I was in Zurich last week for the Grasshopper Cup, a tournament which has enjoyed steady growth over the last few years. The 2014 edition was the first time it had been elevated to a $50,000 International 50 event after having staged a $25,000 and $35,000 event in 2012 and 2013. This year marked the first to stage the action on the all glass court, a sure sign that a tournament is flying.
It has been a tremendous effort on the part of the team, headed by tournament director and sponsor Stephane Buchli and what they have achieved in making the event so successful is the result of fervent collective enthusiasm for the game. They just love it.
The rafters were packed and the crowds were excitable and passionate, which of course makes playing such a pleasure. Switzerland is not traditionally a squash powerhouse, and so such a demonstrative response might not be expected, but this probably indicates that the nation has been underexposed to, almost starved of, world class squash.
Indeed things are looking healthy here, and such a celebration of squash in the Swiss capital as last week's is an indicator. The Swiss are enjoying having their own world class player, Nicolas Mueller, who lost in the first round here but is making good progress and at 24 is an exciting prospect.
Amr Shabana was seeded three for the event, and as four time world champion, former world number one, and the game's purest and subtlest exponent, he was the big draw for the event, the one player everyone wanted to see. He took the title eventually beating countryman Tarek Momen 3-2, who had the ready made excuse of fatigue after our tough 93 minute five setter the day before, but really didn't need it. Shabana took a two game lead but the younger man looked as if he couldn't care less about the semi final, and came very close to overturning Shabana's early advantage. Not many can claim to have ever beaten the man they call the maestro from two games down. He nearly did.
Next on the calendar is the European Team Championships in Riccione starting tomorrow, and the British Open in Hull is set to begin on the 12th May.