REPORT BY LEE HORTON
The Connaught Junior Open unearthed some exciting new young talent and showcased an incredibly high standard of squash at the weekend.
With an impressive entry of over 60 players, the England Squash sanctioned Bronze event attracted players from across the Home Counties as well as a healthy entry from Essex. Organised and run by Connaught coach Dave Webster and his team of volunteers, the event ran like clockwork and was voted a huge hit by players and parents alike.
Southend’s Harry Kitchens (pictured above) was the first Essex players to get his name on the winners’ board as he dominated the Under-15 event. Despite having a few weeks away from training, Harry’s all-round game was too hot for the opposition and he cemented a good afternoon’s work beating Ethan Chak in the final 3-1.
Alex Banhidai (Bishops Stortford) secured the Under-11 title beating Luke Scot-Stevens in the final and it was an all-Essex, all-Connaught shoot-out in the Under-13’s. Yusef Sheikh (pictured left), recently installed the number two ranked Under-11 player in the country, had a real humdinger of match against Ryan McCoy and had just enough to win the contest.
Essex Under-11 champ Renitha Srindran was narrowly edged out of the girls’ Under-11’s final by Maha Shah from Harrow and Maha’s sister Anya beat Essex’s Olivia Broderick in the Under-13’s final. Sussex pair Torrie Malik (U17) and Isabelle Johnson (U19) shared the journey together and would have had plenty of time on the return trip to discuss their tournament victories. Torrie jumped two age groups but still had enough in her locker to edge Natalie Chak who was carrying a slight leg injury.
Two other car companions, Sebastian De La Vega (U17) and Paul Broadberry (U-19), flew the flag for Surrey after they both came through intense and brutal final matches. Sebastian held his nerve and composure to finally quell the stiff challenge of Jay Ledger 3-2 in a contentious and sometimes scrappy affair where the pursuit of lets appeared to occupy too much of their attention. A shame that it clouded their obvious talent and athleticism.
In contrast, Broadberry’s 3-2 victory was heavy on drama, sweat and monumental effort. His opponent, Hasnaat Farooqi from Hertfordshire, opened up a 2-0 lead and looked the bookie’s bet to take the trophy. But a change of pace and tactics by Paul broke Hasnaat’s momentum and suddenly it was game on at 2-2.
Again, Hasnaat regained his composure and domination opening up a 6-1 lead in the decider but, again, Paul came back at him. At 9-9 it was tense and thrilling. A punishing 40-shot rally was concluded with a deft drop by Paul to set up match ball. Sadly, Hasnaat had taken a knock to the ribs during the exhausting point and took a three-minute time-out to regain his composure.
He returned and the two players exchanged drives, drops and volleys in another brutal rally before Paul delivered the killer shot to finish off his opponent and take the title. Amazing drama and sumptuous squash.
The match was the highlight of a terrific tournament. Well done Connaught, Dave Webster and all the volunteers. Oh, and the players too.