There’s been no shortage of top squash over the last week or two. This pre-spring period is one of the busiest periods of the professional year, with a gaggle of exciting tournaments taking place in Europe and the United States.
After the Tournament of Champions in New York there were a couple of options for the men. The Motor City Open is a long-runner, played in Detroit only a day after New York, well-timed for many. Played on club courts, it attracts top players because of the enthusiasm and interest and, unusually, the winner takes home a Rolex watch, which draws the players.
Mohamed El Shorbagy won the event, beating a jaded Amr Shabana in the semi finals and winning a tight five set contest over England’s Peter Barker in the final.
Days later, finishing just on Sunday, came the Swedish Open across the pond. Barker and Shabana were the only two of the top few who decided to play both, a tough spell by anyone’s reckoning. Three tournaments on the bounce makes for a heavy schedule, even though both players have been a bit light on tournaments over the last few months because of enforced absences.
Sweden pulled in an impossibly strong draw for the level of event, but what the event lacks in prize money and ranking points it makes up for with its venue, the big crowds and superb organisation. It is certainly one of those events that’s always a shame to miss.
Ramy Ashour made the event his first after having to concede the world number one ranking in December in Hong Kong. He was forced to retire in his quarter final there because of a nagging, troublesome injury and anyone who saw the disturbing scenes as his challenge dissipated will have watched last weekend with relief, as he won tough matches against Simon Rosner, Omar Mosaad and Amr Shabana, before losing to Nick Matthew in five games in the final. Matthew himself beat Tom Richards, Daryl Selby and Greg Gaultier to get there.
In view of all that, I was pleased with my decision to stay at home and train! After New York, the WSA women players played more events in the USA: Greenwich and Cleveland, Ohio.
New Zealand player Joelle King won in Greenwich beating Malaysian Low Wee Wern in a brutal 96-minute five-game final. Nicol David continued a staggering run of form by winning the Cleveland Classic, sweeping through the draw and not dropping one game in the process. There were some interesting results: world number three Raneem El Weleily lost to fellow Egyptian Nour El Tayeb, who then beat another friend, Omneya Abd-El Kawy.
In the bottom half of the draw diminutive Annie Au, from emerging squash nation Hong Kong, delivered one of her best performances yet, beating three Englishwomen in contrasting matches: Jenny Duncalf and Laura Massaro in three games, and Alison Waters in five. Au lost to David in a three-game final.
This week the world calendar is left open and many European nations stage their National titles. The British National Championships is one of the most prestigious of all events; down the years it has built a name through its constancy and it is one of the great events for a player. Because of the strength particularly of English squash, it is a world event. The qualifiers began yesterday and the first round begins tomorrow at the National Squash Centre in Manchester. Tickets will be available through www.nationalsquashchamps.net.
It is a real highlight in the squash calendar. And it’s only the other side of the M62. Hope to see you there...