Today at the Scottish Squash Junior Open

Keep up to date with all the latest action and results with our daily Scottish Junior Open recap. Don’t worry if you can’t make the competition, our live blog will take you courtside so you won’t miss a thing.

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Finals Day: A SMORGASBORD OF SQUASH

“ ’Tis better to die of exhaustion than boredom,” said the great Thomas Carlyle. Watching the Scottish Junior Open Squash would have pleased him, if he’d simply been transported 190 years forward and wandered round to The Grange Sports Club from his Comely Bank home. The SJO, for long in the shadow of the mammoth British Junior Open, is flexing its muscles, offering top level, international squash at all age groups, both Edinburgh Sports Club and The Grange proving superb venues.

At Under-13, strong performances from Sussex’s speedy Tom Walsh and Yorkshire’s guileful Asia Harris showed the quality of young England Squash. Asia lifted the Girls’ title, defeating Alex Brown, one of several impressive Canadians, 3-0; Tom was ousted in the semi-finals by eventual winner Shreyas Metha (India). Shreyas showed a blend of balance and touch, overcoming young Colombian Juan José Torres Lara in 5 sets. Juan José had put out top Scot Huzaifah Ali, no mean player himself.

At Under-15, to remind us that the Egyptians play some squash, Salah Ahmed El Torgman was never really challenged, even though Harry Little (Northumberland) threw everything at him, just as had Scots Ross Waddell, Hugo Macpherson and Ruadhri Macdougall, all to no avail. Just as Salah plays a marvellously varied game, with movement at the heart of his masterly court management, so Girls winner Katie Malliff seems permanently unflustered. Glasgow’s Orla Young, who had calmly eliminated the skilled Marie-Amélie Callebaut (Belgium) at the semi-final stage, maintained an accurate assault in the final, but the Magnificent Malliff – who really does seem to enjoy playing – had an answer for everything. 11-8, 11-5, 11-6 doesn’t reveal the determined rallying and retrieving that took place between these two.

The Finals at Edinburgh Sports Club were like a great meal, dish after dish of excellence. The knowledgeable crowd were delighted with the Under-17 Finals, where at last a home winner emerged from the cosmopolitan smorgasbord. Inverness, recently dubbed Scottish Club of the Year, produced the unassuming Alasdair Prott, whose 3-0 victory over talented Canadian Sam Scivier was only close in the 14-12 3rd game. Alasdair’s match-savviness and ability to turn a rally around and seize the initiative saw him to another title. Another disappointed Canadian was Cynthia Cao, who had swept through her Pool to reach the Girls’ Final. Many would have anticipated her victory in the Final, having overcome compatriot Brooke Herring (whose long match with England’s Eve Driver for 3rd place was a thriller). However, Ireland’s Laura Neill raised her game to another level and sealed a win in a very hard-fought match 11-13, 11-9, 11-8, 12-10.

Finally, Maple leafs fluttered in celebration with Canada’s eventual Gold: Grace Thomas’ win in the Under-19 Girls event came after a hard-hitting tussle with Northern Englishwoman Charlotte Jagger, a popular and familiar visitor to Edinburgh. To emphasise Northumberland’s strong squash traditions, Michael Andrews battled to the Boys’ Under-19 title after an epic against Giffnock’s Patrick O’Sullivan. Patrick, briefly here from his US University, gave an illustration of his quality and commitment. But coming back from 2-1 down to win 3-2, Michael provided a fittingly exciting climax to the tournament.

As the dust settled at the splendid Edinburgh venues, Organiser Allan McKay commented, “I am grateful to all players and coaches, and also the whole team – staff, volunteers, everyone – who have contributed to the success of this year’s event. As we in Scottish Squash look forward to further exciting weeks and months ahead, we enter 2017 in great heart, and buzzing with the great strides forward the sport is making. We appreciate greatly the encouragement of sportscotland’s Ewen Cameron, here today to present trophies along with our President Jim Hay, Chief Executive Maggie Still and Scottish International player Greg Lobban. And we look forward to welcoming many of these same excellent, sporting competitors and their coaches and families to our future events.”

And Thomas Carlyle would have been pleased, too. Definitely more exhaustion than boredom.

