Johnson prolongs Nicol's Open jinx

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The Independent Online
Squash

Peter Nicol fell foul of his British Open jinx again yesterday when he lost in the first round in Cardiff. The British national champion, who has failed to win a match in four attempts at the event, was beaten 15-13, 15-12, 3-15, 9-15, 15-13 in 96 minutes by Paul Johnson, the No 7 seed.

Nicol was fancied to complete the double of the closed and open British titles but Johnson had other ideas. The world No 27 won on the same court where Nicol had defeated the great Jansher Khan in 1994.

Successive first-match defeats over the previous three years to Zarak Jahan, Craig Rowland and Julien Bonetat seemed to prey on Nicol's mind from the start. He lacked the incisive and positive approach which normally makes his rallying so forceful. From leading 11-6 in the fifth game, Nicol became so loose and defensive that Johnson was able to force victory in three more hands.

"This is my first win over Peter since he rose into the world top 10, although I used to beat him easily and often as a junior. Perhaps that was in his mind today," Johnson said.

Johnson got the benefit of a dubious decision at 5-3 in the fifth game, but that was balanced out two rallies later when a burst ball which should have been ruled a let was called as a point to Nicol. It was the replacement ball that helped Johnson to victory, however.

"The new ball was livelier and allowed me to pick up rhythm and pace just as Peter seemed to tire," Johnson said.

Johnson will now play Tony Hands, who defeated Ahmed Barada, the world junior champion from Egypt, 15-11 15-13, 15-9, in 54 minutes.

In the women's championship, Cassie Jackman took her revenge against Linda Charman, who had put her out of the National Championship. Jackman now faces Vicki Cardwell, the 40-year-old former British Open champion, who defeated Meeghan Bell.

In the same half of the draw, Fiona Geaves, the eighth seed, beat Janie Thacker to set up a match against Rebecca Macree, who defeated Donia Leeves.

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