Sunday, March 3, 2024

Finnlay Withington meets top seed in World Junior semi-finals after winning all-English battle

By JANE BALL (Squash Mad Reporter)

England’s Finnlay Withington meets top seed Mohammad Hamza Khan of Pakistan in the semi-finals of the men’s World Junior Championships in Nancy.

Withington, seeeded 3/4, won an all-English quarter-final encounter against 9/16 seed Sam Osborne-Wylde.

An 18-year-old from Bury, Withington went two games up before Osborne-Wylde, from Redditch, battled back to win the third.

In a hard-fought fourth game, Withington finished strongly to take the match on a tiebreak, winning 11-8, 11-6, 8-11, 12-10.

Going into the match, Osborne-Wylde held a 3-1 H2H record, with the caveat that his last official win came some time ago, with Withington winning the most recent encounter.
Game one was even. Both players traded the lead until Withington pulled away from 4-4 to 8-4 up. Osborne-Wylde closed the gap to 9-8, but was unable to pull ahead and Withington finished with a brilliant volley into the front right.
Game two was initially evenly contested, though Withington was able to control the ball better on the warm court and find winners to pull away from 6-6.
Game three went to 6-6 again before Osborne-Wylde pulled away from 7-7 to 11-8, winning the game with a great line that was too tight.
In game four, Withington appeared to be winning comfortably, moving from 8-4 and 9-5 to hold match ball at 10-6 up. Osborne-Wylde  then took a more aggressive T position and was rewarded by drawing level to force a tiebreak. Both players then played attacking shots, before Withington won the match on an error from his opponent.

No.1 seed Khan fought back from 2-1 down to beat 5/8 seed Mohammed Nasser of Egypt.

World No.163 Khan hit back to win the fourth and fifth games to become the first Pakistani since Israr Ahmed in 2016 to reach the semi-finals.

Khan said: “Today is Independence Day for Pakistan, so it’s a gift for Pakistan that I won. I hope to do my best.”

Egypt’s 14-year-old Mohamed Zakaria became the second youngest ever player to reach the men’s World Junior Championships semi-finals, and the youngest since Aamir Atlas Khan in 2004, as he broke home hearts by coming from a game down to beat France’s Brice Nicolas 3-2.

Home favourite Nicolas edged the first game 12-10 but Zakaria hit back to win the next two games by an 11-3 margin.

Nicolas, roared on by the vocal French crowd, won the fourth 11-6. However, Zakaria flew into a 5-1 lead in the fifth and kept in front to seal an 11-6 win.

Zakaria will play fellow history maker Rowan Damming in the semi-final after the 17-year-old 5/8 seed became the first Dutch player to reach the semi-finals with a 3-1 win over unseeded Colombian Juan Jose Torres Lara.

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The women’s semi-finals will feature four Egyptians after dominant performances in all four quarter-finals, highlighted by 5/8 seed Salma El Tayeb beating Malaysia’s 3/4 seed Aira Azman in straight games.

The World No.69 El Tayeb was in dominant form throughout, with her immaculate squash wearing down the Malaysian, who was hassled into too many errors.

El Tayeb will play compatriot Kenzy Ayman in today’s semi-final, after the top seed fought back to win 3-2 against  England’s 5/8 seed Saran Nghiem after losing the first game.

Ayman said: “In the first game I felt really nervous because I’m top seed and you feel you have to win the whole championship.”

The other women’s semi-final will be contested by 3/4 seed Fayrouz Abouelkheir and No.2 seed Amina Orfi. Orfi won a fiery victory over fellow Egyptian Malak Khafagy, while Abouelkheir played well to beat India’a 14-year-old Anahat Singh.

The semi-finals begin from 13:40 (GMT+2) today (August 15) with Ayman v El Tayeb. You can watch the action live and free on the WSF YouTube channel.

2022 WSF Men’s World Junior Championship, Nancy, France.

Men’s Quarter-Finals:
[1] Mohammad Hamza Khan (PAK) bt [5/8] Mohammed Nasser (EGY) 3-2: 11-3, 5-11, 9-11, 11-5, 11-7 (63m)
[3/4] Finnlay Withington (ENG) bt [9/16] Sam Osborne-Wylde (ENG) 3-1: 11-8, 11-6, 8-11, 12-10 (54m)
[5/8] Rowan Damming (NED) bt Juan Jose Torres Lara (COL) 3-1: 11-8, 9-11, 11-8, 11-9 (60m)
[9/16] Mohamed Zakaria (EGY) bt [9/16] Brice Nicolas (FRA) 3-2: 10-12, 11-3, 11-3, 6-11, 11-6 (70m)

Women’s Quarter-Finals:
[1] Kenzy Ayman (EGY) bt [5/8] Saran Nghiem (ENG) 3-2: 10-12, 11-2, 11-8, 5-11, 11-7 (51m)
[5/8] Salma El Tayeb (EGY) bt [¾] Aira Azman (MAS) 3-0: 11-7, 11-8, 11-6 (24m)
[¾] Fayrouz Abouelkheir (EGY) bt [9/16] Anahat Singh (IND) 3-1: 11-7, 6-11, 11-6, 11-8 (46m)
[2] Amina Orfi (EGY) bt [5/8] Malak Khafagy (EGY) 3-0: 11-6, 11-9, 13-11 (45m)

Men’s Semi-Finals:
[1] Mohammad Hamza Khan (PAK) v [3/4] Finnlay Withington (ENG)
[5/8] Rowan Damming (NED) v [9/16] Mohamed Zakaria (EGY)

Women’s Semi-Finals:
[1] Kenzy Ayman (EGY) v [5/8] Salma El Tayeb (EGY)
[3/4] Fayrouz Abouelkheir (EGY) v [2] Amina Orfi (EGY)

Pictures courtesy of WSF 


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