SQUASH; Nicol wins World Open

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The Independent Online
SCOTLAND'S PETER Nicol became Britain's first men's world squash champion following his 15-9, 15-13, 15-11 victory over Ahmed Barada in the final of the Al-Ahram World Open in Egypt.

As a result of the win, the 26-year-old from Inverurie will also return to the top of next month's Professional Squash Association men's world rankings, back ahead of Canada's Jonathon Power who succeeded him as world No 1 in May.

Nicol's 65-minute win on Thursday, on an open-air court in the desert overlooked by the Great Pyramids of Giza, was achieved with a capacity crowd of 3,500 cheering on local hero Barada, the world No 3 and semi- final conqueror of Power.

It was the Scot's seventh PSA Tour victory in a row against the 22-year- old Egyptian superstar, and his third successive appearance in a World Open final.

Winning the world title crowns a magnificent 18-month period for Nicol. He won the British Open title in April last year and has since claimed a further seven PSA Tour titles, as well as the first Commonwealth Games squash gold medal in Malaysia a year ago.

Only once during the whole match was Barada able to question Nicol's authority seriously. That was when the Egyptian, a former world junior champion, led 11-7 in the second game - but he held the upper hand only briefly. So strong was Nicol's response that the Scottish left-hander took seven points in a row.

Barada saved two game points and got as close as 13-14 but then ruined it with a hurried forehand volley. Nicol, who has never lost to Barada, was not one bit fazed while the Egyptian was briefly on top, effortlessly stepping up the pace to turn the tide back in his favour.

Barada went for all out attack in the third game, but while he made some headway he also conceded two unforced errors. In fact, the Egyptian hit down six times in the last nine rallies of the deciding game. But it was a delicate drop shot with which Nicol clinched the title,

"I played as well I did because I was totally relaxed," Nicol said. "It did not bother me at all that the big crowd was wholly behind Barada. I just focused on what I had to do and got on with it."

He put in short bursts of aggression but the basis of Nicol's game was to limit Barada's attacking possibilities. He did so by hitting the ball to an accurate length and width, using the ball expertly to push Barada to the back of the court.