Chris Simpson battles hard to lead 2-1 but it’s a tall order against James Willstrop in Sweden
By Squash Mad Reporter
James Willstrop made a winning return to the PSA World Tour after recovering from a hip operation, but was kept on court by fellow Englishman Chris Simpson in the first round of the Swedish Open.
Willstrop had hoped to be back in action for the recent Tournament of Champions in New York, but delayed his comeback to make sure of his readiness to return to the daily physical pressures of competition at the highest level.
Willstrop won the opening game but Simpson, a near neighbour in Yorkshire, produced a spell of quality play to win the next two games before Willstrop was able to reassert his authority.
Another player who is working his way back into fitness is fellow Englishman Tom Richards, the 28-year-old World No.34 who earned his place in the main draw after progressing through qualification.
He pulled off a shock victory over Switzerland’s World No.18 Nicolas Mueller (right, in blue) on the opening day in Linkoping.
Richards, who has plummeted from a high ranking of No.12 in 2013 after a series of injuries, had to come from behind against the talented Swiss star but showed impressive signs of composure and consistency to overcome Mueller 9-11, 11-1, 11-8, 11-5 in 54-minutes.
“I came off feeling as though I had played OK – not great and not bad either so I’m happy to get that win,” said Richards after the match.
Richards was the only qualifier to advance. Nick Matthew took out Finland’s Olli Tuominen, Egypt’s Marwan Elshorbagy beat South African Shaun Le Roux, and hard-hitting Australian Cameron Pilley overpowered England’s Joe Lee.
Top seed Gregory Gaultier (right) eased past Fares Dessouki and No.4 seed Simon Rosner ended the hopes of tall left-hander Adrian Waller, who came into the main draw after the withdrawal of Peter Barker.
Swedish wild card Rasmus Hult enjoyed his appearance on the glass court, taking South African Steve Coppinger to a tiebreak in the opening game, and continued to fight throughout the next two as Coppinger set up a quarter-final clash with Willstrop.
One thing’s for sure, there won’t be much room on that glass court with these two guys filling up most of the space.
Case Swedish Open, Linkoping, Sweden.
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt Fares Dessouki (EGY) 3-0: 11-5, 11-6, 11-6 [44m] [Q] Tom Richards (ENG) bt  Nicolas Mueller (SUI) 3-1: 9-11, 11-1, 11-8, 11-5 [53m]  Stephen Coppinger (RSA) bt [WC] Rasmus Hult (SWE) 3-0: 12-10, 11-7, 11-8 [37m]  James Willstrop (ENG) bt Chris Simpson (ENG) 3-2: 11-9, 7-11, 7-11, 11-4, 11-8 [72m]  Simon Rösner (GER) bt Adrian Waller (ENG) 3-1: 12-14, 11-6, 14-12, 14-12 [69m]  Marwan Elshorbagy (EGY) bt [Q] Shaun Le Roux (RSA) 3-1: 11-9, 5-11, 11-6, 11-7 [57m]  Cameron Pilley (AUS) bt [Q] Joe Lee (ENG) 3-0: 11-5, 11-9 , 11-3 [40m]  Nick Matthew (ENG) bt [Q] Olli Tuominen (FIN) 3-0: 11-5, 11-4, 11-4 [30m]
Draw – Quarter-finals:
 Gregory Gaultier (Fra) v [Q| Tom Richards (ENG)
 Stephen Coppinger (RSA) v  James Willstrop (ENG)
 Simon Rosner (GER) v  Marwan Elshorbagy
 Cameron Pilley (AUS) v  Nick Matthew (ENG)
The main draw action gets underway at 13:00 local on Thursday February 5, with all the play being streamed live and exclusively on www.psasquashtv.com
Pictures by TOMMI TAPOLA