in Linkoping photo © 2003 Dan Kneipp
A huge crowd at the Catella Swedish
Open saw John White and Stewart Boswell win hard fought matches against
Joe Kneipp and Martin Heath in the semi finals.
Boswell vesus Heath
As expected this match started at a
furious pace with most rallies not so much about sustained attacking,
but about establishing T domination and beginning the long process of
wearing the other guy out physically. Boswell started out strongly and
quickly went to a 9-4 lead, with both players getting a couple of points
from strokes. Heath clawed his way back to 7-10, by attacking heavily
with vollies going short for winners.
Boswell and Heath are two of the crispest
hitters of the squash ball on the circuit, both with beautiful techniques.
Boswell’s in particular is of text-book quality. One of the major
advantages of a better swing is the deceptiveness it causes and difficulty
the opponent has reading the next shot. Both of these players used that
deception to their advantage.
Heath’s front court play got the
score to 9-10, then at 11-12 a backhand drop exchange followed by a perfectly
weighted cross by Boswell moved him to 13-11. Heath won the next two points
with back hand drops to take the score to 13-13. Boswell mishit a tickle
boast from just in front of the T on his backhand, with the ball sitting
right up. Heath held his swing extra wide to ensure the stroke, but only
got a let. Boswell didn’t need a second opportunity and hit a forehand
straight nick to bring up game ball. After a long rally Heath scrambled
for a tough shot, only just managing a high boast that came right out
to the T. Boswell held his shot. Heath anticipating a drop shot moved
forward into the swing path and had a stroke awarded against him. Heath’s
dissatisfaction with the decision and the manner in which Boswell won
the game was very quickly verbalised as he exited the court.
The second game was similar to the first,
with stroke decisions and drop shot winners particularly on the backhand,
determining most points. At 5-8 Heath showed the first sign of fatigue
watching a fairly ordinary boast of Boswell’s and not bothering
to run it down. Boswell held a slight lead for the whole game. At 12-8
two unforced errors by Heath brought up game ball. Heath won two more
points until a forehand drop by Boswell had Heath lunging, only able to
scrape up a cross court drop. Boswell was on it quickly, held his shot
forcing Heath to commit to guessing the ball was going down the line,
so Boswell flicked cross court to take the second game.
Heath photo © 2003 Dan Kneipp
In the 3rd game more intensity
and concentration by Heath and more errors by Boswell saw Heath move quickly
to 7-1, eventually taking the game fairly comfortably 15-9.
The fourth was full of tough hard rallies
with all four corners of the court being utilised. They went point for
point until 5-4. Extra pressure from Boswell took the score to 8-4, with
strokes still playing a major factor in point scoring, mainly because
both players were hitting lots of high risk shots that were either winners
A drop shot winner and a lucky back
wall nick moved Boswell to 11-6. Pressure from Boswell sent Heath scrambling
to the forehand back with a well weighted drive. Heath could only scrape
a bad straight drop shot. But it hugged the wall and despite Boswell being
straight onto it, he couldn’t get the ball off the wall, earning
Heath a lucky point. At 12-8 Boswell hit a jumping forehand overhead straight
nick to go within two points of the match. Heath then went for broke,
attempting a cross court nick off the serve which went down giving Boswell
match point. Heath wasn’t put off by his first miss, despite it
being match ball and this time went for a straight drop winner off the
serve pulling it off perfectly. But Boswell didn’t need a third
match ball, hitting a backhand cross court length that had Heath looking
for a drop shot and only just able to get his racquet on the ball, but
no able to return it.
Joe Kneipp versus John
The portable court that is being used
at the Catella Swedish Open is the same one that was used in Antwerp for
the World Open. So obviously White is familiar with the court and feels
comfortable hitting winners on it. White’s match against Amr Shabana
in the quarter finals was one of the most spectacular matches I have ever
watched. Never have I seen so many nicks and winners hit from every part
of the court. Shabana is perhaps the only person who can challenge White
for nick hitting. But most of their match was played in the front of the
court, something Kneipp didn’t intend to do in the semi final.
As usual there were plenty of winners
off White’s racquet, with Kneipp holding his own. The score moved
up slowly with neither playing getting more than a couple of points ahead.
White got to 14-13 and had the first game ball. He went to hit a backhand
drive, with Kneipp sitting on the T and lunging across quickly looking
for the volley. But White’s shot didn’t turn out to be a backhand
drive, instead fortuitously hitting the ‘socket’ and zipped
out of the corner at a forty-five degree angle cross court. Kneipp was
ready for the volley and had to watch as the ball bounced twice and he
lost the game.
Kneipp came to the tournament with injury
problems that forced him to pull out of the recent Dayton Open and has
left him unable to train properly. He had no problem whatsoever with the
injury during his fairly comfortable wins over Touminen and Durbach in
the first round and quarter final. But the extra effort, pace and lunges
required against White stirred up his recurring injury in the second game.
He spent much of the game stretching and trying to warm it up better,
but the game was over in nine minutes with it being a mixture of White’s
winners coupled with Kneipp’s restricted movement and his slumped
shoulders due to the frustration of the recurring problem. We put some
deep heat on it during the game break, and realised that long attritional
rallies weren’t possible with his restricted movement. So Kneipp
played more attacking in the third and increased his winners with lots
of low percentage shots that worked. The game was still very close, mixed
with lots of banter and friendliness that is always one of the hallmarks
of John and Joe’s matches together. They get on well off court,
and it shows on court (they’re both in the hotel lobby at the moment
having a beer and playing cards together waiting for me to join them when
I finish writing this). Third game to Kneipp.
The fourth game saw White race to an
early lead with some winners, and Kneipp hitting errors going for too
much. Kneipp’s leg was better than in the second and he was moving
more freely, but still didn’t allow him to play his natural game.
White held a small advantage for the whole game, eventually getting to
12-10. Kneipp got the next point, then a furious and spectacular rally
saw Kneipp hit what he thought was a forehand drop nick winner, that White
thought he got to and hit a cross court drop winner. Despite arguments
from both players and the umpire first telling Kneipp that he had won
the point, a let was played. White got to 14-12, but was unable to win
his first match point. A drop from White had Kneipp scrambling, hitting
a lob that was wide and low. He was unable to clear very well, and White
held his shot to get the stroke and take the match.