Squash: Defeat threatens Nicol's No 1 status

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The Independent Online

Peter Nicol's hopes of regaining the World Open title ended in a shock second-round defeat to the Italian Davide Bianchetti yesterday.

Britain's world No 1, troubled by a stomach bug he picked up last week in Dubai, did not want to make excuses for being beaten in 67 minutes in five games to the world No 35.

"I knew in the third game I wasn't going to win the match," said the top seed after losing 11-15, 12-15, 15-7, 15-4, 15-10. "He knew he could win and began stepping forward to take the ball and playing well.

"I didn't think I was able to win after that, although I kept trying. My stomach problem just hasn't cleared up and I still feel weak. It's a big disappointment but these things happen."

Nicol stumbled around, either retrieving desperately, or taking all sorts of energy-saving gambles with drops and volley drops. He led 6-4 in the decider, but then trailed 7-8 before Bianchetti played three good front-court winners to put the match out of reach. The upset opens up a great chance for David Palmer, who is in the same half of the draw.

The defending champion and third seed shrugged off a thigh injury and stormed into the third round with an easy victory over Mohammad Azlan Iskander, of Malaysia, 15-8, 15-9, 15-11.

Nicol's woes will be compounded if the second seed, John White, reaches the third round. The Australian-raised Scottish international will then take over at the top from Nicol, who has been world No 1 for two unbroken years.

Bianchetti next plays Gregory Gaultier, the world No 10 from France

"Of course I am very pleased to have taken my chance, but I could see that Peter wasn't right," Bianchetti said. "This is the greatest win of my career and my parents will be as much elated as I am."