Monday, December 4, 2023

Teenage sensations Anahat Singh (14) and Lijana Sultana (15) win through on opening day of Commonwealth Games singles

Uganda veteran Mike Kawooya gains his moment in the limelight against No.2 seed Joel Makin on glass court
By ALAN THATCHER (Squash Mad Editor)

The two youngest players in the Commonwealth Games both enjoyed victories on the opening day of competition.

The 14-year-old Anahat Singh of India and Malta’s 15-year-old Lijana Sultana both produced fearless displays.

Singh beat Jada Ross of St. Vincent and The Grenadines in straight games, winning 11-5, 11-2, 11-0 as she made a dazzling debut on the glass show court inside the University of Birmingham sports centre.

Lijana Sultana of Malta produced a mature performance to win through to the second round

Sultana overcame Charlotte Knaggs of Trinidad and Tobago in a massive five-game battle, triumphing 9-11, 11-3, 11-3, 7-11, 12-10. She had to fight back from 8-4 down in the fifth game to draw level and she then clinched victory on her second match ball.

In tomorrow’s second round, Lijana meets Canada’s Hollie Naughton and Anahat takes on Emily Whitlock of Wales, with both matches on Court One. Both Naughton and Whitlock are seeded in the 5/8 group.

Lijana’s older sister Colette Sultana plays Australia’s Jess Turnbull on Court Two.

Singh said: “It’s really exciting because I’m getting to play a lot of senior players and it’s my first senior tournament. It’s really fun! My family are here with me now and cheering me on really loudly.

“I didn’t really know what to expect, but now I know I can win and I’m doing really well. I got more confident as the games went on. I wasn’t really confident, but I had nothing to lose, so I wasn’t really nervous either.”

Cyrus Poncha, Secretary General at The Squash Rackets Federation of India added: “It’s been fabulous [seeing Singh’s progress].

“A lot of people have said it’s good that we’re bringing in a youngster, but she’s here on merit. She is that good. I’m looking forward to seeing her go further from here.”

The amazing sight of brother and sister Kijan and Lijana Sultana playing on adjacent courts


Men’s top seed Paul Coll faces Malta national coach in the second round. Engerer is looking forward to the occasion after beating his 18-year-old Malta team-mate Kijan Sultana, who was a flag-bearer for the Mediterranean island last night.

Engerer said: “Kijan is devoted to the game and has aspirations of turning pro. He is so quick – I feel like I’m in slo-mo and he is on double speed. It’s a joke the way he moves round the court.

“Kijan is a player who is up-and-coming and I’m sure he has plenty of Commonwealth Games ahead of him. It’s not nice to play your countryman, but I‘m just glad we both have the opportunity to play on the showcourt tomorrow.”

On playing the top seed in the second round, he added: “I was glad to get off in four games and have something in the locker against Paul tomorrow. My expectations aren’t much but I’m just going to enjoy the occasion.

“This is squash’s biggest event, so I’m going to savour every moment.”

Malta’s national coach Niall Engerer and his team-mate Kiljan Sultana before their match

From the youngest players to a four-times Commonwealth Games veteran: Uganda’s Mike Kawooya won through to a dream second round tie against No.2 seed Joel Makin after beating Marcus Adela of Seychelles in the final match of the opening day’s programme.

The 37-year-old Kawooya played powerful, controlled squash to win 11-8, 11-1, 11-3 and will meet Makin on the all-glass show court at 7.45pm tomorrow.

What a fitting reward for a lovely guy who works so hard to promote squash in Uganda. I met Mike in Glasgow in 2014 and we have kept in touch ever since. I hope he can grab a few points off the No.2 sed tomorrow!

Mike said: “This is a very big opportunity for me as well as for squash in Uganda. My first time ever on the glass show court in front of a huge crowd and I am going to give it all I have in me.

“I am very happy to have won my first match and I think it was my greater experience that helped me to win. I am so looking forward to my next match against Joel Makin. He is an amazing player and ranked seven in the world. Wow!”
Round two of squash at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games begins tomorrow at 12 noon local time.
Mike Kawooya (right) and his first round opponent Marcus Adela of Seychelles

In the match of the day, Sri Lanka’s Shamil Wakeel fought back from two games down to beat Barbados’ Shawn Simpson.

The powerful and accurate Simpson had the upper hand in the early exchanges, taking the first game 11-6 before edging the second 11-9.

Wakeel, though, dug deep. The Sri Lankan moved around the court well and began to find his length, taking the third game 11-6 and then levelling the match with a narrow 11-9 win.

With momentum and the crowd behind him, Wakeel came into the crucial fifth game flowing with confidence. The 23-year-old looked sharp as Simpson made multiple errors, with the Sri Lankan cantering to an 11-1 win to the cheers of the crowd to set up a second round clash with India’s 3/4 seed Saurav Ghosal.

