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Top squash stars take best shots

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The secret to squash, same as any of the racket sports, is to make one more good shot than the opponent. Simple.

But not as simple as it looks, said Viktor Berg of Canada, a winner in the opening barrage of the Squashworks Professional Open, as he slumped in a chair, toweled sweat from his brow and talked about the altitude — "It's very high here," — and his match — "It went smoothly."

Certainly not easy when a single point, played in a room the size of a small bedroom, involves 30 or 40 hits while on a constant run. And certainly not easy when money ($10,000) and world ranking points are on the line. Berg beat Glenn Keenan of Australia, in the best of five games — 15-9, 15-9, 15-5.

"But it's going to get tougher," he said as he looked ahead to his second opponent — Alberto Manso of Spain. Berg is seeded No. 4 and Manso is unseeded, but he upset Lee Drew of England in three straight, 15-9, 15-7, 15-8.

In another opening match, Mohamed Essam a Hafiz of Egypt, seeded No. 6, beat Jose Facchini of Italy. Hafiz was up 2-love (15-6, 15-8) and was leading in the third, 8-4, when Facchini retired with an injury.

Both winners were huffing and puffing at the conclusion of their match, but both said it was not nearly as bad as when they first arrived.

"At this altitude," said Berg. "I couldn't breathe. It took me two days to adjust. I'm OK now."

He was, but it appeared, especially as the match continued on, that Keenan wasn't.

"In a match like this, you keep the pressure on and try and tire the opponent. Among the top men, the one who usually wins is the one who is a little fitter," said Berg. "I could tell he was tiring. He was making mistakes."

One thing noticeably missing from this 16-player pro draw is the presence of a player from the United States. The reason, as a couple of players pointed out, is because squash is a rising sport in America, where in other countries it has already arrived.

In Egypt, for example, pointed out Hafiz, it ranks third behind football (soccer) and handball.

This tournament, said Craig Bennett, event director and club manager, features one of the strongest and largest fields of squash players to visit Utah.

"We've had good players before but not this many, and they've only played one or two matches. These players are the best in the world, and they'll be playing in 29 matches over four days," he pointed out.

In other matches, top seeded Stefan Casteleyn of Belgium beat Laurant Elriani of France, 15-17, 15-8, 15-4, 15-12; Yasser El Halaby of Egypt upset No. 3 seeded Bradley Ball of England, 15-11; 15-7, 17-15; Gregory Gaultier of France upset No. 7 seeded Nikkel Korsbjerg of Denmark, 15-11, 15-6, 15-5; Oriol Salvia of Spain upset No. 5 seeded Matt Jenson of Australia, 15-12, 15-10, 15-2; and Shahier Razik of Canada beat Peter Pastun of Belgium, 15-9, 11-15, 15-4, 15-7.

The event continues Friday with round two between 5 and 9 p.m. The semifinals will be Saturday starting at 3 p.m. and the finals on Sunday starting at noon.

The Squashworks is located at 225 S. 500 East.

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