Sweethome Chicago Open 2008

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Barker Beats Palmer For Career-Best Title In Chicago

England's Peter Barker claimed one of the biggest scalps of his career - and won the richest prize of his life - when he beat favourite David Palmer in the final of the $30,000 Sweet Home Chicago Open in Chicago, the first squash tournament in the USA to be held outdoors.

It was a Samson and Goliath story played out on the McWil all-glass court which stood centre stage on Pioneer Plaza at 401 N. Michigan Avenue - the battle ground between second seed Barker, the world No12, and Australia’s David Palmer, the reigning British Open champion and former world number one competing in the 49th PSA Tour final of his illustrious career.

Previous to this, the pair had only met once before on the Tour - in the 2007 World Open in Bermuda, where the Englishman lost in straight games.  Just nine months later, the tables were turned:  Barker defeated Palmer 15-13, 11-9, 11-2 in 53 minutes.

In game one, the 24-year-old left-hander from London worked the ball high on the front, forcing Palmer deep to retrieve deep primarily on the backhand side of the court.  Barker kept the ball straight and together with the good length effectively reduced Palmer’s attacking game despite the tiebreaker in the first.

"I should have won the first," admitted 32-year-old Palmer after the match.  "I felt like I was in control; but just a bit stiff and sore," added the world No5, referring to his earlier marathon encounter with John White in the semis. 

In the second game, Barker continued to move well, absorbing every ball Palmer delivered.  Recent training with coaches Paul Carter and Peter Nicol had focussed on better court movement and Barker earned the pay-off during the match.

Palmer, a three-time British Open champion, was now down two games and got off to a slow start in the third with Barker taking the first five points, before clinching his win - and the title - without dropping a game.

"I'm over the moon," said Barker, after claiming the 11th Tour title of his career.  "What makes this so special is everything David's achieved.  He's a wonderful, wonderful player."

As well as thanking the sponsors during the awards ceremony, Barker also exclaimed that the Sweet Home Chicago Open is his favourite venue:  "It’s the best tournament I’ve ever played.  I love playing in America!"

Palmer, looking for his first win in the USA since relocating to Boston at the beginning of the year, was disappointed at the outcome:  "He was too fast tonight.  Peter weathered everything I put out.  It was costly to lose the first."


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Barker v Palmer Face to Face
Rain Abates Play


Peter Barker, England, World No. 10

David Palmer, Australia, World No. 5

John White, Scotland, World No. 19


First Round Pics
courtesy John Healy

click pic for larger view

[Q] Steve Coppinger (Rsa)
11-6, 11-7, 11-9 (31m)
[6] Hisham Ashour (Egy)

Shawn Delierre (Can)
12-10, 11-3, 11-6 (32m)
[3] Olli Tuominen (Fin)

[Q] Mark Heather (Eng)
11-5, 11-6, 11-9 (35m)
[2] Peter Barker (Eng)

Click for larger view
Pictures from the Venue courtesy of PSA Live

Sweethome Chicago Open 2008
Chicago, 09-15 Sep, $30k
Round One
[1] David Palmer (Aus)
11-4, 11-7, 11-7 (21m)
Alain Osman Muldeen (Cay)
David Palmer
3-1 12/14, 11/2, 12/10, 11/8 (91 min)
Daryl Selby
David Palmer
3-1 11-6/ 5-11/ 11-6/ 12-10 (42 min)
John White
David Palmer
15-13, 11-9, 11-2 (53m)
Peter Barker
[7] Daryl Selby (Eng)
11-9, 11-8, 11-5 (46m)
[Q] Arthur Gaskin (Irl)
[4] John White (Sco)
11-8, 11-7, 6-11, 11-9 (37m)
Yasser El Halaby (Egy)
John White
3-2 11/8, 7/11, 11/9, 1/11, 11/9 (115 min)
Julian Illingworth
[8] Julian Illingworth (Usa)
11-4, 11-7, 11-5 (40m)
Liam Kenny (Irl)
[Q] Steve Coppinger (Rsa)
11-6, 11-7, 11-9 (31m)
[6] Hisham Ashour (Egy)
Hisham Ashour
3-1 6/11, 11/2, 11/9, 11/9 (42 min)
Olli Tuominen
Hisham Ashour
3-0 11-6/ 11-7/ 11-8 (35 min)
Peter Barker
Shawn Delierre (Can)
12-10, 11-3, 11-6 (32m)
[3] Olli Tuominen (Fin)
[Q] Shaun Le Roux (Eng)
11-5, 11-6, 11-6 (31m)
[5] Shahier Razik (Can)
Shahier Razik
3-0 11/ 4, 11/6, 11/3 (39 min)
Peter Barker
[Q] Mark Heather (Eng)
11-5, 11-6, 11-9 (35m)
[2] Peter Barker (Eng)


