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St Louis MPM Open 2004
30-03 Oct, St Louis, USA, $30k

03-Oct, FINAL:

After a lighted hearted doubles game between Mark Chaloner, Alex Gough, Simon Parke and Graham Ryding, the crowd enjoyed a serious battle as Karim Darwish overcame Joe Kneipp to take the 2004 St. Louis MPM Open Title.

[3] Karim Darwish (Egy) bt [5] Joe Kneipp (Aus)
     6/11, 11/4, 11/8, 11/5 (46m)

Ethan Oetter reports from St Louis

Darwish Delight in St Louis

The final match of the St. Louis MPM Open pitted a gifted shot-maker (Darwish) against a more traditional opponent (Kneipp).

The first game started slowly, with both players straining to get comfortable. Three early errors by Darwish coupled with Kneipp playing stellar, patient, textbook squash gave Kneipp an early edge. Darwish began sweating about half way through the game, indicating that his two previous five game wins may have taken their toll. Darwish’s movement was a bit languid; he seemed a little late in reaching Kneipp’s expertly placed drops. However, Darwish tried to claw his way back into the game, and emerged on the winning side of some colossal rallies.

A distinct difference in the two players’ approaches to the game began to emerge. Kneipp seemed to use the drop shot to manoeuvre his opponent out of position, while Darwish’s drops were intended to end the rally. Thus, Darwish’s game both lives and dies by the drop. He hit an untimely tin at 9-5 to give Kneipp game ball. Kneipp, looking fresh and determined, won the following point with ease. It appeared as if Darwish’s sore and tired legs might not be up for the challenge of a fresher and patient Kneipp.

In the second game, Darwish began to take every shot short. Kneipp played into Darwish’s hands, and started attempting outlandish winners as well. The points were short, but the shots were spectacular. Kneipp’s length was a little loose, resulting in Darwish being awarded three strokes in the first half of the game. With Darwish leading 7-4, Joe Kneipp (ever the sportsman) called a down ball on himself to give Darwish a nearly insurmountable lead. Darwish used his momentum to reel off some quick winners to take the game 11-4.

Darwish walked onto the court with renewed confidence in the third game. It was obvious by his refusal to get caught up in long rallies that he did not want to have another five game marathon like his semi-final match with Jonathon Power. Darwish was in the zone and began to play flawless squash. However, at 3-3, Kneipp countered a Darwish smash with a delicate boast that barely grazed the front wall for a brilliant winner. Kneipp’s cat-like reflex boast was arguably the most unorthodox shot of the tournament, but it swung the momentum his way temporarily. The end of the game was characterized by both players invading the other’s space, and the points being determined by the referee. Darwish took the game 11-8 with his famous whip-like forehand kill shot.

It was all Darwish in game four. Simply put, Darwish possessed more weapons in his shot arsenal today than Kneipp. Darwish broke away from Kneipp with three nicks from awkward back court positions. At this point, Darwish had succeeded in turning the match into a shot-making exhibition. At 3-10 down, Kneipp refused to quit and won the next two points by returning everything Darwish could throw at him.

Unfortunately for Joe, the writing was on the wall, and Karim clinched the tournament with his signature forehand counter drop. Darwish flashed a quick smile to the crowd, and was all business as he exited the court, one step closer in his quest to become the best squash player in the world.

                                                 Full match reports

Photos by
David Barry



St Louis MPM Open 2004
1st Round
Thu 30th
Fri 1st
Sat 2nd
un 3rd
[1] Jonathon Power (Can)
11/6, 9/11, 3/11, 11/8, 11/8 (84m)
[Q] Simon Parke (Eng)
Jonathon Power
11/9, 11/7, 6/11, 11/2 (52m)
Anthony Ricketts
Jonathon Power

11-6, 9-11, 10-11 (0-2), 11-6, 11-6 (68m)

Karim Darwish
Karim Darwish 

6/11, 11/4, 11/8, 11/5 (46m)

Joe Kneipp

[6] Anthony Ricketts (Aus)
11/6, 11/3, 8/11, 11/9 (40m)
[Q] Ben Garner (Eng)
[3] Karim Darwish (Egy)
11/4, 11/10(5-3), 6/11, 11/7 (51m)
[Q] Wael El Hindi (Egy)
Karim Darwish
11/6, 4/11, 8/11, 11/8, 11/5 (60m)
Graham Ryding
[8] Graham Ryding (Can)
11/10(2-0), 11/3, 4/11, 11/6 (56m)
Mark Chaloner (Eng)
Michael Puertas (Usa)
3/11, 11/5, 11/6, 11/5 (43m)
[5] Joe Kneipp (Aus)
Joe Kneipp
11/7, 11/5, 11/2 (30m)
Gregory Gaultier
Joe Kneipp