Speaking after the match, Wakeel thanked his coach and the crowd for the support, adding: “I’m happy with my performance because I tested positive for Covid-19 a week ago and today was my first day back on court for 10 days. It was tough. He was winning 2-0 and I came back. I feel so much better now! The first few games I was not fit. I thought I was going to lose.

The glass court in the main arena at the University of Birmingham

“I haven’t played a match on a glass court for five years. It’s so different to a plaster court. I couldn’t get used to the reflections and the crowd. It was a great experience, though, and I’m so excited to play Saurav tomorrow.”

While there were no English players involved, there was plenty of home interest in the first match of the evening session, with Scotland’s 9/16 seed Rory Stewart playing Kenyan University of Birmingham physics student Muqtadir Sadruddin Nimji.

World No.66 Stewart took the first game 11-7 but was pushed all the way in the second by the World No.496. The Kenyan forced Stewart into errors with impressive attacking play, but fell just short after Stewart – who drew applause from the crowd after telling referee Mike Collins that his initial game-winning shot was Nimji’s point – took the game 13-11 before the Scot wrapped up the win with an 11-4 win in the third.

“I kept telling myself ‘I’m not nervous,’ but I guarantee I was. It was really difficult and I’m glad to get through.

“There were a few shouts [for Nimji] but there are lots of Scots in the venue and thanks to them.”

Nimji said: “Rory was a great sportsman to not take a game winning point in the second set. I was very surprised with that. I know lots of people who would not have said anything.”

“I knew when I applied to the University of Birmingham that the Commonwealth Games would be held here. I missed out on the last Games by one position, which I was devastated about. I looked online to see where the next Games would be held, and it was at the same time I was applying to university.

“It was a great turnout; it was surprising to see so many people. It’s so cool for a first-round match. It was great to have all the support, from all the people at the University of Birmingham, and those at home in Kenya.”

There were impressive wins for Kiwi brothers Temwa and Lwamba Chileshe, Jamaica’s Christopher Bonnie picked up a comfortable win in his fifth consecutive Commonwealth Games, and Malaysia’s 9/16 seed Ivan Yuen narrowly avoided a first round banana skin.

Emyr Evans, whose sister Tesni was the Welsh team’s flag-bearer, enjoyed a quick win over Luca Reich of the British Virgin Islands and now meets Malaysia’s Mohamed Syafiq Kamal.

Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, University of Birmingham.

Men’s First Round:
Niall Engerer (MLT) bt Kijan Sultana (MLT) 3-1: 11-7, 15-13, 9-11, 12-10 (51m)
Emyr Evans (WAL) bt Luca Reich (IVB) 3-0: 11-1, 11-3, 11-0 (20m)
[9/16] Mohd Syafiq Kamal (MAS) bt Madako Suari (PNG) 3-0: 11-2, 11-3, 11-2 (17m)
Christopher Binnie (JAM) bt Evans Ayih (GHA) 3-0: 11-1, 11-1, 11-3 (16m)
Jake Kelly (CAY) bt Marika Matanatabu (FIJ) 3-2: 8-11, 9-11, 11-5, 11-8, 11-9 (54m)
Ravindu Laksiri (SRI) bt Shomari Wiltshire (GUY) 3-1: 11-2, 11-1, 7-11, 11-3 (33m)
Rhys Dowling (AUS) bt Jason Doyle (VIN) 3-0: 11-1, 11-2, 11-5 (18m)
[9/16] Ivan Yuen (MAS) bt Khamal Cumberbatch (BAR) 3-0: 11-9, 11-9, 11-9 (26m)
[9/16] David Baillargeon (CAN) bt Chayse McQuan (TTO) 3-0: 11-3, 11-4, 11-3 (24m)
Peter Creed (WAL) bt Othneil Bailey (VIN) 3-0: 11-1, 11-4, 11-5 (16m)
Shamil Wakeel (SRI) bt Shawn Simpson (BAR) 3-2: 6-11, 9-11, 11-6, 11-9, 11-1 (40m)
Julian Jervis (CAY) bt Clement Anafo (GHA) 3-0: 11-1, 11-1, 11-2 (16m)
Temwa Chileshe (NZL) bt Jules Snagg (VIN) 3-0: 11-2, 11-3, 11-3 (17m)
[9/16] Rory Stewart (SCO) bt Muqtadir Sadruddin Nimji (KEN) 3-0: 11-7, 13-11, 11-4 (22m)
Nasir Iqbal (PAK) bt Julian Morrison (JAM) 3-0: 11-5, 11-4, 11-3 (18m)
Christian Navas (GIB) bt Jace Jervis (CAY) 3-1: 9-11, 11-5, 11-5, 11-8 (38m)
Jason-Ray Khalil (GUY) bt Paul Kadoma (UGA) 3-2: 12-14, 11-9, 9-11, 11-4, 11-8 (54m)
Nick Sachvie (CAN) bt Kundanji Kalengo (ZAM) 3-1: 11-2, 10-12, 11-2, 11-1 (37m)
[9/16] Lwamba Chileshe (NZL) bt Feonor Siaguru (PNG) 3-0: 11-4, 11-3, 11-4 (17m)
Abhay Singh (IND) bt Joe Chapman (BVI) 3-0: 11-5, 11-5, 11-5 (25m)
Michael Raymond Kawooya (UGA) bt Marcus Allen Adela (SEY) 3-0: 11-8, 11-1, 11-3 (12m)

