Top seeds barely break sweat as they ease through opening rounds
By MICHAEL CATLING – Squash Mad Reporter
With 424 players from 36 nations competing at the British Junior Open, Hallamshire Tennis & Squash Club, Abbeydale Park Rackets & Fitness Club and Fulwood Sports Club were inundated with teenagers on Thursday as the first and second rounds of the year-opening event began in South Yorkshire.
With a litany of juniors looking to etch their names into the history books alongside the likes of Ramy Ashour, James Willstrop and Squash Mad Columnist Cassie Thomas (nee Jackson), 1999 champion Nick Matthew delighted players and supporters alike as he signed copies of his book – ‘Sweating Blood’ – at the Copthorne Hotel.
What followed was a breathless display of squash as almost every competitor took to the courts. In the Boys’ Under 19 section, top seed Karim El Hammamy was given a stern test by Spanish qualifier Bernat Jaume, before eventually coming through 11-8, 7-11, 11-3, 11-7 in 37 minutes.
He was joined in the second-round by fellow Egyptian and two-time British Junior Open Champion, Shehab Essam, who ended local lad James Evans’ challenge in straight games.
Highly-rated Peruvian Diego Elias (pictured left) also advanced 3-0 at the expense of Ipswich-based Joshua Turmel, while 3/4 seed Richie Fallows eased into the next-round after defeating fellow English player George Willis 11-3, 11-7, 11-7.
In one of the matches of the day, Federico Cioffi of Argentina held off a spirited fightback from Finland’s Jami Aijanen to win 11-9, 11-6, 7-11, 4-11, 12-10 in a pulsating encounter.
Elsewhere, there were victories for the highly-fancied Egyptian duo Mohamed Elgawarhy and Omar Elatmas and Spain’s Iker Pajares Bernabeu, who upset former world number 58 Oliver Pett in the Madeira International Tournament last summer.
In the Girls’ Under 19 category, world number 57 and top seed Mariam Metwally advanced into the third round after wasting little time in beating Jenny Haley 11-4, 11-6, 11-2.
Mariam, who was knocked out in the semi-finals of the Under 19 event last year, received a bye in the first-round and will be looking to win her first title since claiming the Swiss Open title nearly 10 months ago.
Nouran, who rose to a career-high 35th in the January world rankings, lost to Mariam in the quarter-finals of the World Junior Championships but is seeded to face her older compatriot at the semi-final stage in Sheffield.
However, the 16-year-old will need to overcome the challenge of Lea Van Der Zwalmen in the next-round, while Mariam faces France’s Marie Stephan for a place in the last eight.
In the bottom half of the draw, top-ranked English youngster Nada Elkalaawy stayed on course for a quarter-final showdown with Yathreb, after defeating Jessica Davis 11-4 14-12 11-7 in 28 minutes.
Nada faces Su Ann Yong of Malaysia next, while fellow English duo Rhianne O’Donnell and Lily Taylor meet Salma and Ho Tze Lok respectively after opening their campaigns with 3-0 successes.
Pictures by Steve Cubbins (SquashSite)