Sam out to shine as Aussie juniors fight for recognition
By KIM SCHRAMM – Squash Mad Australian Correspondent
The City of Geelong in Victoria is preparing to host the 2014 Australian Junior Open Squash Championships, on the Easter weekend in April. With eight glass-backed courts the Leisuretime Centre on Anakie Road, Norlane, is expected to entertain more than 200 competitors from predominantly Australia and New Zealand.
All eligible junior players from around the world are welcome to compete. The main eligibility requirement is that players enter the specific age group as defined by their age on April 21, 2014 (the last day of the Championship).
Entries are now being taken for the AJO and close on Friday, March 21, 2014 at 5.00pm. The best place to enter is online at the Squash Australia website: www.squash.org.au
Geelong is located on the shores of Port Phillip Bay and is about 60 minutes west of Melbourne. Geelong is best known as being the home of the AFL Premiership-winning Cats, but it is also the gateway to some of the best coastal scenery in Victoria.
Add an extra day to your stay and take a drive along the Great Ocean Road to the Twelve Apostles situated on the shoreline of the Port Campbell National Park. A collection of limestone stacks make up this stunning coastline attraction. Definitely a photographer’s paradise!
Squash Vic’s Executive Director Fiona Young (left) is very upbeat about Championships being played in Victoria “It is always good to showcase a national event. It provides an opportunity for our local players who may not always get the chance to travel to compete against top quality opposition in their backyard.”
Young further explained that there are two major junior events on the Australian junior calendar each year and this is one of them. “If you want to pit yourself against the best players in the nation and get noticed by the national selectors you need to play.
“From a participation viewpoint, this will be an event where you can meet plenty of other players from around the country and enjoy the atmosphere of a major tournament.”
Victoria’s best player is without doubt Sam Ejtemai. The talented teenager recently won the Under-19 title at the Oceania Junior Squash Championships upsetting the #1 seed Rhys Dowling in the final.
“Winning the Oceania Championship last January was one of my favorite highlights of my junior career. The feeling I had after the last point of the final was indescribable. I felt I had a point to prove during the event and to achieve my goal was fantastic but to do it while representing team Australia made it that much more special.”
“Obviously there are bigger expectations of me this year to do well which means greater pressure on me. However, I try to keep away from getting too caught up in rankings and seedings before events as it takes away from my performance. I treat every match the same. After all it is only a number next to a name.”
In his final year of High School, Ejtemai too is very excited about the AJO being played in Geelong. “Having the AJO so close to home adds extra incentive for me to do well.
“Not only does it allow for my family and friends to come out and support but it allows me to feel more comfortable on court. I’m sure that the home court advantage will give me a little edge over the rest of the competition.”
He went on to say “having the AJO in Victoria will also be great for the younger Victorian juniors as they will be able to benchmark themselves against the top players in their age group from around the country.”
Squash Vic’s High Performance Manager Richard Cagliarini is also looking forward to the AJO being played in his home State and seeing whether his charges have improved.
“All of our players have been training very hard the last couple of months for this event and so this is a great opportunity for them to see that the training they have been doing has been worth the effort.”
His squad includes Sam Ejtemai (U19 National ranking 1), Tyler Hawkins (U19 NR 15), Jason Holmes (U17 NR 9) and Victoria Leow (U19 NR 4).
Cagliarini is confident about the prospects of his squad. “Tyler Hawkins and Jason Holmes are two players who are really putting in some good work at training. We are looking at these two players to do very well in this event but Sam will be the favourite and he is hitting a good ball at the moment.”
“Victoria is also a player we expect to do very well and given her ranking she should be well placed to make the semis and hopefully get to the final.”
For those who can’t make the Championships all is not lost. Fiona Young has advised that Squash Vic will be webcasting matches on finals day. “We webcast the Pennant finals last year and had viewers tune in from 18 different countries so we hope we can get a similar exposure for this event.”
The Championships are fast approaching so you need to get organized. For more information, visit the AJO event page.
Pictures courtesy of Kim Schramm