Women’s First Round:
Leungo Katse (BOT) bt Zulema Chisenga (ZAM) 3-0: 11-9, 11-4, 11-9 (18m)
Lijana Sultana (MLT) bt Charlotte Knaggs (TTO) 3-2: 9-11, 11-3, 11-3, 7-11, 12-10 (40m)
Meagan Best (BAR) bt Khaliqa Sadrudin Nimji (KEN) 3-0: 1-1, 11-0, 11-0 (12m)
Yeheni Kuruppu (SRI) bt Ashley Khalil (GUY) 3-2: 11-4, 11-9, 9-11, 3-11, 11-4 (33m)
Amanda Haywood (BAR) bt Naomi Neo Phatsima (BOT) 3-0: 11-3, 11-3, 11-9 (15m)
Anahat Singh (IND) bt Jada Ross (VIN) 3-0: 11-5, 11-2, 11-0 (15m)
Jade Pitcairn (CAY) bt Jada Smith-Padmore (BAR) 3-0: 11-5, 11-5, 11-2 (19m)

Men’s Second Round Draw:
[1] Paul Coll (NZL) v Niall Engerer (MLT)
Emyr Evans (WAL) v [9/16] Mohd Syafiq Kamal (MAS)
[9/16] Ramit Tandon (IND) v Chris Binnie (JAM)
Jake Kelly (CAY) v [5/8] Adrian Waller (ENG)
[5/8] Greg Lobban (SCO) v Ravindu Laksiri (SRI)
Rhys Dowling (AUS) v [9/16] Ivan Yuen (MAS)
[9/16] David Baillargeon (CAN) v Peter Creed (WAL)
Shamil Wakeel (SRI) v [3/4] Saurav Ghosal (IND)
[3/4] Patrick Rooney (ENG) v Julian Jervis (CAY)
Temwa Chileshe (NZL) v [9/16] Rory Stewart (SCO)
Nasir Iqbal (PAK) v [9/16] Tayyab Aslam (PAK)
Christian Navas (GIB) v [5/8] James Willstrop (ENG)
[5/8] Eain Yow Ng (MAS) v Jason-Ray Khalil (GUY)
Nick Sachvie (CAN) v [9/16] Lwamba Chileshe (NZL)
Abhay Singh (IND) v [9/16] Alan Clyne (SCO)
Mike Kawooya (UGA) v [2] Joel Makin (WAL)

Women’s Second Round Draw:
[1] Joelle King (NZL) v Leungo Katse (BOT)
[9/16] Georgia Adderley (SCO) v Emma Keane (BER)
Collette Sultana (MLT) v [9/16] Jess Turnbull (AUS)
Amity Alarcos (PNG) v [5/8] Lucy Turmel (ENG)
[5/8] Hollie Naughton (CAN) v Lijana Sultana (MLT)
[9/16] Aifa Azman (MAS) v Sunayna Kuruvilla (IND)
Kaitlyn Watts (NZL) v Mary Fung-a-Fat (GUY)
Meagan Best (BAR) v [3/4] Joshna Chinappa (IND)
[3/4] Gina Kennedy (ENG) v Yeheni Kuruppu (SRI)
[9/16] Nicole Bunyan (CAN) v Chanithma Sinaly (SRI)
Amna Fayyaz (PAK) v [9/16] Rachel Arnold (MAS)
Amanda Haywood (BAR) v [5/8] Tesni Evans (WAL)
[5/8] Emily Whitlock (WAL) v Anahat Singh (AUS)
[9/16] Donna Lobban (AUS) v Rachael Grinham (AUS)
Faiza Zafar (PAK) v [9/16] Chan Yiwen (MAS)
Jade Pitcairn (CAY) v [2] Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG)

Pictures courtesy of Commonwealth Games, World Squash Federation and Robert Sultana 


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