Aijanen beats top seed Fuller to claim title in Salzburg
Aqeel Rehman reports, photos by Andreas Lutche
Miko Äijanen is the new winner of the Austrian Open 2019. The Finn overcame top seed and defending champion Lyell Fuller in four games.
Before the final there was a lot of action going on. Austrian National TV ORF and local TV station RTS and National Radio ORF broadcast highlights of the day such as the big raffle with more than 100 prizes, followed by a Taekwondo-Show.
After that the anual VIP tournament showed former and active world class athletes and non-sport stars as well in an entertaining show-tournament on the all-glasscourts.
Athletes such as former ski jump world champion Andreas Goldberger and current world class Ski racer Mirjam Puchner showed their Squash skills.
After that it was time for the international pros. The top two seeds from the Austrian Open made their way into the final.
It was an even start with both players playing a high pace. The crowed saw some exciting rallies which continued in the tiebreak as well. Lyell had the better end then and took the first game 13/11.
Hence a very close match could have been expected but Lyell surprisingly could not keep up with his performance in the first game and Miko showed no sign of slowing down either.
The next games were very one sided, while Lyell fought to still defend his title from last year, but Miko was too strong and dominant and very clinical.
After 45 minutes Miko won the match 11/13, 11/2, 11/4, 11/3.
Miko: ‘Thanks to everyone helped running this tournament. It was very nice to come and play here again and I had a great time here. Also I am very happy with the way I played in every match of the tournament.’
Congratulations to Miko for becoming Austrian Open Champion and of course congratulations to Lyell as well on a great performance and reaching so far again in this tournament.
We woul like to take the opportunity to also thank all our sponsors, especially our host EUROPARK Salzburg. We are very thankful to have such great and long-term support, which was recently confirmed until 2022!
A big Thanks goes to all volunteers and people helping to organise the event. It takes a lot of work to make all this happen!
Now it is time to dismantle the court and pack everything up and slowly get back to business.
A full roundup of the Austrian Squash Challenge 2019 will follow. Meanwhile you find all information on our website www.squash-im-europark.at as well as on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Pictures can be used with the reference of our photographer Andreas Lutche – alutche-photography.com
Top Seeds reach the final
The Austrian Open is reaching it’s final stage. After the semifinals the two finalists are now confirmed. It will be the top two seeds of the tournament Lyell Fuller (ENG, WRL 105) and Miko Äijanen (FIN, WRL 108).
First on court were number 2 seed Miko Äijanen (FIN) and fifth seed Valentin Rapp (GER). It was their first encounter on PSA level.
The Finn had a better start into the match and raced to a 4/0 lead. He was too dominant in that opening game and even extended his lead during the first period. Even though Valentin could save two game balls, he could not keep Miko from winning the first game 11/5.
The second game was a much more even affair that went into the tiebreak. Again Valentin saved game ball at 10/9, but wasn’t able to turn it around afterwards. Miko again took the game 12/10.
The Finn took the momentum into the third game and didn’t let his opponent back into the match. He closed out the match with 11/2 in the third game after 39min of play.
Next on court were the two Brits Lyell Fuller and Angus Gillams. Former Englishman Gillams with a career highest world ranking of 62 was aiming to reach his first PSA final under the scottish flag.
Lyell though is of course trying his best to defend his title from 2018. And it looked as there were not many doubts that he will reach the final after leading 2/0 in games.
He had more control over his opponent, though most rallies were intense and none of the players wanted to give too much space to their opponent. This meant that the referee had to make a lot of calls.
It looked as it cost Lyell some of his concentration while Angus managed to came back into the match with more focus und pressure. The Scotsman took the next two games comfortable 11/4 and 11/3.
The fifth games was again more intense and even up to 5/5. After a couple of mistakes of Angus, Lyell was able to race into a 10/5 lead. After converting his first matchball after 64 minutes Lyell managed to have the better end and will be in a good position to actually defend his title.
Local hopes bow out in Salzburg Quarters
Top seed Lyell Fuller is still on course to defend his Austrian Open title from last year, reaching the semi-finals with a three-nil victory over local hero Aqeel Rehman.
The record 13 time Austrian Champion Aqeel had the better start at the beginning of the match racing to a 5/0 lead, but Lyell came back point by point and reached game ball at 10/9, taking the lead 12/10 .
In the second game Lyell had to fight back from 0/4 down, but again he was successful and clinical with his shots and the home crowd the to watch their favourite mostly chasing balls. After a strong performance Lyell took the match 3/0 and will meet fourth seed Angus Gillams in the semifinal.
Scotland’s Angus Gillams turned things around against Vladislav Titov in an impressive way. The Russian was able to take the first game but then Angus only gave his opponent seven more points. It will be an interesting match of the two British players on Friday.
The second semifinal will be between number two seed Miko Äijanen of Finland and Germany’s Valentin Rapp. Miko celebrated a three-nil win over Sergio Garica Pollan in less than half an hour, while Valentin didn’t waste too much energy either after beating surprise man Cédric Kuchen in straight games.
Both players should be fresh and ready to show a great performance on the all-glasscourt at EUROPARK shopping mall.
Photos by Andreas Schaad
Round One in Salzburg
The spectators in the EUROPARK shopping mall saw eight first round matches of the Austrian Open. Some of the matches were one sided, some were very tight and some of them ended with upsets.
Then it was Cédric Kuchen‘s day when he caused the biggest upset of the day. The swiss took out number three seed Abhay Singh from India in a five game battle!
After that all the matches went acording to the seeding, even though it took eighth seed Vladislav Titov five games to beat Hasnaat Farooqi.
Local hero Jakob Dirnberger nearly caused a huge upset against fourth seed Angus Gillams. After a 2/1 lead it looked like the Austrian could extend his PSA career for a little bit further. But during the fourth game Jakob ran out of steam and Angus turned around the match to win in five games.
Last match of the day was between organiser and number 6 seed Aqeel Rehman against David Zeman. Aqeel was able to keep the Austrian flag up after celebrating a 3/0 victory. The winner of 2017 will play the defending champion and top seed Lyell Fuller in a repeat of last year’s quarterfinal!
15 up for Austrian Open in Salzburg
This PSA world ranking tournament has been taking place in Salzburg since 2005 and is going in its 15th edition in a row, with players from 12 different countries competing. The total prize money for the event is 5,500 USD.
The Austrian Open is a part of the ‘Austrian Squash Challenge‘ – a two week squash event from 27th May – 8th June with lots of different activities on a all-glasscourt in the EUROPARK Salzburg, one of the most prestigious shopping malls in Europe.
It is the 5th Austrian Squash Challenge and a further agreement until 2022 has been signed with the shopping mall management.
More than 400 Kids were invited to enjoy free squash clinics with record 13 thimes Austrian Champion Aqeel Rehman and former national player Rehan van der Merwe.
Also the Austrian Bundesliga Play-Offs took place where world number 7 Mohamed Abouelghar played for his team Wr.Neudorf/Mödling to defend their title from last year.
This week the stage will be opened for the professionals from across the globe for the Austrian Open title. Also the defending champion Lyell Fuller (ENG, WRL 105) has made his way to Salzburg as top seed of the tournament.
Also two Austrians will try to entertain the home crowd. Wildcard entry Jakob Dirnberger will play his last tournament and will retire from the PSA afterwards. He will meet number 4 seed Angus Gillams from Scotland.
Organiser and Austrian Champion Aqeel Rehman (WRL 143) – sixth seed on the other hand will play David Zeman (CZE, WRL 219). He will try to repeat his win from 2017.