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Swedish Open 2010
02-07 Feb, Linkoping, Sweden, $60k

The finals
in Sweden
Malcolm Willstrop in Linkoping

[1] Vanessa Atkinson (Ned) bt [2] Annelize Naudé (Ned)
                    9-11, 11-8, 11-5, 11-6 (30m)
[1] Nick Matthew (Eng) bt [4] James Willstrop (Eng)
                    11-9, 11-6, 6-2 rtd (39m)

Vanessa Atkinson and Annelize Naudé, long time Dutch teammates and close friends, were the finalists in the Zack Swedish Open, Atkinson having beaten Nicolette Fernandes and Naudé, Dipika Pallikal, to get there.

Atkinson may have different priorities since the heady days of 2004 when she was world champion and world number one, but a recent semi-final in Greenwich, New Yotrk, and a win in Edinburgh indicated that she is still in good shape and competitive.

She has looked happy on court and Naudé, too, looked at ease, playing someone she knows so well.

Remarkably, and it can't happen too often, Naudé served out on the first rally of the match - I've never seen that before.

Atkinson looked in marginal but definite control of the first and led 9/7, at which point Naudé took four rallies in a row to win the game 11/9.

Naudé was taking the balls in short deftly, but Atkinson's heavier weight of shot gave her an edge and she levelled at 11/8.

From then on Atkinson pulled clear from the middle of the third and fourth and, though it was never easy, she did not look like losing. She won on her first match ball, 11/6.

Much though both girls have enjoyed their stay, they were non-commital about returning - they both may have other plans, so no reflection on the event. It would be good, though, if the status of the women's championship was raised.

A packed Linkoping crowd were full of anticipation when Nick Matthew and James Willstrop, the two inform players on the world tour, took to the court, and the early signs were that they were not going to be disappointed.

An immense rally, which Matthew finally won, saw Willstrop rotating his shoulder in some discomfort. Matthew raced to 8/3, at which point Willstrop took a three-minute injury break.

On resumption at 9/3 down Willstrop, looking more comfortable, put together a series of backhand winners to level the score at 9-all. Matthew eventually won the game 11/9.

In the second, even though Willstrop got to 4-all he was not at ease, and subsided quickly to 11/6. Now his right thigh, as well as his right shoulder, was causing problems. Strapped up, the attempted to carry on, but it soon became clear that he had no alternative but to stop, and at 6/2 he shook Matthew's hand.

It was Karim Darwish who was unable to play the final last year, and so for two years Matthew has won by default, not that he will have taken any pleasure from that.

It was greatly disappointing, not only for Willstrop himself, but for Freddie Johnson and his splendid team and for the equally splendid Linkoping crowd, who bore their disappointment with Scandinavian stoicism and sympathy.

Nick Matthew expressed his disappointment at winning in such a way; James Willstrop felt at least as sorry for everybody else as he did for himself, and it was an unfortunate ending to a championship as well run as a championship can be.

Round and About
Bo Patterson, the benevolent and ever smiling main man behind Case's sponsorship was first on Centre Court on semi-finals day in an age group match.

He is no mean performer and clearly enjoyed the court conditions, hitting some severe winners especially on the forehand.
Convenience at tournaments is a major factor: Grand Central and te Grand Hyatt hotel take some beating, but Linkoping is fine - five minutes walk to the court and the centre of town, with helpful drivers on hand at all times, if required.

The town does tend to shut down early though. Small wonder in view of the cold.
Some things don't change unfortunately: everywhere you go the endless diet of English Premier League soccer on TV. Who on earth wants to watch Portsmouth and Hull?

Someone has done a job selling the sport since the quality is modest to put it mildly, apart from all the other rubbish that encompasses the sport. The bubble has to burst one day!
I first visited Sweden - Sundsyall, to be exact, as coach to the England U19s at the first U19 World Championship many moons ago in the days of Chris Dittmar, Danny Lee, David Thomas and Christy Willstrop.

