Squash: Nicol wakes up from his early nightmare

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PETER NICOL, the world No 1 from Scotland, struggled to defeat Amr Shabana of Egypt in four games in the first round of the Hong Kong Open yesterday.

Nicol lost the first game before adopting a "safety first" stance and advancing 14-15, 15-12, 15-12, 15-7.

The Scotsman, who won the British Open in April before squash shut down for four months, is a notoriously slow starter and always has trouble against fellow left-handers like the unseeded Shabana.

"I dodged a bullet out there," he said. "I find it hard playing against left-handers and had difficulty seeing the ball on that court. It was an absolute nightmare.

"I have been trying to be more aggressive, but I had to play it safe because I could not see the ball properly."

The world champion Rodney Eyles, of Australia, seeded fourth, also stuttered at the start before finding his rhythm against the qualifier Nicholas Taylor of England.

Eyles reached the second round with a 15-17, 15-11, 15-11, 15-7 win. Kent's Paul Johnson beat the Welsh champion, David Evans, 15-11, 15-12, 16-17, 15-13 to set up a second-round showdown with the Scotsman, Martin Heath, while Wales' Alex Gough beat Belgium's Stefan Casteleyn 15-13, 15-12, 15-5.

The sport's most successful player this decade, Pakistan's Jansher Khan, will be bidding for a century of titles when he begins his defence of the title today with a match against his namesake Faheem Khan of Hong Kong.

Jansher, who has won the title a record eight times, will be playing his first tournament since undergoing operations on both knees in April.

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