Jonah Bryant believes his first round match at the Kent Open on Wednesday with Owain Taylor will supply the perfect gauge of where his game is, ahead of his impending transition to full-time status and senior squash.
The 17-year-old enjoyed an impressive run to the British Junior Open under-19 final at the weekend, taking out top-seed Rowan Damming in a gruelling four-game semi-final before succumbing to eventual winner Finnlay Withington in the title play-off.
Now, 72 hours later, the outstanding Brighton-born junior must pick himself up from that disappointment to go again in the Colin Payne Kent Open, sponsored by 501 Fun, at Tunbridge Wells Squash Club, against Wales’ world No.112-ranked Taylor.
With Valentin Rapp, of Germany, the men’s top seed followed by Taylor at No.2, Bryant admitted he is in for a battle. “I’m playing a good player in Owain Taylor who is ranked inside the top 150 so I need to focus on playing good squash and seeing where that takes me,” he said.
“It is one match at a time, but Owain will be a good test for me and a gauge of where I’m at in terms of seniors. I have played a few seniors and probably my best result was beating James Peach last year who is ranked around 100.”
Bryant has five more months of college left, then his aspiration is to turn full-time pro and base himself at West Warwicks to work with coach Rob Owen.
Bryant said: “Whenever you go on court with Rob it is very intense and tough but he makes things very simple and describes everything to you until you understand it. That helps a lot as you then understand why you are trying to do certain things and all of that builds trust.
“I do need to improve my physicality and intensity on court as against Finn the other day he stepped up and was in front of me almost the whole time. So playing guys like Owain is exactly the type of match play I need at this stage of my squash.”
The Kent Open is part of the PSA Challenger Tour and strong draws in both the men’s and women’s competitions reflect the $3,000 prize money up for grabs in each event with players from 16 nations competing.
Reflecting on his British Junior Open run, Bryant was sanguine about his fall at the final hurdle: “I wasn’t delighted with the end result as obviously you will never be happen finishing second but there were definitely positives to take away from the week and it was a decent run to make the final although it was probably one match too far,” said the world No.220.
Bryant continued: “Finn was probably the stand out player in the tournament and even although he was seeded No.2 a lot of people had him favourite.
“My semi with Rowan was around an hour and it was tough. Physically it did get hard at the end but I played well in the fourth when it mattered most.
“Then in the final the court was really quick and Finn likes to play at a high pace so I just didn’t get a chance to get my foot in the door.
“Finn came out flying and I did find it tough to get myself going until the end of the match, so maybe there was a hangover from the semi.
“That said it was definitely a big positive making the final rather than losing in the fourth round as I was expected to. I got a lot out of the tournament that will stand me in good stead next time around.”
In the Kent Open women’s event Torrie Malik, who was runner-up to Japan’s Satomi Watanabe in last year’s tournament, returns as top seed.
Malik, 18, who has won three titles this season including the British Junior Nationals in Sheffield, will face Kent wildcard Isabel McCullough, from Orpington, in the first round on Wednesday.
The reserve wildcard went to Torrie’s brother Bailey and as luck would have it he went into the draw against his big brother Perry, who is seeded five.
Perry will be aiming to follow in the footsteps of elder brother Curtis who won last season’s Kent Open men’s final and has since climbed to 62 in the world.
As you can see below, Torrie had to intervene to separate her brothers ahead of their first-round clash!