I remember being impressed by the friendliness of Swedish girls and here in Linkoping that impression has been confirmed. What have Swedish men done to deserve them ?
I can't thank Linda enough for all the help. Nothing was too much trouble and she facilitated all the SquashSite coverage, though of course that will not have pleased everyone!

The music, throughout the event, has been managed by Daniel, one of Freddie's Actipro team, and a fine job he has made of it, it makes a difference too!
One of the things people might not appreciate sufficiently is the difference in courts.

The difference between regulation courts and glass is massive and the difference between the glass court in New York and the one in Linkoping equally so.

Players adapt uncomplainingly but it is far from easy sometimes.
Swedish Open 2010
02-07 Feb, Linkoping, Sweden, $60k
Round One
04 Feb
05 Feb
06 Feb
07 Feb
[1] Nick Matthew (Eng)
11/7, 11/4, 5/11, 11/5
Saurav Ghosal (Ind)
[1] Nick Matthew
11/6, 11/7, 11/8
[8] Stewart Boswell
[1] Nick Matthew

11/3, 14/12, 11/2

Cameron Pilley

[1] Nick Matthew

11-9, 11-6, 6-2 rtd (39m)

[4] James Willstrop

[8] Stewart Boswell (Aus)
 11/6, 11/7, 11/8
Christian Drakenberg (Swe)
[3] Gregory Gaultier (Fra)
 11/3, 11/5, 11/5
[Q] Robbie Temple (Eng)
[3] Gregory Gaultier
14/11, 11/6, 11/4, 12/14, 11/9 (83m)
Cameron Pilley
[7] Mohamed El Shorbagy (Egy)
11/8, 9/11, 11/4, 9/11, 11/7 (71m)
Cameron Pilley (Aus)
[Q] John Rooney (Irl)
11/4, 11/4, 15/13
[6] Alister Walker (Eng)
[6] Alister Walker
11/8, 11/3, 7/11, 11/6 (48m)
[4] James Willstrop
[4] James Willstrop

9-11, 11-7, 11-4, 11-7 (39m)

[2] Amr Shabana

Joey Barrington (Eng)
11/4, 11/9, 14/12
[4] James Willstrop (Eng)
[Q] Steve Coppinger (Rsa)
7/11, 8/11, 11/3, 11/8, 11/4
[5] Adrian Grant (Eng)
[5] Adrian Grant
11/4, 9/11, 11/6, 11/5
[2] Amr Shabana
[Q] Simon Rosner (Ger)
11/2, 11/3, 11/7
[2] Amr Shabana (Egy)
03-Feb, Qualifying Finals:

Simon Rösner GER bt Steve Finitsis AUS                           13/11, 11/5, 4/11, 11/7
John Rooney IRL
bt Henrik Mustonen FIN                            11/5, 11/8, 2/11, 11/8
Robbie Temple ENG bt Kashif Shuja NZL                   12/10, 9/11, 8/11, 11/8, 11/4
Stephen Coppinger RSA bt Karim Abdel Gawad EGY                 11/9, 11/7, 11/9

02 Feb, Qualifying Round One:

Simon Rösner GER bt Foad Hammouni SWE                              12/10, 11/6, 11/2
Steve Finitsis AUS bt Andre Wikstrom SWE                       11/3, 11/2, 12/14, 11/8

John Rooney IRL
bt Chris Simpson ENG                                      11/8, 11/7, 11/6
Henrik Mustonen FIN bt Mathieu Castagnet FRA                   11/5, 11/6, 6/11, 11/5

Robbie Temple ENG bt Rasmus Hult SWE                                     11/7, 11/8, 11/7
Kashif Shuja NZL bt Carl-Johan Lofvenborg SWE                          11/8, 11/3, 11/8

Karim Abdel Gawad EGY
bt Yann Perrin FRA                        11/7, 11/8, 8/11, 11/8
Stephen Coppinger RSA bt Dylan Bennett NED                             11/8, 11/6, 11/4
Swedish Open 2010
04-07 Feb, Linkoping, Sweden, $6k
Round One
05 Jan
05 Jan
06 Jan
07 Jan
[1] Vanessa Atkinson (Ned)
[Q] Saara Valfola (Fin)
[1] Vanessa Atkinson
Laura Pomportes
[1] Vanessa Atkinson

