Top Egyptian squash player faces the unexpected

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HAMILTON, Bermuda: Amr Shabana had a day’s break on Monday in which to consider some unexpected implications of his far-from-easy start in a bid to become the first player to win three World Open titles since the legendary Pakistani Jansher Khan 11 years ago.

The world number one from Egypt was 8-9 down in the fourth game before reaching the second round with a 11-9, 11-8, 7-11, 11-9 win over Renan Lavigne, the third best Frenchman, and with a performance which hinted that his schedule has been much tougher than he would have liked.

Although Shabana played quite solidly in the first game, and creatively in the second, he made more errors than he wished thereafter, suggesting he has some physical recovery to make if he is to resist the challenge of the two other Frenchman, Thierry Lincou and Greg Gaultier, or bring down the defending champion from Australia, David Palmer.

“I played as well as I could considering I have not long come back from three tournaments, said Shabana, who won the Saudi International, the Qatar Classic and the Hong Kong Open in succession.

What he did not mention is that afterwards he was required to play a fourth tournament immediately, the Arab championships in Cairo, leaving him with only three full days recuperation and acclimatization in a six-hour different time zone.

Instead he preferred to give credit to the 33-year-old qualifier from Marseille.

All the top 20 players are good and Renan proved that. I feel okay. I m injury free and it s easy to compete here in Bermuda, said Shabana, who on Tuesday plays Stewart Boswell, the 12th-seeded Australian.

If Shabana wins this he is likely to face Thierry Lincou, the fifth-seeded former world champion from France, who believes his attempt to win back the title is aided by the similarity of the venue with the paradise of Reunion Island, his birthplace.

I know what it is like to play on an island, said Lincou, who on Tuesday faces the surprise survivor Jonathan Kemp, an English qualifier who upset Ong Beng Hee, the 15th-seeded Malaysian.

It is humid. You have to monitor your effort. You really have to plan the way you use it. You don t want to use too much energy in certain rallies but you don t want to rush.

It s a combination you have to find. But I m familiar with it and it will help me.

In the same half is Palmer, whose bid to become the first player successfully to defend the title since Jansher Khan began with a solid straight games win over Shawn Delierre, the Canadian qualifier.

It earned the Aussie a meeting with Peter Barker, a member of the England squad which will defend the world team title in Chennai in 10 days time.

Another member of that squad Lee Beachill, the former world number one, was beaten.

Beachill, the eighth-seeded former world number one from England, ran out of steam after leading 4-1 in the fourth game and was beaten 4-11, 11-8, 5-11, 11-4, 11-5 by the 36-year-old Welshman, Alex Gough, the oldest man on the tour.

It took 76 minutes and Gough will be thankful for a day s rest before trying to upset another seed, Wael el Hindi, the number nine from Egypt, who only survived 9-11, 11-6, 5-11, 11-4, 11-5 in a startling 99-minute match against Eric Galvez, a Mexican qualifier, after a heavy fall and a slight thigh injury, and by saving two match points.

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