Squash: White faces stiff test to hold top spot as he leapfrogs Nicol

John White, the man who picked mangoes and changed nationality to fund his career, jumped to the top of the provisional world rankings for the first time after reaching the last 16 of the World Open yesterday.

The Australian-raised Scot beat the Irishman John Rooney 15-13 15-6 15-12 to leap above Britain's Peter Nicol, though White is still not certain to be No 1 when the rankings are released on 1 January. Nicol's shock defeat by Italy's Davide Bianchetti means he is certain to be demoted for the first time in two years but Thierry Lincou, of France, and David Palmer, Australia's world champion, can overtaking White this week.

White looks in good form, however. For the second successive day he started nervously but he continued to strike the ball sweetly. "It's a good feeling to know that I have overtaken Peter," said White, who thought he might have to quit professional squash when he was doing labouring jobs back in Queensland. "But I am sure when I see my name at the top [next] year I will be much more excited."

Earlier, the tournament produced two surprise quarter-finalists when Malaysia's Ong Beng Hee lost to the 23-year-old Englishman Nick Matthew 15-14 8-15 10-15 15-12 15-5. Another Englishman, Nick Taylor, beat the top-20 Canadian Graham Ryding 15-12 15-6 15-9.

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