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  2004
SWEDISH
OPEN


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Swedish
Open – Preview – Power on Prowl

 

Feb
4, 2004: by Team Kneipp         

Jonathon Power
– faces off against local wildcard Forslund.  SquashTalk  
Photo
© 2004 Debra Tessier

Catella Swedish Open Preview

By Team Kneipp

The Swedish Open is being held in LinkÖping (pronounced
Lin-chirping) a small city of less than 150 000 people a couple of hundred
kilometres south of the country’s capital Stockholm. I’m here
for a medium-size tournament, but hopefully the strength of the field
(four players in the top 10 for a 3 star tournament is ridiculous) will
convince the organiser that he should be putting on the 2005 World Open.
Freddy Johnson’s tournament is run as well as a Super Series event,
something presumably players have heard about, leading to the ridiculously
strong turn out. Here’s how the first round looks:

The draw was initially done a couple of weeks ago. Both
Mohammed Abbas and Olli Tuominen have pulled out of the main draw at the
last minute. I don’t know what has led to that, but it must be something
very serious, particularly in Olli’s case as Sweden is so close
to his base in Helsinki that it’s virtually a home tournament for
him.

[1] Amr Shabana (Egy) versus Renan Lavigne (Fra)
Shabana, the current world champion, is beginning to show a very interesting
tournament pattern. In May of last year he made the final of a tournament
in Pakistan, then lost in the first round of the next tournament in Qatar.
In June he surprised everyone by winning the Spanish Open, then lost first
round in the next tournament in Pakistan. In December he blew the squash
world away by winning the World Open, then lost in the first round of
the next tournament – last month’s Kuwait Open. His first round
opponent in LinkÖping would have hoped that Shabana had won the last
tournament.

Frenchman Renan Lavigne is currently ranked 20; only the
fourth time in his career he has cracked that magical barrier. In the
last three tournaments he beat Simon Parke, Dan Jenson and Mark Chaloner
– all former top 10 players. Lavigne seems to play better when his
opponent plays a more orthodox type of game, so I don’t think he
will be too happy with his first round opponent, as Shabana is anything
but orthodox. Lavigne can never be discounted or taken lightly and frequently
causes upsets.

These two haven’t played in a PSA encounter before.

[8] James Willstrop (Eng) versus Qualifier
This was originally the position taken by Abbas before he pulled out.
Willstrop initially had to play me in the first round. Considering the
impressive feat that Willstop pulled off in Kuwait – qualifying
then beating Bengy, White and Power, I would have gone into that match
as the underdog, despite the higher seeding and ranking. If Shabana and
Willstrop both win their first round matches it’ll make for a very
entertaining quarterfinal showdown.

[4] Joseph Kneipp (Aus) versus Davide Bianchetti
It will be very interesting to see Bianchetti’s form after the World
Open. Aside from Shabana’s feats we were probably the two players
that exceeded expectations the most at that tournament. Bianchetti was
supposed to lose in the 2nd round against Peter Nicol, but beat him and
then Gregory Gaultier to earn a quarterfinal spot. Despite this he’s
still not ranked in the top 30 (31), mainly because he hasn’t played
enough tournaments over the past 12 months. You have to play a minimum
of 8, preferably between 10 and 13. Bianchetti has only played 7 and his
ranking average is much lower than it should be because of that. (The
points he got from the quarterfinal of the World Open are more than all
of the points for his other six tournaments.)

I don’t think we’ve played in the main round
of a PSA match. We played two years ago in the 2nd round of TOC’s
qualifying which I won, and have played a few league matches against each
other. He won the last encounter, a dead rubber in Bundesliga, so I’ll
have my work cut out for me ensuring I don’t become his next upset
seed.

[7] Nick Matthew (Eng) versus Qualifier
Nick Matthew had a very good December, making a semi final and a quarter
final of the two biggest tournaments of the year. In his first match back
– qualifying at the Kuwait Open he lost against Dan Jenson. It can
be easy to have seesaw results like that (ask Shabana). Having a great
result at a tournament is very satisfying, but backing it up in later
tournaments becomes just as important. Matthew will be hoping to put Kuwait’s
result behind him (Jenson’s abilities can’t be discounted
in that equation) and using Sweden to begin his assault on the top 10.

[5] Gregory Gaultier (Fra) versus Adrian Grant (Eng)
Finland’s Olli Tuominen was the original opponent for Gaultier.
I’m not sure which one he would rather play as both Grant and Tuominen
have good intensity, and wouldn’t be intimidated by Gaultier’s
type of game.

Gaultier has spent the past six months ranked in the low
teens; Grant is about to crack the top 20 for the first time in his career.
These two couldn’t be a better example of the intricacies of how
the ranking works. Over the past year or two Gaultier has only beaten
two players in the top 10. One was me last month (although for the tournament
he was seeded higher than me anyway as he was ranked 10 and I was ranked
14 when the tournament draw was done in December) the other was Boswell
nearly a year ago, and that was the beginning of Bozza’s injury
woes that hasn’t seen him on court since (despite being the current
reigning champion of this event). Grant has beaten one top 10 player recently
(Bengy in December), but hasn’t had the medium-size tournament victories
in Pakistan that Gaultier has had.

Grant has caused numerous upsets over the last 18 months.
The last time these two played was in the semi finals of the CNS International
in Pakistan last year which the Frenchman won comfortably, nearly restricting
his English opponent to single figures in each game.

[3] Karim Darwish (Egy) versus Qualifier
Darwish made the semi finals of last year’s World Open and has since
won the first two events of the year in the U.S. He appears to have eradicated
his inconsistency and wouldn’t be a good first round player for
a qualifier to get.

It will be a travesty if there isn’t a substantial
size tournament in Egypt this year. Not only does that country house the
current World Champ, but poor Mohammed Abbas is ranked 17 in the world
and yet is only the fourth strongest Egyptian at the moment, emphasising
the nation’s squash depth at the moment.

The strength and depth across the whole top 20 is wonderful,
with the order being made up of four Aussies, four Englishmen, four Egyptians,
three Frenchmen, two Canadians, a Pakistani, a Scot and a Malaysian (with
a Fin, a South African, a Welshman and a Dutchman all closing in).

[6] Ong Beng Hee (Mal) versus Qualifier
Again Bengy has a qualifier. It’s quite ludicrous the number of
draws that he ends up with a qualifier. But considering the strength of
this tournament, including the qualifiers, Bengy will need to work hard
to avoid an upset in the first round, something that happened to him too
many times recently, including at last year’s Swedish Open. That
loss was at the hands of South Africa’s Rodney Durbach, a player
that he’ll be hoping not to get again this year.

[2] Jonathon Power (Can) versus Daniel Forslund (Swe)
Power is playing his second tournament after his finger-breaking injury
in December that forced him to withdraw from the World Open, an injury
that had to affect his ability to train. He’ll be happy with his
draw, having the wildcard entrant in the first round.

Forsland is currently ranked 132, but has been in the
top 40 before. He is actually only the 2nd strongest Swedish player, ranked
over 40 places behind Christian Drakenberg, the country’s top player.
But last year tournament director Freddy Johnson offered the wildcard
entry to whichever player won the national title, something I presume
Forsland has done again this year.

Forsland has only played 5 tournaments over the past 5
years, and 2 have been the Swedish open. He has never played Power in
PSA. If he manages to win his first round match it will probably be bigger
news than Shabana winning the World Open.

Kneipp’s
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