Nicol succumbs to Frenchman

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The Independent Online

Thierry Lincou of France upset the two-time defending champion and the world's top player, Peter Nicol of England, yesterday at the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Open.

The world No 20 from Marseilles beat Nicol 15-12, 5-15, 15-12, 15-8 in the first round of the championship. After the shock defeat, Nicol conceded that he was beaten by "the better man".

"I simply wasn't good enough today," said Nicol, who recently renounced his Scottish nationality. "He had an answer for whatever I tried to do."

His appraisal was enthusiastically endorsed by the Frenchman. "I deserved to win," said an elated Lincou, who is returning to competitive action after an enforced break of four months. "I have worked very hard for this win.

"I broke my hand four months ago and this is my comeback. I was ranked eighth last year but have now dropped to 20. I'm determined to enter the top ten and this was a great win for me."

He will now face another left-hander in today's second round after England's 14th seed Chris Walker – a surprise runner-up in the British Open in June – defeated the Dutch qualifier Tommy Berden 14-15, 15-10, 15-14, 15-11 in 58 minutes.

The sixth-seed John White, the former Australian who took up Scottish nationality almost three years ago, also suffered a shock first-round defeat.

Perhaps still smarting from news of the Commonwealth Games authority's ban on him representing his new country in the 2002 Games in Manchester, White went down 15-13, 15-9, 15-10 to the Finnish qualifier Olli Tuominen in 51 minutes. White's eighth-seeded compatriot Martin Heath narrowly survived his opening encounter, beating the unseeded Canadian Graham Ryding 15-3, 12-15, 7-15, 15-13, 15-14 in 72 minutes.

In the women's competition, the world champion Carol Owens of Australia eased her way past the Asian champion Nicol David of Malaysia 9-5, 9-2, 9-7 in the opening round.

England's 15th seed, Vicky Botwright, failed to survive the first-round hurdle when she was beaten 9-7, 9-6, 4-9, 10-9 in 48 minutes by the veteran Australian Liz Irving, a qualifier.