Nicol breaks his hoodoo

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The Independent Online
Peter Nicol, the world No 3, celebrated his 24th birthday by becoming the first Scot for 33 years to reach the final of the British Open in Cardiff yesterday. The left-hander beat the second-seeded Australian Rodney Eyles 5-15, 15-12, 17-14, 15-2 with one of the finest performances of his career and one belying his four-year hoodoo at this tournament.

Now he faces the difficult task of dethroning the great Pakistani, Jansher Khan, who beat Ahmed Barada of Egypt by three games to one in the other semi-final.

Nicol, who had never won a match in the main draw here before, has been successful this week because he added to his wonderful court coverage, which helped him through his difficult quarter-final with another Australian, Brett Martin, the imposing ability to get in front of his opponent, to move him about to the four corners and to tire him out.

It first became apparent that this was happening against Eyles yesterday after a rally in which, paradoxically, Nicol was on the wrong end of every stroke except the last. A sequence of spectacular retrieves were followed by the Scot's winning backhand drop and, within two or three points, Eyles was struggling to reach anything short.Nicol had to save a game point at 13-14 with a backhand drop, but comfortably won all three points in the tie-breaker.