Last month, 762 of the world’s top juniors representing 43 countries competed in the world’s largest junior individual squash tournament – the 2019 U.S. Junior Open at Harvard, MIT, Northeastern and Andover in the greater Boston area, Massachusetts.
Young Essex junior player Lara Newton from Mersea was one of 36 English players to play in the tournament. Here’s her story.
During my time at the US junior open (my first international event) I won five of my eight Under-15 matches giving me a winning ratio of 63% which I was very happy with. Mum also found a way to drive the wrong way up a multi-story car park and almost drive the wrong way down a one-way street, but that is a whole other story.
I was lucky enough to stay with some squash experts Wendy and Paul Ansdell, Paul used to be head coach at Lexden many moons ago. I trained on their courts and enjoyed every moment with them (even though they beat me at Yahtzee)
England squash sent over two coaches Lee Drew and Josh Taylor to support the 36 England players and also put on a two-day squash camp with ex England player Nick Taylor and his colleagues at Infinitum squash club (which sported 8 superb courts inside a double bubble which was heated) prior to the tournament to sharpen our skills, to get rid of any nerves and to get used to the unfamiliar courts, some are made of panels and need more height to make length shots.
Being selected to play at this event gave me the opportunity to play a number of different playing styles from a variety of nations. I played juniors from Mexico, Ecuador, Japan and of course USA. It was a learning curve to see the high standards of squash that you must be able to play at to do well Internationally. This has driven me on to train much harder.
On day one, I faced a girl from Japan (who was seeded above me). I won 3-0 which I was over the moon with. I then played the American No.3 and lost 0-3 but scoring up to 8 points, so not far away from her.
Day 2 saw me facing a girl from Ecuador which I won 3-0. Soon after I played another American and lost 1-3, 10-12 in the fourth. It just took me too long to get into my game while playing this girl. Sshe had a very different playing style to anyone I have ever played before. Next time, I will be ready for her.
On day three, I played a Mexican and American winning both matches 3-1 and 3-0 respectively to take me through to plate 3 semi-finals on day 4. From day three onward, we were in the knockout stages (where if you lose, you go home!) So, I was happy to continue my fight.
On my final day in the States, I played my fourth American of the tournament and won 3-1 with 3 of the games going to 2 clear points and despite having had 3 match balls at 10-7, she dug deep and pushed me to 15-all where I finally took control and the win 17-15. Unusually, my eighth match of the tournament was the girl that I played and had beaten 3-0 in the first round from Japan. I lost this match 1-3 after having tried hard but just being too tired to convert. I played all the right shots just losing my accuracy due to fatigue. She had gone into a different part of the draw and got several byes so was not on eight matches like me.
Throughout the tournament I met some kind people and it was great to be able to speak to all of these different people. It was a lot different in America compared to the UK and not only was the competition tough but so was the confusing road rules, for example, being able to turn right at a red light and indicators being red not orange like back at home. The whole thing felt a little like being on a movie set with wooden houses, mailboxes and fire hydrants, oh, and the -7 degrees Celsius and 6 inches of snow.
I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to experience this event and am very grateful to all that helped it to happen, I hope I made them all proud.
From Lara Newton