James Willstrop meets top seed Ali Farag
By NATHAN CLARKE and JESPER PERSSON
The opening day of action at the 2018 UCS Swedish Open was dominated by marathon match-ups as the world’s best players treated the local crowd in Linköping, Sweden, to a thrilling display that saw five matches stretch beyond the hour mark.
The opening match set the tone for what was to follow as recent J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions winner Simon Rösner was required to call upon all his experience to see off England’s Declan James in a tense 79-minute encounter.
After claiming his first ever World Series title in New York just over ten days ago, Rösner was quickly brought back to reality as James tested and probed from the offset, causing difficulty in all areas of the court before Rösner finally managed to do just enough to complete the win in five games.
“Declan is a big guy like me, so there were some traffic issues at times,” said Rösner.
“He gave a huge fight today. I was playing well in patches – maybe a little edgy when going short, but that was because of the pressure he was putting me under as he was moving me around.
“The first round is sometimes the toughest. I was struggling to hit with quality and that got me frustrated at times – but credit to him because he got me to that stage. I’m just really glad to get it in the end.”
Rösner will take on another Englishman, Daryl Selby, after he edged Frenchman Gregoire Marche in a similarly tight 79-minute match, while Egyptian Tarek Momen – the man who Rösner beat in the New York finale – required 97-minutes to get past Marche’s compatriot Mathieu Castagnet.
Momen looked the stronger player throughout the first game as he pushed Castagnet into all four corners of the court. But the Frenchman hunted every ball with relentless hunger, retrieving and pressuring Momen at every opportunity, to steal the game after 30-energy-sapping minutes – before doubling his lead courtesy of an 18-minute second game.
With Castagnet beginning to tire in the third the Egyptian pounced on the opportunity, taking control of the rallies to establish a presence on the scoreboard before holding his nerve in a dramatic fifth-game to complete the victory which came after 97-minutes of play – setting a new record for the longest match in the history of the event.
“I have to be very thankful that I won today,” said Momen. “I was playing against a superhuman out there. It was unreal.
“In the first game – I was annoyed to lose it of course – but I thought I had put a lot of work into him. But I was so wrong – he just didn’t stop at all.
“Every now and then I got some momentum, but he he was just solid as a rock. I think I played well throughout the match and for me, it’s a big boost to come back and win the mental battle at the end.”
Momen will face Australian Cameron Pilley – who won an hour long encounter with Tom Richards of England – in the quarter-finals, while the bottom half of the draw will see Ali Farag clash with James Willstrop and Omar Mosaad take on Paul Coll, the New Zealander who defeated Malaysian Nafiizwan Adnan after a physically punishing 72-minute match.
Stats from Momen and Mathieu’s marathon match
JESPER PERSSON writes: In the fourth match, Tarek Momen (EGY) faced Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) in one of the tightest and best matches the crowd in Linköping have ever seen. The games were extremely tight and entertaining. The very quick and agile Momen showed top-class length control in his shots, finding the corners almost all the time. But Castagnet showed some extreme speed and endurance as his counter-attack, returning almost every shot fired from Momen which resulted in some lengthy never-ending battles.
A new technology is used this week as a test on the PSA World Tour, and it gave us some interesting numbers from this thriller:
Total meters ran:
In the interview after the match, Momen was asked what about how this would affect his body, and he answered: “I need two days off, at least. This is not good, this happening in the first round is not good. But I’m happy to win today, I mean I played a superhuman today it’s unbelievable. I mean the first game I thought I put in a lot of work, I was very disappointed to lose it since I thought if I win the first game he might give up, but man was I wrong. He is solid as a rock. I haven’t seen him play like this in a long time.”
PSA M70 Men’s UCS Swedish Open 2018, Linköping Sporthall, Linköping, Sweden.
 Tarek Momen (EGY) bt Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) 3-2: 12-14, 10-12, 11-6, 11-7, 11-6 (97m)
 Cameron Pilley (AUS) bt [Q] Tom Richards (ENG) 3-1: 11-6, 6-11, 11-9, 11-3 (59m)
 Daryl Selby (ENG) bt Gregoire Marche (FRA) 3-2: 7-11, 9-11, 11-8, 11-3, 11-7 (79m)
 Simon Rösner (GER) bt Declan James (ENG) 3-2: 6-11, 11-8, 11-8, 9-11, 11-5 (79m)
 Paul Coll (NZL) bt [Q] Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS) 3-1: 11-13, 11-9, 11-8, 11-4 (72m)
 Omar Mosaad (EGY) bt [WC] Rasmus Hult (SWE) 3-0: 11-5, 11-6, 11-8 (32m)
 James Willstrop (ENG) bt [Q] Olli Tuominen (FIN) 3-0: 11-6, 11-4, 11-3 (27m)
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt [Q] Joshua Masters (ENG) 3-0: 11-8, 11-8, 11-3 (27m)
Draw – Quarter-finals:
 Tarek Momen (EGY) v  Cameron Pilley (AUS)
 Daryl Selby (ENG) v  Simon Rösner (GER)
 Paul Coll (NZL) v  Omar Mosaad (EGY)
 Ali Farag (EGY) v  James Willstrop (ENG)
Pictures by STEVE LINE (www.squashpics.com) courtesy of PSA and Swedish Open