10-Sep, Finals:
Shaun Le Roux (Eng) bt Ryan Cuskelly (Aus)            9/11, 11/7, 12/10, 11/9 (85m)
Steve Coppinger (Rsa) bt Reggie Schonborn (Rsa)     
9/11, 11/7, 11/5, 11/3 (50m)
Arthur Gaskin (Irl) bt Chris Gordon (Usa)                   7/11, 11/5, 11/7, 11/1 (54m)
Mark Heather (Eng) bt Rob Sutherland (Wal)     
11/7, 8/11, 3/11, 11/3, 11/8 (67m)

09-Sep, Round One:
Ryan Cuskelly (Aus) bt Philip Nightingale (Eng)      11/7, 11/7, 11/9
Shaun Le Roux (Eng) bt Rahul Singh (Usa)            11/6, 11/2, 11/7
Reggie Schonborn (Rsa) bt Tony James (Aus)       11/3, 11/6, 11/6
Steve Coppinger (Rsa) bt Beau River (Usa)          11/1, 11/3, 115
Chris Gordon (Usa) bt Andrew McDougall (Can)    11/3, 11/7, 11/5
Arthur Gaskin (Irl) bt Bart Ravelli (Ned)               11/1, 11/2, 11/5
Rob Sutherland (Wal) bt Supreet Singh (Ind)        11/1, 11/2, 11/5
Mark Heather (Eng) bt David Philips (Cam)           9/11, 13/11, 11/8, 11/5


Favorites Dominate in
Semi-Final Play at the
Sweet Home Chicago Open

World No. 5 Palmer, World No. 10 Barker To Meet in Championship Match Tonight At 7:00 p.m.

The all-glass court, dried out after the torrential weekend rains, held center stage once again at 401 N. Michigan Avenue's Pioneer Court, allowing the top seeds to come through with stellar performances.  

David Palmer met John White's strokework measure for measure in a four-game semi-final match that pitted friends against one another.  "Sure it's hard," Palmer explained, "we're friends; we trained together this afternoon; we were roommates this weekend; we're both competitive."

"This is the best I've played since the Dutch Open," said White who had played a five-game, 115 minute-match against USA's Julian Illingworth the night before. 

Both played exceptionally well in the front of the court, testing one another with flicks and razor-sharp drops or cross drops.  Palmer now has "the kinks out" of his game and is ready for the finals this evening.

In the second semi-final match of the evening, Peter Barker felt the all-glass glass court "rewards good squash.”

"I ran the ball away from (Ashour) and moved well," Barker said, describing the keys to his successful win against Hisham Ashour, who upset Olli Tuominen in Sunday night's quarter-finals.  "I watched his movement patterns and tried to keep him on his back foot, with the ball away from him," Barker continued.

Ashour makes his way to the tournament in Baltimore a fitter, tougher player.  Last night, however, he said he "made silly mistakes with errors just on the top of the tin."  Ashour had a chance to take the match to a fourth game at seven-all in the third, but hit the tin with a kill, leading to Barker taking the final four points, the match and his ticket to the finals.

