James Peach and Satomi Watanabe wait for them in the finals
By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor
Sussex siblings Curtis and Torrie Malik lived up to their top seed billing by reaching the finals of the Colin Payne Kent Open, sponsored by 501 Entertainment, at Tunbridge Wells Squash Club.
Both won in straight games and will be fired up to complete a family double against James Peach and Satomi Watanabe.
Torrie weathered a fierce fightback from No.3 seed Rana Ismail in the third game of her semi-final.
The 19-year-old Egyptian, a student at Roehampton University, struggled to make much impression in the first two games as Malik dominated with her crisp, precise hitting.
Malik quickly established a dominant position by winning the first six points and it was only at 10-1 down that Ismail was able to add to her score.
The second game provided the reverse, with Ismail hanging on at 3-5 down before Malik produced another run of six consecutive points.
Ismail worked her way into the match in the third game with a more attacking policy, aided by a sudden flurry of mistakes from her opponent. Ismail was ahead throughout and reached game ball at 10-9, but Malik fought back strongly, saved another game ball at 10-11, and, after a few nervous moments, clinched the game and the match with a 14-12 scoreline.
In the final she faces another Roehampton student, Japan’s Satomi Watanabe, who took less than 16 minutes to see off No.2 seed Kace Bartley.
Like the men’s No.2 seed, Josh Masters, who was beaten by James Peach in the quarters, Londoner Bartley blamed the workload of coaching for affecting her match fitness.
She revealed: “Like most players, there was no money coming in during lockdown and when clubs reopened I managed to get some coaching work at a number of places, but it’s very tiring.
“I haven’t been able to do any proper training for four months because I have been so busy coaching, but I am planning to get back into it properly next season. To do that I need to start training in the New Year.”
In the first men’s semi-final James Peach ended the impressive run of 17-year-old Finnlay Withington with a straight-games triumph.
Withington gathered some early points to lead 4-3 in the first game but Peach imposed himself on proceedings by winning seven points in a row.
In the second, Withington constructed a 5-2 lead but Peach once again enjoyed a dominant phase with five consecutive points. Withington levelled at 7-7 but another four-point combination gave Peach the game.
Withington’s challenge evaporated in the third as Peach powered his way to victory with some accurate placement and phenomenal recoveries to deny his opponent any success with some ambitious shots.
Owain Taylor was unable to mount a sustained challenge against top seed Curtis Malik, who looked strong and confident throughout.
A six-point burst from 3-2 down in the first game established a clear pattern of control by Malik. Taylor rallied with three more points but Malik comfortably contained matters with a five-point winning margin.
In the second, Malik quickly built a 4-0 lead and pushed through to take it 11-4.
Malik raced to a 7-1 lead in the third and there was no way back for the Welshman as Malik wrapped it up with another 11-4 win.
Two great finals are looming.
Earlier in the day, BBC South East broadcast a superb feature on the tournament, including a moving segment on the amazing Malik squash family.
Colin Payne Kent Open, sponsored by 501 Entertainment, at Tunbridge Wells Squash Club, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England.
(1) Curtis Malik (ENG) beat (6) Owain Taylor (WAL) 11-6, 11-4, 11-4 (33m)
(7) James Peach (ENG) beat Finnlay Withington (ENG) 11-6, 11-7, 11-3 (28m)
(1) Torrie Malik (ENG) beat (3) Rana Ismail (EGY) 11-3, 11-3, 14-12 (25m)
(4) Satomi Watanabe (JAP) beat (2) Kace Bartley (Eng) 11-3, 11-4, 11-6 (15m)
Pictures courtesy of Noah Meredith