Home hopes provide best display in years
By DONNA HELMER in Sheffield
FIVE English players have reached the semi-finals of the 2017 British Junior Open (BJO) in what has been a truly triumphant day for the home nation in Sheffield.
Sam Todd was the first English player to cruise into the final four of the Boys Under 15 competition, taking only 23 minutes to overcome Thomas Rosini 11/4, 11/6, 11/7 in what was a repeat of the US Open Junior final in December where he was crowned champion.
The 13-year-old Todd, from Pontefract, will have to defeat Egyptian top seed Yahia El Nawsany if he is to emulate his US Open success.
Meanwhile, England’s Elise Lazarus [5/8] was the underdog going into the Girls Under 17 quarter-final against top seed Malaysian Aifa Azman. The 16-year-old from Essex kept her cool and put in a formidable performance against last year’s BJO Under 15 champion to win 11/6, 12/10, 11/9.
Tomorrow will be Elise’s first BJO semi-final, where she will face equally ranked seed, Habbiba H.Saadallah.
Lazarus said: “I’m so excited. It’s my first semi, I’m just going to go out there and enjoy it.”
Worcester’s Sam Osborne-Wylde [3/4] emulated Elise’s success to also reach his first BJO semi-final in the Boys Under 13 category after dispatching 5/8 seed Ameeshrenraj Chandran.
Despite losing the first game 8/11, Osborne-Wylde soon found his rhythm to win 13/11, 11/4, 11/3.
“I’m really excited about the semis,” Osborne-Wylde remarked. “I had quite a slow start but as it went on, my forearm improved.
“I’d like to think I can go all the way this year, I’ve been training hard so hopefully I can get through.”
Osborne-Wylde’s English compatriot Jonah Bryant [5/8] also made it through to the final four, after seeing off Malaysia’s Joachim Chuah [3/4] 15/13, 11/6, 11/6.
In the Boys Under 17 competition, Sheffield-born Nick Wall [5/8] came from a game down against Egypt’s Mostafa Assal [3/4] and bounced back to win 6/11, 11/6, 11/9, 11/4 and set up a semi-final clash with top seed Marwan Tarek from Egypt.
“I got off to a bit of an edgy start when I lost the first game, but then after that I sort of got used to his game a bit more and had more confidence.” Wall said.
“I’ll get a good night’s sleep tonight and some good food so I can put in a good performance in the semi-final, so I’m feeling confident tomorrow.”
Asked if he could go all the way and win the tournament, Nick said: “I can try. This is the event that I’ve been peaking for with all my training, so yeah that’d be nice.”
Elsewhere, Torrie Malik [5/8] put in a valiant display and kept a cool head against Girls Under 13 top seed Aira Azman from Malaysia, but Azman proved too strong winning 12/10, 11/4, 11/7.
At Abbeydale in the Girls Under 15 competition, England’s Katie Maliff lost against number two seed Farida Ahmed 11/5, 11/5, 11/6.
Boys Under 19 hope Kyle Finch [5/8] also exited the tournament, narrowly losing out to unseeded Indian Abhay Singh despite taking the first two games in a five-game thriller which lasted over an hour on court, 5/11, 6/11, 11/8, 11/7, 11/8.
Pictures courtesy of England Squash