Will up and coming Peter Barker break through tomorrow night by beating World No. 5 David Palmer?  Stay tuned for the final act in this Chicago drama which begins at 7:00 p.m. at Championship Court.  The winner walks away the champion of the inaugural Sweet Home Chicago Open.  

David Palmer and John White Advance to the Semi-Finals, Along With Hisham Ashour and Peter Barker

U.S. Player Illingworth Upset By John White 

The rain on Saturday in Chicago broke an all-time, one day rainfall record of seven inches.  Flash flood advisories continued on Sunday, which forced the quarterfinals indoors at Lakeshore Athletic Club’s Illinois Center location for the Sweet Home Chicago Open. Spirits were not dampened, however, because the pros put on a spectacular display of talent including one seeding upset.

Number two seed Peter Barker played measured, moderately paced squash, moving effortlessly around the court beating Canada’s Shahier Razik in 39 minutes. Barker forced Razik side to side; up and down the court with ease, playing what some might call ‘’classic‘’ squash. London-based Barker was very pleased with his performance, “I played a traditional English game; strong and determined,” Barker quipped after the win. “I thought Peter played very solid tonight," Razik stated.  "There were no openings.”  Razik was slow to start each game.  Like many North American-based pros, Razik is using this event and the next in Baltimore as a warm up to the World Open Squash Championships in Manchester.

If the Barker vs. Razik match up was classic, what followed were four games of rock’em, sock’em squash between David Palmer and Daryl Selby, with the first and third ending in a tie-breaker.  The three ref system, in place during the quarter-finals, was well used. 

Dead nicks and cross court volley nicks were just some of the shots in both player’s arsenal.  In the first, Palmer repeatedly found the tin on multiple forehand boasts. Then Palmer’s error rate dropped in the second, as he won the next two leaving Selby shorthanded after 91 minutes of play.

Every U.S. fan in the audience hoped that they had come to watch USA’s Julian Illingworth slay giant John White throughout the first 114 minutes of the best match of the night.  Illingworth won the second and fourth games staying steady throughout.  “It was frustrating, fun and scary playing him,” a philosophical Illingworth admitted as he analyzed the match. 

Illingworth normally plays an attacking style, but said, “I had to play more defensively since John attacks well, and if I’d won the third, I would have won the match.”  Illingworth played the ball straight and at a moderate pace much of the match, taking White’s attacking game away.  “At 7-all in the fifth I hit the tin, and at 9-all was another big error.”  Illingworth lost after 115 minutes of play.

White, not willing to pass the baton to the next generation, felt there were “short balls I didn’t read well that caught me off guard.  Julian played well in the fourth.  I give him full credit.”

In the final match of the evening, sixth seed Hisham Ashour varied the pace successfully against third seed Ollie Touminen to win in four.  Helsinki’s Touminen, who prefers playing a fast-paced game, was hampered by Ashour’s constant directional and pace changes.  Ashour upset the seedings and earned a berth in the semis.

Semi-final action is planned outdoors on the glass court Monday evening, pitting fellow Aussies David Palmer against John White on the top half of the draw and Hisham Ashour against Peter Barker on the bottom.

Sweet Home Chicago Open Matches Moved Indoors

Postponed Quarter-Finals Begin Tonight at Lakeshore Athletic Club

The organizers of the Sweet Home Chicago Open have announced that, due to continued inclement weather, tonight's quarter-final matches will be moved from the all-glass court at Pioneer Court, 401 N. Michigan Avenue, to Lakeshore Athletic Club - Illinois Center, 211 N. Stetson.       

The tournament was postponed by one day when organizers determined yesterday that heavy rains in Chicago through this evening would prevent use of the all-glass court. 

The tournament's semi-finals are expected to be played Monday evening and the Championship match on Tuesday evening in the glass court. 

Seeds Prosper Indoors In Chicago Open 

Rainfall on the second day of main draw action in the first USA squash event to be held outdoors led to play in the Sweet Home Chicago Open in Chicago being transferred to the indoor courts at the city's Lakeshore Athletic Club.

