By RJ Mitchell
He was one of the most gifted shotmakers and flair players that the modern squash game has seen and for Jonathon Power, the 2022-23 PSA World Championships mark a special anniversary.
It’s 25 years since the Canadian won his first and only World Championship when he defeated Peter Nicol 15-17, 15-7, 15-9, 15-10 in Doha.
Power remains the only Canadian to have lifted the most prestigious title in squash. His protégé – Diego Elias – could pull off a similar achievement this week as he bids to become the first player from Peru to become World Champion.
Looking back on his form around the time of his landmark win, Power says:
“For me to become World Champion was just pure relief. The pressure I had put on myself was immense and at 23 I had done it and it was almost the end of the journey.
“After that, I achieved my goals, got to No.1 and was World Champion and then life was just more of the same.
“Once I had realised these goals it became difficult as I would get injured, try and get it back and have fun again and then there was another injury.
“I was more a moment to moment guy and not one to think about winning more championships. But that was certainly the moment for me.”
Looking back at his progress through the draw, Power enjoyed a serene path through the early rounds.
Straight game defeats of Pakistan’s Mansoor Zaman, England’s Tim Garner and Power’s great friend and fellow Canadian Graham Ryding booked a quarter-final berth against the volatile Egyptian Ahmed Barada.
It was the subsequent 15-5, 15-2, 15-3 demolition of No.5 seed Barada that confirmed to Power that he was peaking at the perfect time.
“Barada in the quarters was definitely a good one. I think he was ranked three in the world at that time and to run through him was pretty satisfying.
“I produced my best squash, was on the ball pretty early and it was one of those really memorable days when it all just came together for me.
“Barada was the [Mostafa] Asal of our day, he invented all that stuff and played the game to win. He was just very good at knowing how to push it and he just did everything he could to get that ‘W.’ I took real satisfaction from that win and the way I played.”
Power dispatched Australia’s Anthony Hill in four games in the semis before facing top seed Nicol in the final that everyone wanted to see.
Reflecting on the clash, the former World No.1 said:
“The first game was really tough, maybe half an hour, and he won it on the tiebreak. The pace was really quick and there was a lot of corner to corner stuff.
“The match-up between Peter and I was almost like a maths equation. I made him do a lot of running and he was fitter than I was and liked to soak it up and it came to whoever ran out of gas first really.
“But early in the second, maybe 5-2, I played a little hold crossing to the front and he leant the wrong way. He could have come back and got it, but he didn’t run and I knew the match was over.
“Once Peter or I had lost that first step speed, you were just hanging on and there is no way you can win.
“Back then, somebody almost always didn’t make the finish line whereas now with the scoring system it means making the finishing line doesn’t count the same way.”
Having previously suffered a nasty ankle ligament tear and then developing a back issue, the great Canadian never added to his solitary World Championship and British Open victories from the final two years of the last millennium.
Now, Power will be watching when Elias lines up in Chicago with the aim of becoming the first player hailing from South American to have his name etched onto the famous trophy.
Speaking about the 26-year-old, Power says: “He has to walk through that door and he is certainly good enough.
“We have been working together and been friends for 13 years so it would be a major occasion for both of us and after that everyone has done their job.
“Really, it’s all about timing and up to the individual, but it happens when it is meant to happen.”
The PSA World Championships presented by the Walter Family will take place May 3-11 with play split between Union Station and the University Club of Chicago. Live action from round one will be shown on the tournament website while RD2 onwards will be shown live on SQUASHTV.
Tickets for the event are available to purchase here.