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Squash on TV


Malcolm Willstrop
presents his views and reports
from the world of squash ...

Malcolm Willstrop Week
Major feature by Framboise

2008 Archive      2007 Archive      
2006 Archive

A visit to Pontefract

Last few tickets

Another Classic at Canary Wharf

The Canary Wharf Classic is one of the best events on the PSA tour. Expertly and congenially run by the Eventis team, Peter Nicol, Tim Garner and Angus Kirkland, alongside Alan Thatcher, it has given appreciative crowds many memorable matches in its five year existence.

But not in their wildest dreams could Eventis have imagined that the 2009 entry would be the top world class draw it is.

Karim Darwish and Ramy Ashour are missing, but Amr Shabana, Gregory Gaultier, James Willstrop, David Palmer, Thierry Lincou and Nick Matthew are all there.

There are heavyweight clashes in the first round, notably Willstrop v Laurens Anjema and Lincou against Borja Golan, but the potential quarter final line up would do justice to any event in the world: Shabana v Matthew, Willstrop v Lincou, Palmer v El Hindi and Gaultier v Barker.

After coming off against Matthew in New York, Shabana will be looking to put things right, but my guess is that the last person he would want to meet in the last eight is Matthew, who is in the form of his life and is devilishly hard to beat just now.

Willstrop and Lincou played the first ever final at Canary Wharf, best of seven that was, and with question marks over the well being of the Englishman, the match is hardly going to be easy for him, remembering that both have to overcome severe first round obstacles.

Palmer and El Hindi is a heavyweight clash, and Barker, another who has been unwell, will find Gaultier, who has claims on form to being the world's best, hard to get past.

All those associated with the event must be rubbing their hands in glee and it is nothing more than they deserve. I know that there is a credit crunch and we are in financial heartland, but the entry certainly warrants a hike in prize money, if there is a beneficent fair godfather or godmother, of course, on hand.

Dream on............

Lee Beachill

It wouldn't seem appropriate to let Lee Beachill's retirement from the PSA world tour to pass without me paying a personal tribute to him - though I have to emphasise this is no obituary!

Just that sportsmen have their time and Lee's has been reduced, sadly, by a couple of years because of the severity of his knee problems. There had been no other signs, other than the knee, that his powers had diminished in any way; indeed he hits the ball as well, if not better than he has ever done. I had hoped he might make the next Commonwealth Games in a bid for a third gold medal, but he took his leave in Manchester, the scene of some of his greatest triumphs, with a record in the British Championships second to none.

The Early Days

Lee was sent to me at the age of nine by Tim Heeley, who was Lee's first coach and recognised his potential. Tim was right, too, because he quickly showed he had unusual ability. I remember clearly, when working with him that he always seemed a move ahead.

He soon started challenging the best players in his age group and after I banned him for a month - most of my best players get a ban - for a display of petulance after a loss. He came back and for the rest of his career hardly put a foot wrong in behavioural terms.

Lee won every British age group Junior title, the European U19 championship, but in the World Junior Championships in Cairo in 1996 he was physically abused by El Mistakawi, an Egyptian, receiving no protection from the referee, losing in the quarter finals. Amr Shabana, Anthony Ricketts and Stewart Boswell all played and none of them won, so he was in good company.

Senior Success

So began a magnificent senior career: World no.1, British champion twice in a row - never before achieved - double Commonwealth gold medalist and England captain when they won the World Team Championships in Chennai. Amidst all that many other successes at the highest levels and missing out on the World Open by the narrowest of margins, losing 3-2 to Thierry Lincou in the final.

His successes have been achieved in the most competitive era: Peter Nicol, Jonathan Power, David Palmer, Thierry Lincou, Anthony Ricketts, Amr Shabana, John White, Karim Darwish, Gregory Gaultier, James Willstrop, Nick Matthew and Ramy Ashour.

Family ties & the Future

Close as has been, and still is, my relationship with Lee, players do not succeed at world level without the support of many: Peter Nicol, David Campion. James Willstrop, Ian Horsley, Mick Todd .... and ,of course parents Sue and Malcolm, always supportive, Nicola, Jessica and Ben....

The name Beachill may not be missing long on the playing front: four year old Ben and ten year old Jessica are both showing much promise.

Where to now? Well he did enough as President of PSA to show he has much to offer the game; he will be available more often to play top league squash and that will be a boon for Pontefract, so not totally lost as a player. I am sure he will find a way to stay involved in the game, which will be mutually beneficial.

As his coach he has given me some of my very best moments in squash: his control of the ball [and opponents], his ability to delay, the ease of movement and production of the racket all made him a player on whom young players can model themselves.

I have much to thank him for, not least his faith in me, his loyalty, his steadfastness and example to others around him. It is by no means the end, just an end or better the beginning of the next phase of his squash life.

Think of Emma

Sport may be one of life's trivia, but for those striving for excellence or personal fulfilment, it involves much heartache, losing, at least for a while being hard to take.

So it should be, for if losing doesn't hurt, it is unlikely there exists a winner. I suppose it reflects life in dramatic form, but the British Championship was lightened by the presence of Emma Pearson, David's daughter. Wheelchair bound, she greeted everyone by name with a smile and obvious delight.

As David, stressed, watching Jenny, his step daughter in her semi final, grew more stessed she tells someone:

"He needs to relax". and then in his nervous agitation, as he heads for the toilet she asks, "Is he going to the toilet again?"

David told me in the week running up to the championship she rang him frequently, inquiring about his well being.

She clearly sees him as the one with problems and she may be right; she is uncomplaining, delightful, indeed beautiful, accepting life's cards as they have been unkindly dealt, an example to us all.

So next time you lose, remember Emma ...

2008 Archive      2007 Archive       2006 Archive



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