An all-English clash was first up on the second day of first round play in the $30,000 PSA Tour event as second seed Peter Barker faced US-based qualifier Mark Heather.  Left-hander Barker kept the ball tight to the walls throughout to beat the University Club of Chicago’s Head Pro 11-5, 11-6, 11-9.

The 24-year-old world No12 now faces Shahier Razik, the fifth seed from Canada who beat English qualifier Shaun le Roux 11-5, 11-6, 11-6.

"I was fortunate to win in three," conceded the Egyptian-born 30-year-old from Toronto.  "The court plays dead so I went in short when I could."

Of his quarter-final opponent Barker, Razik added:  "I’ve never played him before.  He’s a lefty and a solid player which will be a little trickier.  I’m looking forward to it."

Egypt's Hisham Mohd Ashour, the sixth seed, beat Stephen Coppinger 11-6, 11-7, 11-9 - but the South African qualifier said he never felt relaxed against Ashour.  "I couldn’t play my game.  If I made a mistake or hit a loose shot, he was there for it," admitted the 6’ 6” Coppinger.

Ashour now faces third seed Olli Tuominen after the Finn beat Canadian Shawn Delierre 12-10, 11-3, 11-6.

Tuominen, who prefers playing on the glass court, said:  "Playing on the panel court, the ball comes quickly off the front wall," referring to the indoor court construction at Lakeshore.  "The ball is deader on the glass court, so it’s easier to put in a kill shot.

"I made a few errors in the first game then felt more comfortable in game two," added the Finn.

Top Seed Palmer Marches Into Chicago Quarters

Top-seeded Australian David Palmer claimed his anticipated place in the quarter-finals of the Sweet Home Chicago Open after despatching wild card Alain Osman Mudeen in straight games in the opening round of the $30,000 PSA Tour event in Chicago, USA.

Palmer, the reigning British Open champion, worked the 17-year-old from the Cayman Islands up and down the court to win the first match of the evening.  Palmer looked relaxed testing the side walls with boasts to see how the all-glass court in the open air played.  It was to his liking.

Mudeen, who studies at the American School in Cairo, kept up with Palmer – but, after the match, admitted:  "I'm not a British Open champion just yet," referring to Palmer's multiple wins. 

Palmer will take on Englishman Daryl Selby for a place in the semi-finals after the No7 seed from Essex beat Irish qualifier Arthur Gaskin 11-9, 11-8, 11-5.

Fourth seed John White, Head Coach at Franklin and Marshall College and ranked 19 in the world, showed patience and skill defeating Egyptian-born Yasser el Halaby who, while attending Princeton University from 2002-2006, won the intercollegiate championships an unprecedented four times in a row.

However, that accolade alone was not enough to stop White from winning in four games.

"The court takes a good length," said the US-based Scotsman after his 11-8, 11-7, 6-11, 11-9 victory.  "It sticks to the sidewall so my drops were working tonight."

White now has a rest day before facing the USA's number one player Julian Illingworth on Saturday.  Now ranked 38 in the world, eighth seed Illingworth continued his run up the ladder by beating Ireland's Liam Kenny 11-4, 11-7, 11-5.

Sweet Qualifying Success For Heather In Sweet Home Chicago Open

More than 18 months since last playing on the international squash circuit, Englishman Mark Heather claimed an unexpected place in the main draw of the inaugural Sweet Home Chicago Open after fighting back from 2/1 down in the qualifying finals of the $30,000 PSA Tour event in Chicago, USA.

It was under the watchful eyes of the venerable Chicago Tribune building, the historic Wrigley Building and the brazen newcomer on the block Trump Tower, that the final qualifying matches were staged in the Sweet Home Chicago Open, the first squash tournament in the USA to be held outdoors.

Paul Zeller, President and CEO of Zeller Realty Group, hosted the event in his ‘front yard’:  the Pioneer Court plaza at 401 North Michigan Avenue.  The Chicago River formed the fourth side of the square where the McWil all-glass court took centre stage.  Chicago, a hopeful Olympic city for 2016, never looked better.

