By ROD GILMOUR in Doha
Abdulla al Tamimi didn’t want to wake up two mornings after beating world No.2 Paul Coll. Unused to a rare day-off in tournament squash, the Qatari couldn’t move in bed through stiffness. Yet, his ‘red telephone’ moment arrived with a call to coach Rodney Martin as the pair undertook a sweaty, 20-minute session several hours before Al Tamimi made it through to his first World Series quarter-final.
“It’s a dream come true to play on this big stage,” he said after beating George Parker 3-0 in 39 minutes. “I’m glad the people had this belief in me that one day I could do it. But I’m not satisfied yet.”
Indeed, he now has a great chance to go one better and reach the Q Terminals Qatar Classics semi-finals here in Doha. He faces Frenchman Victor Crouin in Thursday’s last eight. And at the centre of his quest to reach a certain sell-out weekend – this is also the 30th year since the first Qatari tournament was staged – is Martin, the 56-year-old Australian.
“Rodney has the best knowledge of anyone I’ve seen, the best who has hit the ball and how to read your opponent,” said Al Tamimi. “He’s been there and played against Jahangir and Jansher and every word he says, I always try to keep in my head. Even if you are 8-2 down, you can win six points in a row if you keep your focus.”
The Qatari No.1 has twice been in that position in his last two matches. Firstly against an edgy Coll when he was 8-3 down in a lengthy and crucial second game to level the match.
Against Englishman George Parker, Al Tamimi was “sharp from the first point” thanks to his morning hit with Martin. But he also had to stave off a potential comeback from Parker when 8-3 down in the third.
“I’m not letting him get away with the game and keep him confident,” thought Al Tamimi, before accruing a run of points and taking the third 11-9. “I could see his body language change and I knew I had him then.
“I got too excited too early and started wasting points, going short too early and opening up the court. I needed a few hard rallies to get into his legs and then I could fire him in again and that’s exactly what happened. He was lunging too deep and getting off the ball slower.”
With one coach per player now allowed courtside, Martin had told his charge to keep the ball away from Parker’s volley strengths and use width. “I know how to play the game but Rodney gives me small details that no one sees,” the Qatari added.
After several years of work with Geoff Hunt at Aspire Academy and now with New York-based Martin, Al Tamimi still has the drive to succeed and overcome the “chokes” that have come and gone against the top players. Now at a world No.43 ranking, the 27-year-old says he is enjoying the best period of his career.
“Some people were doubting me after I got married and had a child that I would be more busy and drop my squash level,” he said.
“My issue in squash was my patience and I’ve had good opportunities to win over the years. I feel like having a son has increased my patience like you wouldn’t believe. I’m glad and whenever I go home I am more settled, responsible and relaxed and it’s helped a lot in my career.”
His week on home turf is not over yet. Al Tamimi is going into uncharted territory.
Pictures courtesy of PSA World Tour