8-11, 11-2, 11-2, 11-4 (38m)

Amr Shabana
Alex Gough (Wal)
6/11, 11/8, 11/1, 11/2 (52m)
[4] Gregory Gaultier (Fra)
[Q] Laurens Jan Anjema (Ned)
11/9, 8/11, 11/7, 11/10(2-0) (55m)
[7] Mohammed Abbas (Egy)
Mohammed Abbas
11/8, 9/11, 11/4, 10-11(1-3), 11/5 (75m)
Amr Shabana
Paul Price (Aus)
11/4, 11/4, 4-0 rtd (20m)
[2] Amr Shabana (Egy)

Qualifying finals  report from David Barry:

Simon Parke (Eng) bt Cameron Pilley (Aus) 11-3, 11-5, 8-11, 11-6 (68m)
Laurens Jan Anjema (Ned) bt Rodney Durbach (RSA) 11-6, 11-10 (2-0), 11-10 (2-0) (53m)
Wael El Hindi (Egy) bt Gavin Jones (Wal) 11-6, 7-11, 11-4, 11-4 (52m)
Ben Garner (Eng) bt Lee Drew (Eng) 11-9, 11-3, 11-7 (44m)


02-Oct, Semi-Finals:
A packed house was treated to another exciting night of squash as Karim Darwish and Joe Kneipp advanced to the final.

[3] Karim Darwish (Egy) bt [1] Jonathon Power (Can)
      11-6, 9-11, 10-11 (0-2), 11-6, 11-6 (68m)
[5] Joe Kneipp (Aus) bt [2] Amr Shabana (Egy)
      8-11, 11-2, 11-2, 11-4 (38m)

Ethan Oetter reports from St Louis

Power outgunned by Darwish
The first match of the evening was an epic battle, reminiscent of the Jonathon Power and Simon Parke first round encounter a couple of nights earlier. Darwish started beautifully, fully utilizing his lethal arsenal of blistering drives and punishing drops. Darwish was aided by some uncharacteristically bad shots from Power’s racket to take the first game. Incredibly, Darwish won 7 of his 11 points on dead nicks.

Power settled down in game two and showed that he was able to handle Darwish’s deftly placed shots. There were many rallies where Darwish had to hit about three of four winning caliber shots in order to work Power enough out of position to win the rally.

The players traded points till 9 all, when Power went on to win the game, but not without some controversy on the point that tipped the momentum in his favour. Court one at the Missouri Athletic Club uses tins that beep loudly and flash when struck. However, the electronic sensors cannot be relied upon to detect a delicate touch on the top edge. Darwish hit a nice backhand drop, and Power rushed in to play the counter drop. Power’s ball did not trigger the tin’s flashing lights, but may have touched the tin. The ball was ruled good, to the dismay of Darwish.

With the games tied at one apiece, both players believed that the match was theirs to win. Consequently, both shot maestros tried to dictate the pace. This resulted in a complete lack of rhythm and short rallies punctuated by frequent drop shots. Darwish began to go for winners from Power’s serves, and Power would drop him right back. At 6-5, Power pushed Darwish out of his path and threw his horizontally stretched body to the ball, just to show the referee that he could return the shot. At 8-8, Darwish and Power duelled over who could hit the better drop; the rally was eventually won by Darwish, 14 drop shots later! It was clear that the match would be determined by shot making finesse rather than fitness. Darwish brilliantly disguised a forehand crosscourt to wrong foot Power at 9-9. Power relinquished the next point on an errant drop that landed 4 inches below the tin. However, Power managed to take the game by extending the points and waiting for Darwish to make the mistakes.

The momentum shifted as soon as the players stepped on the court in game four. Darwish was in the zone and cruised by Power with error-free squash.

Game five was characterized by extremely tight drives and out-of-this-world retrieving. Darwish shot out to a quick lead with early winners. However, as long as Power has a racket, he is in the match. Power struggled valiantly to level the score, but Darwish’s early lead in the fifth was too much for Power to overcome. The last point was a classic, a 55 shot stunner that produced various looks of awe among the capacity crowd. It was fitting that the last shot was a Darwish kill shot about a millimeter above the tin.

