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21 Jun 2024

Palmer Passes Power In Tournament Of Champions Marathon

23 Feb 2005

Australia's fourth seed David Palmer moved one step closer to the Bear Stearns Tournament of Champions title when he eliminated Canada's four-times title-holder Jonathon Power in a tie-break in the fifth game of their quarter-final match in New York. It was a masterful display of squash from both players on the glass court in Grand Central Terminal, marked by multiple changes of tempo and momentum, not to mention an intensity of focus that captivated the capacity crowd.

"When he's on a roll, he's the best player in the world and there's not much you can do to beat him," said Palmer of Power. "But he doesn't seem able to sustain it these days for an entire match." Palmer's strategy was to ride out Power's shot-making streaks and seize every open ball. It was a seesaw battle; Palmer winning the first and third games and Power the second and fourth.

In the fifth, Palmer seemed to be taking charge as he seized a 9-6 lead, but a tight backhand winner from Power sent the Belgium-based Australian sprawling to the floor in a desperate attempt to make a return, galvanizing the pro-Power crowd. A tin by Palmer evened the score at nine-all; the next point was carefully controlled play that forced Palmer to cover the four corners of the court until he ran out of room, giving Montreal-based Power a match ball.

But the Australian was not about to give anything away. "The last few times we played, I have won the match because he has made mistakes," said Palmer. "So I was going to chase every ball down." Even the din of construction above Grand Central could not disturb Palmer's focus. A low backhand that Power could not return above the tin put the deciding game into overtime. A backhand drop shot winner gave Palmer match ball; a Power forehand drop shot into the tin gave Palmer the match 11-9 4-11 11-9 4-11 11-10 in 93 minutes.

Palmer's opponent in the semi-finals on Thursday evening will be top-seeded Frenchman Thierry Lincou, who looked as if he was going to have his hands full when 24-year-old Nick Matthew, the seventh seed, won the first game of their quarter-final match. But a collision between the two players at the end of the first game triggered a back spasm in the young Englishman, who became unable to mount much of a defence in the second game, losing it 11-0. Matthew tried playing the third, but shook hands with the Frenchman down 2-7 in the third.

Lincou, the world No1 from Marseille, although happy to move into the semi-finals, was disappointed not to have had more time on court in his quest to reach his second ToC final. "I haven't played a lot since the end of the year. I am still trying to get my rhythm and pace back and find the right balance of aggression and being relaxed on court."

Vanessa Atkinson, the No2 seed in the women's draw, had her hands full with veteran Englishwoman Rebecca Macree. "I was hoping to get off the court with a three game victory," said the reigning world champion from The Hague in the Netherlands. But it was not to be - as the always tenacious Macree, the sixth seed, made Atkinson go the distance and win 9-1 3-9 9-7 3-9 9-4 in 66 minutes to get into the last four for the first time.

"Relieved and happy," was Vicky Botwright's description of how she felt after defeating English compatriot Jenny Duncalf in the other women's quarter-final match. "This will be my first semi-final in a big tournament."

Even though she dropped the third game, the outcome never really seemed much in doubt as Manchester-based Botwright played steady and composed squash. Duncalf, who had eliminated third seed Natalie Grainger the day before, was impatient, trying for too many winners before establishing good length on the ball.

Asked how she was going to prepare for her inaugural semi-final appearance in a major tournament, Botwright smiled: "I am not giving away any secrets."

Men's quarter-finals:
[1] Thierry Lincou (FRA) bt [7] Nick Matthew (ENG) 8-11, 11-0, 7-2 ret. (35m)
[4] David Palmer (AUS) bt [6] Jonathon Power (CAN) 11-9, 4-11, 11-9, 4-11, 11-10 (2-0) (93m)

Women's quarter-finals:
[8] Vicky Botwright (ENG) bt Jenny Duncalf (ENG) 9-1, 9-4, 6-9, 9-1 (50m)
[2] Vanessa Atkinson (NED) bt [6] Rebecca Macree (ENG) 9-1, 3-9, 9-7, 3-9, 9-4 (66m)