Japanese ace beats Kiwi Megan Craig in Invercargill final
By HOWARD HARDING – Squash Mad Correspondent
Providing the perfect omen for squash just hours before the sport was shortlisted for inclusion in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Japan’s top-ranked player, Misaki Kobayashi, won the Women’s Invercargill Licensing Trust NZ Southern Open in New Zealand against expectations.
It was after upsetting top-seeded South African Siyoli Waters in the semi-finals of the WSA Challenger 10 event at Squash City Invercargill that second seed Kobayashi, the record six-time Japanese national champion from Yokohama, lined up against Kiwi hope Megan Craig, the No.4 seed from Blenheim, in the final.
It was the first meeting between world No.36 Kobayashi and the reigning New Zealand champion, ranked 13 places lower.
Craig, winner of her first Tour event on home soil only a week earlier, took the opening game. But the Japanese star bounced back to take the next three to record her 6-11, 11-9, 11-6, 11-5 title triumph in 38 minutes.
“I’m really happy to end the season with a win – and happy with the coolest trophy I’ve ever got too,” exclaimed 25-year-old Kobayashi after securing the eighth WSA World Tour title of her career.
“This win means a lot to me as squash still has a huge chance to get into the Olympics and I hope my result will encourage the Olympic committee members to know that there is bright future for squash and a real chance for a Japanese athlete to win a medal if it gets into 2020!”
Women’s Invercargill Licensing Trust NZ Southern Open, Invercargill, New Zealand
 Siyoli Waters (RSA) bt [Q] Danielle Fourie (NZL) 11-6, 11-6, 14-12 (23m)
 Sina Wall (GER) bt [Q] Hwayeong Eum (KOR) 6-11, 11-3, 11-0, 11-8 (28m)
Jessica Turnbull (AUS) bt  Lakeesha Rarere (AUS) 11-9, 11-13, 11-7, 11-6 (40m)
 Megan Craig (NZL) bt [Q] Yura Choi (KOR) 11-3, 11-7, 11-4 (20m)
 Amanda Landers-Murphy (NZL) bt Selena Shaikh (AUS) 11-3, 11-4, 11-4 (17m)
 Christine Nunn (AUS) bt [Q] Hyo Ju Seo (KOR) 11-7, 11-3, 11-1 (17m)
 Sarah Cardwell (AUS) bt Jasmine Chan (AUS) 11-4, 11-7, 11-7
 Misaki Kobayashi (JPN) bt Abbie Palmer (NZL) 11-3, 11-2, 11-8
 Siyoli Waters (RSA) bt  Sina Wall (GER) 11-7, 5-11, 11-4, 11-9 (34m)
 Megan Craig (NZL) bt Jessica Turnbull (AUS) 11-3, 11-3, 11-7 (20m)
 Amanda Landers-Murphy (NZL) bt  Christine Nunn (AUS) 12-10, 11-4, 11-9 (38m)
 Misaki Kobayashi (JPN) bt  Sarah Cardwell (AUS) 11-7, 11-4, 5-11, 11-7 (35m)
 Megan Craig (NZL) bt  Siyoli Waters (RSA) 8-11, 11-9, 10-12, 11-2, 12-10 (52m)
 Misaki Kobayashi (JPN) bt  Amanda Landers-Murphy (NZL) 11-9, 6-11, 11-6, 11-9 (42m)
 Misaki Kobayashi (JPN) bt  Megan Craig (NZL) 6-11, 11-9, 11-6, 11-5 (38m)