12-10, 11-5, 11-1 (28m)

[7] Nicolette Fernandes

[1] Vanessa Atkinson

9-11, 11-8, 11-5, 11-6 (30m)

[2] Annelize Naudé

[6] Anna-Carin Forstadius (Swe)
Laura Pomportes (Fra)
[4] Lucie Fialova (Cze)
Joseffa Bertilsson (Swe)
[4] Lucie Fialova
[7] Nicolette Fernandes
[7] Nicolette Fernandes (Guy)
Veronika Koukalova (Cze)
Carrie Ramsey (Eng)
[8] Maud Duplomb (Fra)

[8] Maud Duplomb
11/4 11/4 11/9
[3] Dipika Pallikal
[3] Dipika Pallikal

11-9, 11-8, 14-12 (30m)

[2] Annelize Naudé

Lovisa Forstadius (Swe)
[3] Dipika Pallikal (Ind)
Sina Wall (Ger)
[5] Lotte Eriksen (Nor)

[2] Annelize Naudé
[Q] Emily Whitlock (Eng)
[2] Annelize Naudé (Ned)

Stefan Edberg

It is always pleasant to see Stefan Edberg, tennis great, at the Swedish open. I was always a fan of his and remember with gratitude winning money when he was successful at Wimbledon. His calm, unfussy disposition appeals to me and he was living proof that inner steel is the answer.

He looks just as he did in his heyday and he is no mean squash player. Appropriately, it was Amr Shabana, who was chosen to play him at the popular pro-am prior to the quarter finals and the World Champion was soon off the court complaining in jocular manner about the strength of the opposition! Justified, too, since Stefan plays very well.

But what strikes you even more than his appearance and his squash playing ability is his extreme modesty and approachability. I don’t think I have ever met such a great sportsman so understated.

In these days when sportsmanship is a rare commodity, when overblown celebrity status dominates the media, how reassuring to be in the presence of Stefan Edberg.

Semi-finals in Sweden
Malcolm Willstrop in Linkoping

Naudé 3-0 Pallikal

Dipika Pallikal will feel disappointed about her semi-final performance in the Zack Swedish Open when she lost in three straight games to second seeded Annelize Naudé 11/9, 11/8, 14/12.

In the first game Naudé took a 5/0 lead in no time and although Pallikal drew level at 9-all it was Naudé who won it 11/9.

There was an unevenness about the match, partly because of the cool conditions, partly becuase of the lack of structure in the two players' games. Pallikal looked to have an edge in the second game, but once again from 8-all it was the experienced Naudé who took it 11/8.

Naudé immediately went to 7/0 in the third as Pallikal's focus disappeared totally. From then on the staged a quite remarkable recovery to have game ball at 10/9 and 12/11. Naudé herself had a match ball at 11/10 and again at 13/12. She won the match 14/12, perhaps a little to her relief.

Naudé's better focus and ability to win the crucial points gave her a deserved win.

Atkinson 3-0 Fernandes

It is good to see Nicolette Fernandes competing again after her injury problems and both she and Vanessa Atkinson looked in excellent shape for their semi-final.

Atkinson may ne be quite the force of her halcyon days when she was world number one, but she won in Edinburgh last weekend and began purposefully, leading 3/1, before a tentative Fernandes found ter stride. She did get to take the game to extra points, but Atkinson stole it 12/10.

In the second Atkinson continued to play well, comfortable on the court, and she went to 7/2 quickly before taking a 2/0 lead, 11/5.

Fernandes' resistence was broken and Atkinson romped away in the third 11/1. She will play close friend and Dutch teammate Annelize Naudé in the final. They will certainly know each other's games.

Matthew 3-0 Pilley

It was a large Linkoping crowd which had gathered for the first men's semi-final between Nick Matthew and Cameron Pilley.

Pilley had two significant wins under his belt, Mohamed El Shorbagy and Gregory Gaultier, but both were 3/2 and the prospect of taking on one of, if not the most physical player on the world tour, was daunting to say the least.

