalf's quarterfinal opponent will be fellow countrywoman Vicky Botwright who defeated Scottish qualifier Pamela Nimmo. Australia's top seed Rachael Grinham spent just over a half hour on court in her victory against England's Stephanie Brind. Next up for the favourite is seventh seed Jenny Tranfield, who received a walkover when Tania Bailey withdrew because of an upper respiratory infection.

Men's 2nd round:
[1] Thierry Lincou (FRA) bt [15] Mohammed Abbas (EGY) 11-10 (3-1), 11-5, 7-11, 11-8 (56m)
[7] Nick Matthew (ENG) bt Alex Gough (WAL) 7-11, 11-6, 11-2, 11-7 (61m)
[4] David Palmer (AUS) bt Wael El Hindi (EGY) 11-9, 11-7, 11-5 (44m)
[6] Jonathon Power (CAN) bt Dan Jenson (AUS) 11-1, 11-5, 11-7 (34m)
[10] Anthony Ricketts (AUS) bt [5] James Willstrop (ENG) 6-11, 11-10 (2-0), 11-2, 9-11, 11-10 (3-1) (78m)
[3] Peter Nicol (ENG) bt [Q] Peter Barker (ENG) 9-11, 11-4, 11-3, 11-5 (51m)
[9] Amr Shabana (EGY) bt Olli Tuominen (FIN) 11-7, 6-11, 8-11, 11-6, 11-6 (53m)
[2] Lee Beachill (ENG) bt [12] Graham Ryding (CAN) 11-6, 11-8, 11-8 (47m)

Women's 1st round:
[1] Rachael Grinham (AUS) bt [Q] Stephanie Brind (ENG) 9-2, 9-2, 9-10, 9-0 (34m)
[7] Jenny Tranfield (ENG) bt Tania Bailey (ENG) w/o
[3] Natalie Grinham (AUS) bt [Q] Annelize Naude (NED) 9-5, 9-1, 9-7 (34m)
[5] Linda Elriani (ENG) bt Shelley Kitchen (NZL) 9-4, 9-1, 9-4 (40m)
[8] Vicky Botwright (ENG) bt [Q] Pamela Nimmo (SCO) 9-3, 9-7, 5-9, 9-2 (52m)
Jenny Duncalf (ENG) bt [4] Natalie Grainger (USA) 10-8, 2-9, 3-9, 10-9, 9-1 (53m)
[6] Rebecca Macree (ENG) bt [Q] Alison Waters (ENG) 6-9, 9-3, 1-9, 9-3, 9-4 (77m)
[2] Vanessa Atkinson (NED) bt Fiona Geaves (ENG) 9-7, 7-9, 9-1, 9-2 (32m)