Kneipp Crushes Shabana

The second semi-final of the evening could not have been more different from the first. Both players started nervously. Loose shots flew equally off both players’ rackets, resulting in numerous strokes. The very tricky Shabana found his rhythm first but played fairly uninspired squash, in stark contrast to his brilliant and energetic performance in his semifinal victory over fellow countryman Mohammed Abbas. Although Shabana was not playing his best, he dictated play in winning the first game and seemed assured of winning the match unless Kneipp could raise his game.

And raise his game was exactly what Kneipp did in the second game. The first rally was the best point of the tournament, and it looked like another five gamer was under way. Kneipp dug all of Shabana’s shots out of the front corners and began to hit some brilliant winners of his own. Kneipp built his lead to 7-2 with consistent play, at which point Shabana surrendered. Shabana lost the next four points in about 30 seconds.

Games three and four were all Kneipp. Kneipp opened both games by building early leads to discourage Shabana’s thoughts of a comeback. Shabana’s concentration escaped him, and he began heaving his racket at the various corners of the court.

Referee Jonathon Power said it all when he remarked to Shabana: “next time you throw your racquet, try to throw it away from the camera” (which was positioned in the front left corner of the court). Enough said.

01-Oct, Quarters:
A packed house was treated to an exciting night of squash as Power, Darwish, Kneipp and Shabana advanced to the semi-finals. Todd Taylor reports from St Louis

Power bumps past Ricketts

Jonathon Power (Can) bt Anthony Ricketts (Aus)
   11-9, 11-7, 6-11, 11-2 (52m)

At times this match appeared to be more of a wrestling match than a squash match. Power and Ricketts bumped and battled one another throughout. At one point they went to the floor on top of one another. Ricketts complained to referee Simon Parke that Power was bumping him excessively, to which Parke replied: “I know, I played him last night.

“Play on,” said Parke.

Game one was close throughout with Power prevailing 11-9. The second game was the most physical of the match with both players requesting lets and appealing to anyone that would listen. In this, the longest game of the match, Power maintained his composure in spite of the physical play to win 11-7 and take a 2-0 lead.

In the third Power became frustrated with his own shot making and appeared to almost deliberately bury several balls into the tin mid way through the game. Clearly his head
was not in tune and he surrendered the game 11-6.

But in the fourth the Canadian proved why he is a champion, totally dominating the play to win 11-2 and advance to the semi-finals.

Darwish & Ryding treat the fans

Karim Darwish (Egy) bt Graham Ryding (Can)
    11-6, 4-11, 8-11, 11-8, 11-5 (60m)

Darwish and Ryding gave the fans a treat with a very stylish match featuring a broad array of shots. Many rallies with drop and boast winners showed the tremendous touch of these two players, and their willingness to play an extremely aggressive game.

They traded games in a very even contest to send the match to a decisive fifth game, but in the end Darwish controlled the tempo of that final game, and applied pressure to Ryding in a sequence of play that featured multiple let calls. Finally, an unforced error from Ryding at 9-5 put Darwish in position to close out the game 11-5 and move into the semi final.

Kneipp despatches Gaultier

Joseph Kneipp (Aus) bt Gregory Gaultier (Fra)
    11-7, 11-5, 11-2 (30m)

This match was almost over before it started. Kneipp despatched France’s Gaultier in just 30 minutes.

Gaultier put up a strong opening game but thereafter the match was never really close, with Kneipp playing at his best. Kneipp totally controlled the pace and at 6-2 in the third game it became clear that Gaultier wanted to be off the court. The final points lasted only a couple of minutes and Kneipp eased into the semis.

Shabana shows his class

Amr Shabana (Egy) bt Mohammed Abbas (Egy)
     11-8, 9-11, 11-4, 10-11 (1-3), 11-5 (75m)

A great match featuring fellow Egyptians truly captured the crowd. This match was either player’s to win all the way to the end. Neither was the clear dominator as the game four 11-11 tie suggests.

However, Shabana ran to an early lead in the fifth and deciding game and never looked back. Some incredibly athletic diving gets and lightning quick changes of direction allowed the World Champion to take the final game 11-5 and earn a spot in the semi finals against Joe Kneipp.