He quickly got involved and was moving well enough and at 3-all in the first all seemed well, but Matthew moved into another gear and doing damage with his forehand volley, as he does, he won eight consecutive points to win the first with ease.

The second game was of the highest world class. Pilley, unfazed, challenged throughout, led 6/4 and 8/7 and had game balls at 10/8, 10/9 and 12/11, none of which he was able to convert. There were several exceptional rallies, defence and attack of the highest order, but when Matthew won it 14/12 with yet another well executed forehand volley, the feeling was that that was that.

And so it was, Matthew quickly went to 6/1 in the third before winning it 11/2 as Pilley's despairing dive told the story.

I have long been a Pilley fan and here in Linkoping he moved to new heights. Sustained he will be a threat to anyone and the freedom with which he plays is to be advised.

Matthew played impressively, as he had to, and will be hard to beat.

Willstrop 3-0 Shabana

World Champion Amr Shabana did not look at ease with himself in New York, but here in Linkoping he had looked a different proposition, happy and enjoying the championship court.

He and James Willstrop respect each other and there is never any trouble in their matches, not to say they are not hard fought.

Both like to play in a structured way that this court does not allow, but equally both are shotmakers, so it was probable that a shootout would ensue - and that's what more or less happened.

Willstrop began well, happy to trade shots, and he reached 9/6 aided by four Shabana errors, but the Egyptian tightened up, as he can, and won the game 11/9 in five hands, a little against the run of play.

Willstrop, undeterred, soon got to 7/2 in the second, the match providing much entertainment for the packed enthusiastic crowd. Shabana fought back to 9/7 but, with a fine backhand winner, Willstrop levelled deservedly.

He began to dominate now, as he had in New York, and from 4/3 in the third he raced to 11/4, Shabana giving way.

Shabana resisted in the fourth to 6/5 but in-form Willstrop was in full cry and he served for the match at 10/5. Two outrageous winners from Shabana, but Willstrop took the matcch 11/7.

So, an all-English final, possibly a preview of what many expect at next week's British Championships, though of course Barker, Grant, Selbt, Walker and others are all up for that event.

No dress rehearsal then, is tomorrow's final, since the Case Swedish Open carries much prestige, especially with this year's field.

The Matthew-Willstrop matches are invariably hard, but most will remember their 2009 British Open final. It is to be hoped tomorrow's match will not be as contentious. Everyone in Linkoping deserves a final worthy of their efforts.

Day Two in Sweden
Malcolm Willstrop in Linkoping

Matthew 3-0 Boswell

The problem Stewart Boswell had with his knee in New York didn't seem to trouble him in the first men's quarter-final, but, as might have been anticipated, Nick Matthew was always calling the tune, although it was never easy.

Matthew has been finishing games with quality shots and he ended the first with a forehand volley into the nick 11/6.

Although Matthew took an early lead in the second Boswell, who never gives less than his best, was still in the game at 9/7, but Matthew went straight to 11/7 and a 2/0 lead.

Again Matthew led in the third, 4/1, and Boswell battled back to 7/9, when Matthew played a devastating forehand kill and with a series of telling winners he took the game and match 11/8.

He will have watched with interest as Cameron Pilley had the win of his life over Gregory Gaultier in a gruelling encounter.

Pilley 3-2 Gaultier

Considering Gaultier's exceptional performance, even in defeat, against world number one Ramy Ashour in New York, and also that he has beaten Cameron Pilley five times out of five, I doubt if too many thought the Australian would win their quarter-final here.

Gaultier began confidently and with Pilley working quite hard to stay in touch all seemed well for the Franchman as he won the first game comfortably 11/4. Surprisingly the momentum swung drastically in Pilley's favour and it was he who controlled the second, Gaultier beginning to make errors, especially on the backhand.

Pilley won the game 11/6 and this time he maintained the impetus, moving well, attacking frequently and forcing ever more errors out of Gaultier. At 11/4 he had a 2/1 lead and a shock was looking a real possibility.