“It’s great to see it all come together tonight,” said tournament organizer Imran Nasir from the Lakeshore Athletic Clubs.  “It’s been a collective effort; a real spirit of collaboration between the many squash groups and clubs in and around Chicago.”

US-based Mark Heather, who ‘retired’ from the PSA at the beginning of the year and no longer has a world ranking, recovered from the deficit against Rob Sutherland to beat the world No95 from Wales 11-7, 8-11, 3-11, 11-3, 11-8 in 67 minutes.

But fellow Englishman Shaun le Roux survived the longest battle to secure a place in the main draw, needing 85 minutes to topple Australian Ryan Cuskelly 9-11, 11-7, 12-10, 11-9.

Yorkshireman Le Roux faces Canada’s fifth seed Shahier Razik in the first round, while Heather takes on compatriot Peter Barker, the No2 seed.

David Palmer, the reigning British Open champion who is now based in Boston, is seeded to win the 24th title of his career in Chicago, and begins his ‘open air’ campaign against wildcard opponent Alain Osman Mudeen, from the Cayman Islands



Chicago to Host Nation’s First-Ever Outdoor Professional Squash Tournament 

CHICAGO will make sports history September 9-15 as Michigan Avenue plays host to the Sweet Home Chicago Open – the first-ever professional squash tournament to be held outdoors in North America – sponsored by Lakeshore Athletic Clubs, Zeller Realty Group, Caledonian Fund Services, SmithBucklin and The Fairmont Chicago.  

The open-to-the-public event – to be held in an all-glass court in Pioneer Court, between Tribune Tower and the Chicago River – is expected to draw the world’s top-ranked players as the newest stop on the Professional Squash Association (PSA) and U.S. Squash Association tournament series. 

“Being among the first squash tournaments of this scale to be held outdoors, the Sweet Home Chicago Open will be an innovative forum to show off the fun and exciting game of squash,” said Kevin Klipstein, President, U.S. Squash.  “With its passionate base of fans who also participate in all types of sports, Chicago presents the ideal location to host this first-of-its-kind event.”   

Endorsed by the U.S. Squash Association and the PSA, the Sweet Home Chicago Open will include professional and exhibition matches, as well as clinics involving children from area schools and the METROSquash program, which combines academics and athletics for inner-city youth attending Chicago Public Schools.  Exhibition play will feature Canadian-born Jonathon Power, a two-time World No. 1 champion who is regarded by many as the greatest squash player of his generation. 

In conjunction with the professional tournament, this event will also showcase approximately 200 local and national amateurs in the Great Lakes Open, which will be held at The University Club of Chicago, Lakeshore Athletic Clubs and the Union League Club of Chicago.  The exhibition matches will further reinforce Chicago’s love of amateur athletics, as evidenced by the city’s bid for the 2016 Olympic Games. 

“Squash has long been a game that celebrates the skill and accomplishments of the professional and amateur athlete,” said Gus Cook, North America Representative, PSA.  “As the squash community aspires to find its place among other Olympic events, the Sweet Home Chicago Open is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the appeal of and enthusiasm for this great game and the skill of the athletes who play it.” 

To date, squash – a racquet sport recognized by the IOC and one of 5 sports under review for incorporation into the 2016 Olympics – is played in more than 150 countries by an estimated 15 million people, including some 500,000 players in the United States.  The widespread interest in the game was a draw to many of the tournament’s sponsors.

“As Chicago’s sponsor of the Virginia Slims Invitational in 1974 and the partner and co-founder of World Team Tennis, we believe the Sweet Home Chicago Open is just as unique and intriguing as those sporting institutions,” said Jordon Kaiser, Founding Partner, Lakeshore Athletic Clubs.