First Round in St Louis
Todd Taylor Reports …

[1] Jonathon Power (Can) bt [Q] Simon Parke (Eng)
      11/6, 9/11, 3/11, 11/8, 11/8 (84m)

Power Survives
Parke Test
Todd Taylor reports from St Louis
Jonathon Power, in his first match after withdrawing from the US Open through injury, would have wanted anyone but Simon Parke from the qualifying draw. But Parke it was who came out of the hat against the Canadian, and it proved to be just as stern a test as Power would have feared.

The match more than lived up to its billing, captivating both the crowd and the other competitors, and prompted Michael Puertas, the MAC club professional who enjoyed a wild-card into the main draw, to bill it as “the best competition I’ve seen in my 21 years in squash.”

Power controlled the pace of the match and never seemed to be under too much pressure, but Parke proved that he was in top condition and won the crowd with his “never say die” effort.

A mix of good lengths and well timed drop shots allowed Power to take game one to 6 and many thought Parke may be overmatched. But in game 2 Parke took control and never gave up the lead. Power surged late and won several hotly contested rallies but could not overcome the deficit. On game point Parke made a tremendous retrieval that Power strongly protested as “down”. It was clear to all but Jonathon Power that Parke had successfully played the shot.

Clearly in game 3 Power was still fuming over the second game. Parke hustled out every ball and dominated, winning the game and the awed crowd.

But it was not to be for Parke. Power gathered himself, and in spite of a few tantrums and unforced errors he controlled the pace in game 4.

It was only fitting that this match went the distance. If it is possible, Parke appeared to get stronger in game 5. Power pushed Parke’s endurance to the limit, but Parke never quit. At the end of the most hotly contested game of the match Power prevailed 11-8.

This match was a real treat for the fans who seemed almost as exhausted as the players.


Joseph Kneipp bt  Michael Puertas (USA)
3-11, 11-5, 11-6, 11-5 (43m)

Had it not been for the Power v Parke face off, this would have been the match of the tournament. Home pro Mike Puertas gave the crowd a thrill with a first game 11-3 victory. Puertas showed signs of his distant youth with some tremendous shot making and deception. Confused after winning game 1, Puertas thought he had won the match and left for the bar, but was quickly dragged back to the court to finish the battle.

Proving that old age is not all it’s cracked up to be Puertas gave up games 2, 3, and 4 in just over 20 minutes.

Graham Ryding bt Mark Chaloner  11-10 (2-0), 11-3, 4-11, 11-6 (56m)

This match featured world #17 Graham Ryding vs. world #19 Mark Chaloner. In game one, neither player took total control. Long rallies and strong play on both sides gave the fans a tremendously exciting opening game that went to Ryding in the first two points of overtime.

Ryding dominated game 2 gaining an early lead and never looked back, winning 11-3. In game 3 Chaloner took advantage of several unforced errors by Ryding who fell behind 8-2 and was never able to dig out of the hole.

Chaloner kept game 4 close until 6 each, when Ryding pulled ahead with several quick points and ended the match in a game that lasted less than 10 minutes.

Gregory Gaultier bt Alex Gough (Wales)  6-11, 11-8, 11-1, 11-2 (52m)

Gough, unhappy with his loose play early in the match, tightened up to win the first game 11-6. This game was not even close with Gough only giving up a few points shooting and missing when trying to close out the game.

But Gaultier proved to be the more conditioned athlete and continually extended the rallies, slowly wearing Gough down. Gaultier never appeared pressured and seemed to always be in the right place at the right time. After 6 each in game 2, Gaultier never lost a lead again, winning game two 11-8 and games three and four allowing Gough a total of just 3 points.

Mohammed Abbas bt Laurens Jan Anjema  11-9, 8-11, 11-7, 11-10 (2-0) (55m)

Abbas controlled game 1 early but made 3 unforced errors in a row to allow Anjema to tie the game. In fact 6 of Anjema’s 9 points in this game came from errors by Abbas, but the Egyptian was able to hold on to take the lead.

Game two was tight until Abbas put two shots into the tin at 7-7 and 8-7. Anjema took advantage and went on to win it 11-8. Abbas then sprinted to a 7-2 lead in game 3 and in spite of 2 strokes and a late surge by Anjema he hung on to take it 11-7.

In a fitting game 4 the lead see sawed back and forth. At 6-6 Abbas took control and went up 10-7. Anjema took advantage of another stroke and his own strong play to tie the game 10 each, but Abbas won two quick points to finish the match.