Gaultier was now becoming agitated, disputing decisions, and generally losing composure. He lost a big lead in the fourth, and Pilley had a match ball at 10/9. Gaultier had game balls at 11/10 and 12/11, where the referee, running out of patience, awarded a conduct stroke against him to take the score to 12-all. Gaultier, despite that justified setback, recovered to take the game 14/12.

It was hard to predict the fifth, but Pilley had certainly stayed more composed than Gaultier and he never lost belief. At 10/9 Pilley again served for the match and won it with a beautifully executed crosscourt deception.

There would be few in the crowd who did not think Pilley deserved what must be one of the best wins of his life, if not the best.

Willstrop 3-1 Walker

The court conditions here are demanding, but Alister Walker, with his pace and lower centre of gravity is well suited to them. Nor is James Willstrop at any disadvantage despite his heightr, because of his ability to take the ball in short. It promised to be a good match and that's how it turned out.

Well contested, with nothing much in it, except that Walker was working that much harder, it was 7-all and 8-all before Willstrop nipped away to win the game.

Every so often the two Englishmen produced spectacular rallies, much to the delight of the large Friday night crowd.

Willstrop then took the sort of control he showed in New York, winning the second with some ease 11/3.

Despite the work Walker had been getting through, to his credit he came back strongly and from 6-all in the third he pulled clear to win it 11/7, pleasing the crowd, who were wanting more.

It wasn't until 4-all in the fourth that Willstrop began to take charge again and at 10/5 he served for the match, finally winning it 11/6.

It had been a thoroughly entertaining and at times spectacular match. After his exertions at the ToC Willstrop looked fresh enough and in view of Willstrop's current form Walker should be happe enough with his performance, if not the loss.

The next instalment of Shabana v Willstrop awaits. It could be special.

Shabana 3-1 Grant

Adrian Grant had to come from 2/0 down against the under-rated Steve Coppinger and that hardly looked the sort of form to trouble the current wortld champion, especially as Amr Shabana looks far happier in Linkoping tha he did in New York.

Shabana took the first two in regulation fashion 11/4, 11/6, and led in the third before Grant rallied and eventually won it 11/9.

In the fourth Shabana again took a clear lead before Grant recovered from 10/3 to 10/6. That was that, though, and Shabana took his place in the semi-final 11/6.

Tomorrow's match with James Willstrop should be worth watching.

Women's Matches

The Women’s Swedish Open began at Linkoping Sport Centre today and before that Amr Shabana, James Willstrop, Gregory Gaultier and Nick Matthew took on a variety of amateurs. James set things in motion against sponsor Bo Petterson and Amr had the privilege of playing tennis great Stefan Edberg, who looks the same as he did when he won Wimbledon and who plays a good game of squash. Amr was soon up against it and was quick to tell the large and appreciative crowd that he had been set up.

Vanessa Atkinson, fresh from her win in Edinburgh, is the top seed and she quickly beat Finland’s Saara Valfola. Dipika Palikal and Nicolette Fernandes both won comfortably, 3-0, but France’s Laura Pomportes beat sixth seeded Swede Anna-Carin Forstadius convincingly 3-0.

The talented Czech Lucie Fialova beat Sweden’s Joseffa Bertilsson 3-1, after losing concentration to drop the second game 11/9, but winning the third and fourth 11/2, 11/3.

Most interesting match of the first round was second seeded Annelize Naudé against the very promising England junior Emily Whitlock, making her WISPA debut. The youngster started very well and won the first game 11/6. She actually looks the part and no doubt has a big future. She remained competitive throughout and only Naudé’s experience saw her through 11/8, 11/5, 11/8. The England coaches speak highly of Whitlock and they are right. She has massive potential. Naudé will be relieved to have progressed.

Vanessa Atkinson v Laura Pomportes

Vanessa Atkinson, top seeded, World No 1 in 2004, may be in the twilight of her illustrious career, but looking fit and well motivated, she moved impressively into the semi-finals with a 3-0 win over Laura Pomportes, the French girl who had beaten sixth seeded Swedish girl Anna Forstadius in the first round.

