Monday 17 September 2007

Wolverhampton title timely for Beachill

Lee BeachillLast week's win for Lee Beachill's in the Wolverhampton Open 2007 could not have come at a better time.

The former world number has been out of the top ten rankings for nine months, and the win at the Edgbaston Priory club will surely give him confidence going into the British Open - a title he has never won.

Having seen Beachill many times in tournaments, he appears to be a player whose state of mind affects the outcome of his games more often than his physical condition.

An excellent mover and one of the best exponents of a good-length game, the 29 year-old from Yorkshire also possesses a cache of attacking shots founded on deception - weapons seemingly at odds with the stereotype of an attritional player.

However he never entirely looks like he is enjoying his work on court, with a dogged look on his face that belies a fierce determination. Sometimes the head goes down, but this is rarely followed by the capitulation that this kind of body language displays in other, more emotive, players.

More recently he seems to have suffered from a loss in self-belief that has seen him go out of events in earlier rounds. The reasons for this are unclear, though to many squash players with families, constant world travel is a strain and can impact on their motivation - especially when they have been, like Beachill, the best-ranked player in the world.

To train and focus on reaching the same heights once more must require a huge mental, as well as physical, effort.

A frustrated Beachill in the 2006 Super Series FinalLosing the Super Series

If one particular event sticks in my mind as a point when his confidence must have taken a huge knock, it is the final of the 2006 Super Series. Anthony Rickett's request to change the ball during a game caused chaos, with the officials unsure as to whether this was allowed in the rules. Beachill challenged the request, and was particularly miffed by the lack of guidance available at such an important time in the match. He walked off incensed after losing, clearly unsettled by what had happened.

He had the right to feel let down, though it subsequently turned out that his Australian opponent had acted within the letter (if maybe not the spirit) of the Super Series laws.

With the top ten in the men's game stronger than ever, Beachill will find it harder to get back up the rankings, especially now that Ramy Ashour has graduated from the juniors and looks set to dominate the senior ranks.

Having followed his career, I'd like to see the likable, self-effacing Pontefract man have another (maybe final?) assault on the rankings and be competing in some PSA finals pretty soon.

The win in Wolverhampton provides an excellent platform.

Wolverhampton Open 2007

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