Saturday, December 2, 2023

Rising star Withington takes second PSA Tour title

By Mike Dale

Finnlay Withington’s reputation as England’s most promising young squash player gained further credence on Sunday as he impressively won the $3k Harrogate Squash Open. 

The Bury-born 18-year-old had seen off second seed Temwa Chileshe from two games down in Saturday’s semi-final, then dispatched Sussex’s Perry Mailk in Sunday’s final 11-4, 9-11, 11-7, 11-3 to win his second PSA Tour title. 

Withington took the first easily 11-4 as Malik failed to land any attacking blows. Although third-seeded Malik clawed back into it in the second, profiting from several Withington tins, the third and fourth went the younger player’s way in relatively quick time. 

Withington was runner-up in the World Junior Championship final back in August, having become the first Englishman to reach the final since James Willstrop back in 2002. 

He now has his sights set on January’s prestigious British Junior Open in Birmingham. “I’m really excited for next year. I’m going to be training really hard for the British Junior Open and hopefully I’ll get redemption for the Worlds.” he said. 

Malik had beaten the other Yorkshire-based Chileshe brother, Lwamba, in the other semi-final in straight games.

Withington said of Malik: “He is solid. He came out with a different game plan to when I normally play him, but I thought I adapted pretty well. I’m really pleased to win. 

“This definitely gives me a lot of confidence. Whenever I play people who are around his ranking, I’m a lot more relaxed than normal. He’s really good and his ranking is definitely justified. 

“I’m going to spend the prize money on a flight somewhere for a bigger tournament. This was really well organised and beating Temwa from 0-2 down was amazing. I seem to be doing that quite a lot at the moment – hopefully going 2-0 down won’t become a habit!” 

The tournament was part of the re-birth of Harrogate Sport and Fitness Club. The venue has had major investment in the last few years, including the addition of two padel courts and renovation of the bar and gym. 

Tournament organiser Robbie Burnett said: “This is all about giving our members the best possible experience we can. There were plenty of juniors here this afternoon and exposing them to world-class squash will only inspire them. 

“We will definitely do it again next year – now we’ve started, we can’t stop! These two talented young players bode well for England squash.” 

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