Pomportes is mobile and competent and has the scope to improve, but Atkinson’s skill and know-how were too much for her in the first two games. Pomportes led 5/2 in the third, but Atkinson was soon on level terms at six all.

Then as players with Atkinson’s background do, she asserted to win the game and match 11/9, though not without resistance from the French girl.

Atkinson will be pleased to have had a run on the glass court after the warmer, bouncier conditions of the Linkoping Squash Centre.


Round ONE


Round One in Sweden
Malcolm Willstrop in Linkoping

Walker 3-0 Rooney

John Rooney is a capable and skilful player who has had his share of injuries. He will have been happy to qualify, but could not expect too much out of his first round match with Alister Walker, who is now established in the upper reaches of the game. He has a win over Amr Shabana and came within a whisker of making that two in New York.

The first two games were routine, Walker's movement well suited to the demand of the court, but Rooney, to his credit, didn't give up. He led 5/3 in the third and had game balls at 10/9 and 13/12 before losing it at 15.

Walker won't have minded the extra time on court, since the court needs some working out and he will face James Willstrop in what should be a competitive quarter-final match.

Willstrop 3-0 Joey Barrington

Joey Barrington has been much involved here, as he was in New York, as the central commentator for streaming and television, so it was hard to imagine he was in the best of condition to face James Willstrop.

Willstrop began sharply and soon took the first game as Joey Barrington tried to settle. He did improve in the second and though Willstrop was playing well enough, he made a few errors through mis-hitting. However he clinched the game 11/9.

More errors from Willstrop and continued improvement from Joey Barrington saw the latter take a 5/2 lead in the third before Willstrop levelled at 5-all. Joey Barrington pulled away again to have three game balls at 10/7. It was Willstrop's turn now to assert and he took the game to extra points, eventually winning it 14/12.

Joey Barrington can return to his commentating duties, Willstrop can look forward to his quarter-final with Alister Walker.

Grant 3-2 Coppinger

Adrian Grant and Steve Coppinger provided another splendid five game match, Grant having to come from 2-0 down to win. He has been involved in five setters recently and came to Linkoping on the back of a win in a BSPA event in Edinburgh from a strong field.

There is much to like about the way Coppinger plays: he has an abundance of racket skills, moves well for a tall man and plays the ball in almost all situations, a good package.

He bagan well too, winning the first two games 11/7, 11/7, with some delectable volleys, notably on the forehand.

Grant though, was not going to go down without a fight and quickly re-established himself, winning the third game 11/3 after a ten-minute blood break.

Coppinger, realising that the tide might be turning, played with resolution and not a little skill in the fourth, but Grant was now playing more securely and it was he who took the match into the fifth 11/8.

Grant has been in these situations more often than Coppinger and although the South African took an early lead in the fifth, Grant soon took control as Coppinger's movement became a little more ragged and the match was all over at 11/4.

Grant did well to recover and Coppinger will be disappointed not to have capitalised on his 2-0 lead.

When he meets Amr Shabana tomorrow, Grant will not be able to give him a 2-0 start. Coppinger is better than his world ranking of 43 and has the scope to be a top 20 player.

Matthew 3-1 Ghosal

There were doubts beforehand whether Saurav Ghosal was going to be fit enough to play Nick Matthew, but thanks to Gregory Gaultier's physio he was able to take to the court. Not only that, but he acquitted himself with credit.

Both players have skills suited to the cool condidions and dead court. Matthew's ability to take the ball early and on the volley, allied to his strength and speed, will make him difficult to beat here and Ghosal, himself quick, also has shot-making skills.

The first game went to 4-all, but from there Matthew ran through to 10-4 before Ghosal recovered to 10-7 after an exceptional rally at that point.

Matthew won the game 11/7 and took the second more comfortable 11/4.

Ghosal then went 5-2 down in the third before winning nine rallies in a row, playing excellently in winning the game 11/5.

Ghosal continued to compete and reached 5-all in the fourth before Matthew turned the screw as you would expect from the world number two, and Ghosal didn't score again, Matthew winning the game convincingly 11/5 to take the match.

