Anderson takes out top seed for first title
By DONNA HELMER
Warwickshire’s Lewis Anderson admits he had to muster every ounce of concentration as he powered through an enthralling five-game thriller to secure his maiden title at the Dunlop British Junior Championships.
In a sensational advert for the junior game, the 16-year-old clinched an 11/7, 14/12, 7/11, 9/11, 11/8 victory over Scotland’s Alasdair Prott to become the first Warwickshire player in over three decades to taste success at the BJC.
Anderson burst out of the blocks and dictated the first two games at a furious pace, racing into a 2-0 lead as he opened up his Scottish opponent.
But Prott proved why he was the top seed in this tournament and matched Anderson in the third, winning 11/7.
In a physical game interspersed with unforced errors from both players – a testament to the high intensity showcased by both – Solihull-born Anderson was in the driving seat after a 5-1 lead in the fourth, but a determined Prott battled back, producing a brilliant volley en route to fighting back to levelling at two games apiece.
And in a nail-biting last game, it was Anderson who kept his cool at 9-9 to power to a two-point victory and become the first Warwickshire player since Gary Robinson in BU19 win in 1985 to claim BJC silverware.
It was a mammoth result for the leftie, who lost to Prott in the Welsh Junior Open last year and looked a different player to his runner’s up performance at this year’s English Junior U17 Championship in March.
“I had to regroup for the last game and I kept composed when it mattered. I’m just so happy,” said a relieved Anderson.
“It was neck in the fourth and then I hit a frame which I thought was good but the ref thought otherwise, so that put him game ball up and I lost my head a bit which made me lose it.
“After I lost the English Closed final in March, my coach went away and decided we had to keep mentally tough in those situations.
“I’ve worked on it over the past six months and for this one, I was ready.”
In the Boys Under-19 competition, No.2 seed Tom Walsh powered to a 12/10, 11/6, 11/9 victory in a tense match against No.4 seed Nick Wall to attain his first BJC victory.
The opening period was a classically tight affair, but it was Walsh who showcased great agility around the court to take the first game 12/10, before stretching his Yorkshire opponent to with a variety of shots to lead 2/0.
The 2015 BU17 runner up maintained the same high-performance levels as in the first two games, completing a 3-0 win over tricky opponent Wall, who had previously knocked out No.1 seed Kyle Finch in the semi-finals.
Speaking after the final, Walsh, who didn’t drop a game all tournament, expressed his delight at finally getting his hands on the illustrious Don Sanderson trophy.
“I’m amazed I came through. Nick is a quality player. We have battled since the younger age groups, so I am delighted I came through in three games to win my first British title,” Walsh said.
“Whatever happened I was going to have a tough match in the final. But I had a game plan and I stuck with it. I don’t think I could have done much better.”
Meanwhile Yorkshire’s Sam Todd saw off a spirited challenge from Warwickshire’s Hassan Khalil to claim the Under-15 title and put last year’s semi-final heartache behind him.
Despite a bright start from second seed Khalil, the Pontefract talent soon found his rhythm and orchestrated an effective game plan, intelligently pin-pointing the ball across all corners of the court as he wrapped victory 11/7, 11/7, 11/9.
Khalil matched him in the third, producing a string of stunning shots in a game characterised by a series of patient rallies, before Todd opened up a four-point lead en route to victory.
“It was an excellent game played in excellent spirit by two gentlemen on court,” said Sam’s father Mick who confirmed his son would not be defending his title at the US Junior Open in December, instead aiming to be seeded number one at January’s Dunlop British Junior Open.
“The game far exceeded under-15’s play but Sam did well to concentrate and come through 3-0.”
Elsewhere, top seed Jonah Bryant marked his last BU13 appearance in style as he stormed to victory over Essex’s Yusuf Sheikh  11/0, 11/1, 11/8 and consolidate on his English Junior Open win earlier this year.
The result saw the 12-year-old become only the second Sussex player to triumph in the BU13 category and the first since Curtis Malik’s victory in 2011.
The 2016 BU13 runner-up, who lost to Worcestershire’s Sam Osborne-Wylde last time round, produced a dominant performance despite injuring himself as he dived to a retrieve a shot in the second game.
“I’m really happy because I hit the ball quite well in the first two games and I was just enjoying the fell of the glass court,” said the 12-year-old Sussex player, who admitted he would target his volleying as he transitions to the BU15 category.
“In the third I started to lose my concentration a bit and it went closer which maybe it shouldn’t have done, but I’m pleased to have won.”
Pictures by Tony Hart courtesy of England Squash