Saturday, Dec 07, 2002
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Pakistan's Khalid Atlas (left) contesting a point while his opponent Luke Margan of Australia looks back to see what the Referee's decision would be in an incident-filled match on Friday in the World junior men's squash championship at the TNSRA-SDAT complex. K. Gajendran
On a day when heroics were limited as was class, Pakistan lost only one man from its bunch of five, Shah Nawaz, the youngster who nearly bit the dust against the Indian Gaurav Nandrajog on the second day. But Nawaz since then showed his retrieving ability to fox his later opponents. Against the top seed English player James Willstrop on Friday however things did not work his way, despite his enthusiasm. Willstrop revealed his repertoire of strokes and the Pakistani had no answer.
Variety is the essence of a winning approach and Willstrop has that in abundance. The wristy deceptions that the top world junior unfolded not to mention his amazing reflexes, there was promise that this would set the tone for an absorbing day's proceedings. Alas there was little to please the enthusiasts from there.
However for sheer aggression, sometimes taking it too far, the match between Pakistan's Khalid Atlas and Australia's Luke Margan held much attention. Not only was it the only match of the day which went the distance but it was also brought to fore the tantrums of both players and challenges to a Referee. The Pakistani earned the `conduct-warning' code, more than once, from the Malaysian Referee Azam Yakub, who himself at one stage had the embarassment of correcting his call thrice in succession. Such was the pressure brought on him.
What led to the friction in the rivalry was the near balance in the standards of both players. In fact Margan, who had survived a two-game deficit in the earlier round to send out an Egyptian, is a player who does not give in easily. Backing him is his ability to find the area above the tin with admirable regularity. Atlas was flummoxed in the first game when Margan reeled off seven points in a jiffy to grab the game. He showed his frustration with repeated appealing for or disputing `let'and `stroke' calls.
A pep talk from Coach Rehmat Khan and the Pakistani looked different in the next as he dared the Australian with low volleys to the corner and a drops that merited winners. Margan woke up from deficit to level at 7-7 and that score rooted there for a long while as rallies bogged the progress. But Atlas bagged the second game only to lose grip in the next in a close finish.
Margan was down 0-3 in the fourth game before he bounced back and even led 7-5 before the resilience of the Pakistani showed as he lunged, stretched and showed the alacrity to rest the lead and thereafter the game to restore parity. The decider went neck and neck until the fifth point but the fitness level of Atlas clearly showed as he kept the tempo while drawing away and ensuring he had more to offer in this championship.
For the lone Indian survivor, Siddarth Suchde, it was a long wait for the final match of the day but second seed, Peter Barker of England was not to show any sympathy. The English southpaw's control on the game was evident from his almost relaxed pace of play. Be it the backhand slice to the corner or the soft drops, Barker had them ready to douse Suchde's spirits.
Still it must be said, the Indian did not look overawed and produced a few scorching cross-court drives that Barker's otherwise split-second reflexes could not counter. It was a disappointing end but Suchde can always cherish the progress he made in the Championship and the experience he gained overall.
The results (fourth round): James Willstrop (Eng) bt Shah Nawaz (Pak) 9-6, 9-3, 9-0; Safeerullah Khan (Pak) bt Dylan Bennet (Ned) 9-6, 9-7, 9-3; Khayal Muhammad (Pak) bt Julian Illingworth (USA) 9-3, 9-3, 9-5; Eric M Galvez (Mex) bt Aaron Frankcomb (Aus) 9-1, 9-2, 9-0; Jhie Gough (Aus) bt Bader Hussaini (Kuwt) 9-2, 10-9, 9-3; Majid Khan (Pak) bt Jon Harford (Eng) 7-9, 9-1, 9-0 (conceded); Khalid Atlas (pak) bt Luke Margan (Aus) 2-9, 9-7, 7-9, 10-8, 9-5; Peter Barker (Eng) bt Siddarth Suchde (Ind) 9-4, 9-4, 9-1.
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