Ghosal ir ranked 30 and should be well capable of a top twenty slot. Matthew may have been short of his best in New York when he lost 3/1 to Ramy Ashour, but his potential semi-final with Gregory Gaultier, if it happens, is not to be missed. It could be a classic and is certainly a meeting of heavyweights.

Gaultier 3-0 Temple

Robbie Temple, like John Rooney, will have been well pleased to qualify and he could have little hope of making an impression on Gregory Gaultier, whose ToC quarter-final with Ramy Ashour was a match of the highest class.

Nor could he trouble Gaultier who eased through 11/3, 11/5, 11/5 in what was no more than a workout for him. Temple's best hope is that he is better for the experience and will feel more comfortable next time.

Gaultier's quarter-final opponent is Cameron Pilley, who did well to beat Mohamed El Shorbagy 3/2. If Pilley comes up fresh he should give Gaultier a run for his money.

Boswell 3-0 Drakenberg

Stewart Boswell, one of the veterans of the world tour, is still a formidable opponent.

An injury sustained in New York to his knee, ironically in the warmup, caused him to concede there and though he felt confident enough to play in Linkoping, it was his first real test.

Wildcard local, Christian Drakenberg, was his first round opponent and despite the Swede's best efforts Boswell knew far too much and was always in control, winning 11/6, 11/7, 11/8 without the knee being seriously tested. It will be tomorrow, when he faces Nick Matthew.

Gone are the days of Lars Kvant, Andreas Wahlstedt and Freddie Johnson, even though the promoter looks as fit as ever! Wouldn't it be good if their quite splendid tournament triggered off a new generation of Swedish stars, such as the ones I've named.

Every player interviewed today praised Freddie and his team, saying they were here because they feel welcome and looked after. The last of these was Amr Shabana, eloquent in his praise.

Shabana 3-0 Rosner

Simon Rosner played well in New York and was unlucky not to beat Wael El Hindi. He was a qualifier here and his reward was a first round match with the game's best player of recent times, current world champion Amr Shabana.

Shabana didn't seem at ease at the ToC on or off court, but his disposition here looks altogether different.

For two games, moving well, he outclassed Rosner 11/2, 11/3, the German playing rather anxiously and perhaps too keenly.

However he did get involved in the third as far as six-all. As with all the top players when needs be, Shabana closed the door and finished the match 11/7.

The world champion is going to take some beating here.

So the quarter-final lineup, mouthwatering, is:

Matthew v Boswell
Gaultier v Pilley
Willstrop v Walker
Shabana v Grant

Nothing can be taken for granted and the four lower seeds will offer serious challenges, but if the top four seeds emerge the semi-finals will be worth travelling to see.



Feeling the Chill in Sweden
Malcolm Willstrop in Linkoping

With England in the midst of its coldest winter in a long time, having just returned from New York, where the air on the last day was bitingly cold, setting off for Linkoping was a daunting prospect. Already forewarned, it still came as a shock to see several feet of snow, houses and cars apparently marooned.

However the locals, more used to it than the English, get on with it. So met at the airport, quickly installed in the very pleasant tournament hotel and with the anticipation of another top class event, with four of the world's top six in action and a strong supporting cast, my spirits remained high.

I did remind myself, though, that at my age people are more usually seeking the sunshine of Spain and Florida and prefer a less hectic lifestyle.

The men's event starts today and Simon Rosner, who played well in New York, Steve Coppinger, Robbie Temple and John Rooney are the four qualifiers.

Much to look forward to in the first round: Mohamed El Shorbagy, the outstanding World Junior Champion, against Cameron Pilley is the standout match. Shorbagy led 2-0 in Kuwait in the World Championship, but Pilley fought back to win. Pilley will take encouragement from the fightback, Shorbagy bemused at letting a 2-0 lead slip - looking forward to it.

The women's championship starts tomorrow with Vanessa Atkinson, fresh from her win in Edinburgh, top seeded and expected to meet close friend Annelize Naudé in the final. There are several promising youngsters in the draw who add to the interest.

Already made to feel welcome by Freddy, Linda, Michael and Martin, the Case Swedish Championship is one of those events not to miss if you can help it.



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