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Commonwealth Games 2002
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Squash Thursday, 20 June, 2002, 10:16 GMT 11:16 UK
Nicol's Power struggle
Peter Nicol (left) and Jonathon Power (right) in action in Kuala Lumpur in 1998
There was controversy during Nicol's win in 1998

There has been no better rivalry than that between Peter Nicol and Jonathon Power.

It is the champion versus the challenger, the athlete versus the stroke-maker, the disciplined constructor of long rallies against the unpredictable, volatile inventor of the improbable.

In the tongue-in-cheek version, it is the goody-goody against the spoilt child. Even if you don't follow squash there is something to makemost people take sides here.

Power, the former World and British Open champion from Canada, embraces this pantomime stuff more readily. He is not afraid to make a fuss.

Unhappy with the refereeing during the last Commonwealth Games final, in Kuala Lumpur four years ago, Power collided repeatedly with Nicol, screaming, yelling and rolling on the floor melodramatically.

Jonathon Power in action last year
Power is seeking revenge in Manchester
It alarmed the uninitiated and even upset a few of those who had seen it all before.

Nicol, the reigning World and British Open champion from England (via Scotland), was one of them.

Quiet, dedicated and sportsmanlike, he was sufficiently angered to complain loudly and uncharacteristically about Power's antics during their five-game final.

Memories of all the shenanigans as well as the result will remain in a corner of both their minds if they meet again in the final in Manchester as they should.

It is tough to pick a winner. Despite six years of rivalry, controversy and contrasts, and almost 50 encounters between them, there has never been more than a couple of victories separating them on their head-to-head record.

Nicol possesses all the major titles at the moment, but Power has done for him in three big tournaments in 2002 - the Tournament of Champions in New York, the Pakistan Open in Lahore, and the PSA Masters in Doha.

And the Canadian has looked well capable of regaining the world number one spot he had at the end of last year.

Peter Nicol in action last year
Nicol is proof that hard work pays off
Power has done that by getting himself fitter than for a long time and by being prepared to play out many more longer rallies than he used to.

Despite this, his game is still characterised by his uncanny ability to "hold" the ball, delaying the moment of impact a fraction of a second longer so that his opponent is wrong-footed and jerked around.

Nicol has been able to contain this brilliance, at least some of the time, because he has worked hard to recover from hip-related injuries.

That is thanks partly to the prompt top flight physio treatment he now receives from England's World Class Performance programme, part of the reason why he controversially gave up his Scottish loyalties last year.

This has enabled Nicol to maintain his exceptional mobility under stress, to take the ball early, to keep it tight and deep, and to wait until his opponent is out of position or out of breath before delivering the killer blow.

But whether he can deliver it against his revenge-seeking rival is another matter.


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19 Jun 02 | Squash
20 Jun 02 | Squash
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