Wind stops play in World Series squash final between Chabana and Matthew

AFP, Saturday 15 Jan 2011

The World Series squash finals may be cancelled after wind stopped play before Nick Matthew, the world champion from England, and Amr Shabana, the four times former world champion from Egypt, could get on court for their showdown

Shabana vs Matthew

A temporary court at the famous Queen's club in Kensington was torn open by overnight gales and when organisers returned on Saturday morning for the big final they found a four foot hole in the synthetic roof.

With other seams in the material also pulling apart, and pieces of roof hanging down, the court was deemed unsafe for spectators as well as unsuitable for play.

The final between Nick Matthew, the world champion from England, and Amr Shabana, the four times former world champion from Egypt, has been rescheduled for Sunday, but with the structure still deteriorating, the chances of a complete cancellation were said to be very real.

"For spectators who do turn up today there will be a couple of exhibition matches staged on another court in the Queens club," said a tournament spokesperson. "We hope that we can patch up the tear for the final."

"This is particularly disappointing as it's such a great event and been such a fantastic week," said Alex Gough, the Chief Operating Officer of the Professional Squash Association (PSA).

It is even more disappointing as the revolutionary court, which has a solid internal structure and a looser external coating held in place by ties, cost a large six figure dollar sum.

The whole event is said to have cost up to a million dollars, and has been marketed both as the most dynamic tournament in the history of the game, and one which will "lead squash into a new era."

The setback was an especial surprise to the PSA which had understood that the structure could withstand gales of up to 50 miles an hour. The forecast for London last night was for gusts varying between 15 and 30 miles an hour.

Such setbacks are rare in squash, which is predominantly an indoor game. However sun stopped play when bright light poured through a low window at the World Open in Amsterdam in 1988 not long before a historic final between Jahangir and Jansher Khan.

Falling leaves, which came through the air-conditioning system once halted a big tournament in Chichester when Jahangir Khan and the four times world champion Geoff Hunt were on court.

And the World Open in Birmingham was halted for several hours in 1982 when the Australian Dean Williams accidentally knocked a large synthetic panel out of the sidewall.

But Saturday's setback is higher profile than any of those -- and may have happened because of difficulties in forecasting an increasingly unpredictable climate.

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