Top-Ranked, International Players to Compete in the Sweet Home Chicago Open,

“Some of the best players from around the world are coming to Chicago for this first-of-its-kind event,” said Imran Nasir, Director and Organizer, Sweet Home Chicago Open and Director of Squash, Lakeshore Athletic Clubs.  “Chicagoans enjoy sporting events of all kinds, and given the location and the international athletes expected to play, the Sweet Home Chicago Open provides the perfect opportunity to showcase that love and enthusiasm.”  

The Sweet Home Chicago Open will feature highly-acclaimed players from more than 15 countries.  The athletes expected to participate include:

David Palmer, Australia, World No. 5 – Since turning pro in 1994, Palmer has appeared in 45 PSA Tour finals and has won 21 titles, making him the player with the most Tour trophies to his name.  Palmer has earned international success in his professional career by winning the Ecuador Open (1997), World Open (2002), British Open (2003, 2004) and the Swedish Open (2007).  In addition, he is one of three players to win back-to-back titles at the British Open. 

Hisham Mohd Ashour, Egypt, World No. 26 – Since turning pro in 2002, Ashour was a national title runner-up in 2005 and was the Arabs & African Cup winner in 2004 and 2005.   This year, Ashour made it to the semi-finals of the Virginia Open.  He is the older brother of current World No. 4 Ramy Ashour. 

John White, Scotland, World No. 19 – Since turning pro in 1993, White has appeared in 31 PSA Tour finals and has won 12 titles, capturing four in one year.  After runner-up performances in the British Open and World Open, White reached No. 1 in the world rankings in 2004.  In March 2007, he established a personal record when he reached the final of the Canary Wharf Classic in London after playing four successive five-game battles.  White is widely known as the game’s hardest hitter; he holds a world record at 172 mph.  

Julian Illingworth, USA, World No. 37 – A pro since 2006, Illingworth is the youngest player ever to win three national championships and is the only player to win two national titles while still enrolled in college.  A graduate of Yale University, he was a First Team All-Ivy League selection and a four-time All-American.  As a senior, Illingworth led his Yale team to their first Ivy League title in 16 years.  In a distinguished junior career, Illingworth was U.S. Junior National Champion in the Under-16 and Under-17 age groups, and twice captured the Under-19 Championship.  In addition, he was the first male player from the United States to reach round 16 of the Junior World Individual Championships, and led the U.S. team to an all-time best seventh place finish in the 2002 Championships.  Illingworth is the current No. 1-ranked U.S. player. 

Olli Tuominen, Finland, World No. 17 – A pro since 1997, Tuominen has enjoyed international title success, winning the Rennes Open in Italy and the Apawamis Open in the United States.  In addition, he’s represented Team Europeans at the National Team Championships for eight consecutive years.  This year, Tuominen reached the semi-finals of the Hungarian Open, and was the winner of the Finnish Open.  At present, Tuominen is the only player to represent Finland that is ranked in the top 150 worldwide. 

Peter Barker, England, World No. 10 – Barker has collected a total of 10 Tour titles from 14 final appearances since turning pro in 2002.  In a successful junior career, Barker was a runner-up in the British, European and World Junior Opens.  He won three PSA Tour titles in his first year pro at age 19 and has won the Colombia Open for three consecutive years.  In 2007, he defeated World No. 1 Amr Shabana to mark his second appearance in a PSA Super Series quarterfinal.  Barker clinched the 2007 World Team Championship for England after winning the deciding match in the final against Australia.

Shahier Razik, Canada, World No. 20 – Razik, a pro since 1996, has earned international success winning Tour titles in 2006 and 2007.  In the past year, he has captured titles at the Bluenose Open, Coastal Contacts Tournament, and the Evergreen Open.  Since 2002, Razik has finished in the top three of the Canadian Championships.  In addition, he was a member of Canada’s 2007 Pan American Games team. 

Other players expected to participate include 
Daryl Selby, England, World No. 
35; Yasser El Halaby, Egypt, World No. 47;   
Shawn Delierre, Canada, World No. 51; 
Liam Kenny, Ireland, World No. 54; 
and Ryan Cuskelly, Australia, World No. 59.    



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