Qualifying Finals in St Louis
Todd Taylor Reports …

Simon Parke (England) bt Cameron Pilley (Australia) 3/1

In what was certainly the match of the qualifying round, former world #3 Simon Parke outlasted Australian Cameron Pilley in a 1 hour and 8 minute marathon. Parke controlled the opening game, which featured long rallies as the two players felt each other out. Park only surrendered points late in the game when his lead seemed insurmountable.

In game 2, the shortest game of the match, Parke made a couple of early unforced errors but quickly over came them, hitting winners on loose balls by his opponent. 

Pilley poured on the steam in game 3 to take an 11 – 8 victory in a game that lasted nearly 25 minutes. Pilley earned his first lead of the match at 3-2 and promptly served a ball out of court. At 3 – 3 Parke made an unforced error giving the serve back to his opponent. Pilley never looked back, and although game 3 was hotly contested, Pilley pressured Parke into several errors at the end of some very long rallies.

In game 4 Parke proved that he had arrived at the tournament in top condition. He gained an early lead in the final and never surrendered. Pilley made a tremendous late surge but could not over come Parke’s advantage. At 9 – 6, in possibly the point of the match each player looked to be out of the point on several occasions. The rally lasted over 100 strokes with Parke finishing with a misdirection drop shot. 

Parke’s conditioning and experience gave him the victory in this match. He will need all of his skills in his first round match against #1 seed Jonathon Power Thursday at the Missouri Athletic Club.

Wael El Hindi (Egypt) bt Gavin Jones (Wales) 3/1

In this 4 game match, El Hindi never seemed to be out of position and no ball seemed out of his reach. His movement to the ball looked effortless. The first game lasted only 10 minutes and featured relatively short rallies with several unforced errors by both players.

Longer rallies in game 2 taxed both players causing numerous let calls by both players. In the end, Jones proved victorious due to several late unforced errors by El Hindi.

El Hindi controlled the pace in games 3 and 4 winning both with a score of 11-4. He will go on to face #3 seed Karim Darwish in the first round on Thursday night at the Racquet Club

Ben Garner (England) bt Lee Drew (England) 3/0 

After a close first game in which both players performed well, Drew left many shots loose and gave Garner too many openings. Garner’s solid play moves him into the weekend draw.

Garner faces Australian Anthony Ricketts at the Racquet Club in St. Louis on Thursday.

Laurens Jan Anjema (Netherlands) bt Rodney Durbach (RSA) 3/0

Anjema came out firing in the first game and put Durbach on his heels who seemed a little slow out of the blocks, lacking in depth on the length. Durbach improved, and put up a good battle and gained the lead in games 2 and 3 but was unable to make his leads stick. Anjema played at a typically high pace, restricting Durbach, especially on the return of serve. Despite this, Durbach was able to get ahead 8-6 in the 2nd and to 8 in the 3rd, pushing Anjema to the back corners, but in the end was unable to keep up with the fast pace and constant pressure applied by his opponent.

Anjema faces Egypt’s Mohammed Abbas in the first round on Thursday at the Missouri Athletic Club

Quality Qualifiers in St Louis
Framboise looks at the St Louis Draw

I have the pleasure of knowing rather well 3 of the 4 qualifiers, and they are VERY strong indeed….

LJ Anjema, young Dutch player, training in Chingford for a few years with Neil Harvey. A very disciplined and hard working young man, extremely clever, witty, and a touch stubborn, just the way I like them… I personally believe he could explode in the rankings this year. Already 2004 was kind to him (a final in Chartres, and 2 victories: Dutch and Corona Mexican Open).

Spot the Match
I think 3 matches in particular have to be particularly interesting: Ricketts against Garner, Shabana vs Price, and of course, of course, Power vs Parke, especially as Jonathan couldn’t participate in the US Open because of a gluteus mininus injury….

Ben Garner, young brother of Tim of course (the heart of BSPA and one of the Eventis Trio). In the English Open this August, he silenced all who questioned his wildcard, by pushing John White to the limit. Watch out for Ben, he could surprise you…

And how to miss the Parke! He is EVERYWHERE. And on a personal note, I wished he hadn’t been in Boston a couple of weeks ago…. At the age where the others are choosing coaching or sleepers, he decides to copycat Agassi, and lines up the scalps: Mark Chaloner, Nick Matthew, Peter Nicol, and of course, Thierry Lincou. Is he going to add Jonathan Power?

Do not ask me to guess the winner of that one. I have seen Gough play so well at the English Open against Matthew, I’m extremely weary of that welsh old timer. So, a French magician against a clever Welsh? I wish I was there…