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Darwish Overcomes Kneipp’s Early Lead to Take Title [final draw]
Oct 3, 2004, By Ethan Oetter from the Missouri Athletic Club; SquashTalk Independent News Service © 2004;



Darwish overcame Kneipp’s Early Lead
photo © 2004 David Barry

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 game one, 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 maneuver 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.


Karim Darwish constantly took Joe Kneipp short
photo © 2004 David Barry

In game two, Darwish began to take every shot short. Kneipp played into Darwish’s hands, and started attempting outright 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 a dramatic 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 Kneipp, the writing was on the wall, and Darwish 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.

RESULTS Finals:     [complete draw]
[3] Karim Darwish (EGY) bt [5] Joseph Kneipp (AUS) 6-11, 11-4, 11-8, 11-5 46 Minutes

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