Monday, April 15, 2024

Japan’s Top Juniors Shine in KL and US

Japan’s Top Juniors Shine in KL and US
By Noriko Kamiya and Alex Wan

Japanese duo Satomi Watanabe (left) and recently crowned national champion Ryunosuke Tsukue both won a title and runner’s up medal each in the US and Redtone KL Junior Opens earlier this month. Their splendid results came at no better time, as both are preparing to head to Sheffield for the Technifibre British Junior Open.


Ryunosuke Tsukue Wins in KL

Ryunosuke Tsukue returning a shot in the final of the boys under-19 event at the Redtone KL Junior Open

At the Redtone KL Junior Open, Ryunosuke Tsukue took the honours first as he breezed through boys under-19 event of the tournament without dropping a game, beating top seed Sajad Zareian of Iran in the final 13-11, 11-9, 11-3.

Like Tsukue, Satomi Watanabe was in ruthless form in the girls under-19 as she powered into the final, dropping just 21 points along the way. In the semi-finals, she had taken out Malaysian second seed Nazihah Hanis.

However, her run was halted by another Malaysian, Andrea Lee, who is ranked number four in the latest World Junior Rankings. However, Watanabe proved to be a tough customer as Lee had to fight back from 1-2 down and win it 12-10 in the fifth game.


Satomi Watanabe Gets Her Hattrick in Yale

Satomi Watanabe screams in delight after capturing her third straight US Junior Open title

Two weeks later, the largest Junior tournament in the world, the US Junior Open took place in Yale University. Satomi Watanabe played her heart out to win the girls under-19 event, her third consecutive US Junior Open title, after winning the under-15 in 2013 and under-17 in 2014.

Despite playing in an age group above (she is 16 and eligible to play in the under-17), the joint-fifth seed of the tournament came out top amongst the 90 girls who took part. In the semi-finals, she took out the world’s fifth ranked junior Lakeesha Rarere of Australia in four close games. Rarere had earlier taken out top seed and defending champion Reeham Sedky of the United States.

In the final, Watanabe met 15 year old Egyptian Rowan Leda, who came out triumphant in a five-game semi-final battle with England’s second seed Amelia Henly. Having just lost out in the final in Kuala Lumpur just two weeks ago, Watanabe played her heart out to ensure it did not end the same way. Despite a fightback in the fourth game from the Egyptian, Watanabe came out victorious 11-7, 8-11, 11-3, 11-9.

Watanabe’s mother, who was with her in Yale, said, “Satomi had one of her most focussed performances ever, throughout this tournament“.

In the boys under-19 event, Ryunosuke Tsukue failed to make it a Japanese double as he fell to top seed Israr Ahmed of Pakistan in four close games. After Ahmed had taken the first two games 11-9 and 11-7, Tsukue found his form in the third, winning it 11-7 to force the fourth. In the end, it was the top ranked Asian junior who got his rhythm back to deny a second ever Japanese US Junior Open winner, taking the fourth game 11-8.


Peaking In Time for the British Juniors

Ryunosuke Tsukue and Satomi Watanabe’s recent performances comes at a good timing as both will be competing in the Technifibre British Junior Open next. Tsukue will be playing in the boys under-19 where he is seeded joint-ninth and drawn to meet Malaysia’s second seed Ng Eain Yow. Watanabe takes part in the girls under-17 and is seeded joint-fifth. She is drawn in the same quarter as top seed Hania Elhamamy of Egypt.

The young pair have been taking squash in Japan on an exciting journey and looks set to continue. Along with PSA player Misaki Kobayashi and two Rochester University players, Ryosei Kobayashi and Tomotaka Endo, we are delighted and proud to see young Japanese players continuing to achieve international success.


Results (all Finals):

Redtone KL Junior Open:

Andrea Lee (MAS) bt Satomi Watanabe (JPN) 11-8, 5-11, 6-11, 11-4, 12-10

Rynosuke Tsukue (JPN) bt Sajad Zareian (IRN) 13-11, 11-9, 11-3

US Junior Open:

Satomi Watanabe (JPN) bt Rowan Reda (EGY) 11-7, 8-11, 11-3, 11-9

Israr Ahmed (PAK) bt Rynunosuke Tsukue (JPN) 11-9, 11-7, 7-11, 11-8

Picture by and US Squash


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