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Saturday, October 23, 2021

BLOG: Peter Nicol’s memories of US Open

Lee Hortonhttps://squashmad.com
Former Sun, Mirror, People and Sunday Express sports executive. Knows a bit about newspapers and the art of talking a good game. Brighter than some but a way to go to match others.

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FORMER world No.1 Peter Nicol MBE,  World Open winner, twice British Open winner, four times Commonwealth Games goal medallist and all round good guy, is co-founder of the revolutionary online coaching site http://squashskills.com/.
He also has a a treasure trove of memories from his numerous performances at the US Open. This year’s event starts next week. Here’s some of  Peter’s recollections, courtesy of squashskills.com.

This week sees the start of the US Open in Philadelphia which made me reminisce back to my playing the event – from Brown University in 1994 through to my final appearance at Symphony Hall, Boston in 2004. The event has changed dramatically in that time, starting as a smaller prize-money and regular court event to what is now a World Series event with glass court in a 2,000 seat auditorium. I played in Rhode Island, Minnesota and Boston with my favourite moments and memories coming in the latter venue. I wanted to share some stories from my time playing the event, if I can remember that far back now – they started 19 years ago!

I headed to Brown University in Rhode Island to play in my first US Open and was excited to play what was then a smaller event than others I was playing in at the time. The plan between my coach, Neil Harvey and I, was to get back into winning ways after some successful but ultimately fruitless events in terms of winning – a certain Jansher Khan was just a little too good at that time and I was having problems defeating Rodney Eyles as well. Although still a tough draw, none of the top 3 players were present so that left me in pole position to get the win I really wanted.
 My first real test was against Adrian Davies, known as the Welsh Wizard. He had been as high as 10 in the ranking but was prone to fluctuations in fitness levels but certainly understood how to play squash. I rapidly went down 2-0 and my only thought was what a disaster this had been – best laid plans and preparation only to fail in the first round!

However, as Adrian started to slow down physically, I turned up the pace and after a tense and close 3rd game, I went on to win comfortably in 5. It was another reminder (and one I talk a lot about today) that the match is over the course of 5 games and it doesn’t matter how outplayed or embarrassed you may be initially; there are normally always solutions and opportunities down the line, you just have to be aware and ready to take advantage of them – keep focussed and alert to the possibilities!

 The next two rounds were tough but uneventful as I made my way to the final to come up against Chris Walker (English team captain and highest world ranking of 4) in an all left handed affair.

I remember a company trialling a camera in the front of the court and thought to myself how cool it was to be involved in something so new and revolutionary(!). Chris and I had a ding dong battle that went all the way, with my finally winning in a close 5th game to become US Open Champion – the first major title in my career.

I’ve thought a lot about the first round and my match against Adrian Davies and how marginal differences change games, matches and careers. I had another one not long after in 1997, when having thought I lost in the first round of the British Open (again!) the referee made a decision which kept me in the match. I eventually won that match and then went on to lose in the final against Jansher in over 2hours.

There are so many others I can remember throughout my career and other players around me but I do notice one particular trait of players who take advantage of those situations – they always believe and never, ever give up. I’m sure this year’s US Open will see many close matches but will there be one that changes a career?

 Part two next week with my favourite matches played at the US Open – Rodney Eyles in 1997 & Jonathon Power in 2001/2

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