DAY 1: SPORTING INTEGRATION SETS THE TONE FOR 2017 

Even while some in Britain are urging splits with former partners, whether soft or hard, Scottish Squash’s wise counsellors are leading the nation’s youngsters towards, rather than away from, international contact. Aptly, mild conditions welcomed sporting talent to the capital today. Not only were Sir Mo Farah and Laura Muir enjoying Holyrood’s Cross-country delights, but a veritable cornucopia of international junior squash talent pitched up too, all goggled-up and swinging their rackets like veteran stone-skimmers.

This year’s Scottish Junior Open Squash, held jointly between distinguished venues, Edinburgh Sports Clubs and The Grange Sports Club, sprang into action from 9.00 this morning. And it was non-stop action, Jim Hay and George Tierney’s refereeing team adjudicating efficiently from the start.

At ESC, the Under-13s played like things possessed: home favourite Huzaifah Ali will have his work cut out dealing with in-form visitors Juan Jose Torres Lara (Colombia) and Shreyas Metha (India), who both brushed aside opposition today (Saturday). And several girls looked strong today, including Jemma Young (Scotland), Asia Harris (Pontefract), Amelie Haworth (Isle of Wight) and Alexandra Brown (Canada). As the event moves to the business end in the next 24 hours, well-drilled and accurate play is already setting apart the genuine contenders, whose ability to conclude rallies decisively became instantly clear.

And at Under-15, playing at The Grange, Salah Ahmed El Torgman (Egypt) was ruthless in powerful and rapid performances against young Scots Hugo Macpherson and Ross Waddell; and Salah’s match on Sunday against skilled Carlisle boy Adam Goad will be an interesting one. With the athletic Andrew Glen, fast-improving Ruadhri MacDougall (Strathgryffe) and Crieff’s Ben Orr and others all shaping up well on Day 1, this looks like a very competitive event to be resolved on Monday.

Amongst the Under-15 Girls, the creative Beth Moglia (Strathgryffe) gave Marie-Amélie Callebaut of Belgium a tough time, and the face-off between England stars Katie Malliff (Buckinghamshire) and Maia Pannell (Dorset) on Sunday could be too close to call. And if she comes through that, Katie as top seed knows she has Glasgow’s Orla Young calmly waiting to ambush her.

For many domestic players, this Scottish Junior Open is all about gaining resilience through playing at a higher level. As American Football Coach Vince Lombardi said, “It’s not whether you get knocked down. It’s about whether you get up.” And that is very much what is called for at Under-17 and Under-19, where the likes of young Scots stars Alasdair Prott and Chris Murphy look well-placed to gain silverware after all their hard work; but several others are battling away for the minor places and much by way of pecking-order and preparedness for other challenges to come. International players like Andrew Shipley and Keane Appleton, of England, Dries Verhaegen (Belgium) and Sam Scivier (one of several talented Canadians here in Edinburgh) will be making things very difficult for Fraser McCann (Newlands).

And with a keenly-fought Pool system for the Under-17 Girls, Laura Neill (Ireland) and Cynthia Cao (Canada) are the only undefeated players at the time of writing. Cynthia’s long 5-set match against fellow-Canadian Brooke Herring was one of the highlights of today at The Grange, along with Fraser McCann’s close win over Nairn’s Harry Barron. With Georgia Adderley taking a break this weekend, it was good to see Scots players Maddie Orr and Katie Gregson-MacLeod both recording victories in their afternoon matches.

At Under-19s, Luke Logan (Ireland) and Isaac Rawcliffe (England) look to be justified as No 1 and 2 seeds; but with skilled players like Patrick O’Sullivan (Scotland) and Michael Andrews (England) still in the mix, several outcomes are possible. The Under-19 Girls Round-robin takes place tomorrow.

Scottish Squash National Coach Paul Bell looked on like a northern guru, dispensing advice and support. Sir Mo Farah would have approved of ESC’s and The Grange’s even and consistent surfaces, somewhat smoother than the Edinburgh mud he encountered today. And some in need of fitness regimes for 2017 could do worse than try squash, which looked a compelling and exhilarating sport in the Scottish Junior Open today.

EYE ON THE FUTURE – 1st January 2017

Both Eye Rackets and JC Lindsay – Tournament sponsors for the 71st Scottish Junior Open Squash, in Edinburgh this weekend – will be looking forward eagerly to the high-quality international sporting event kicking off 2017. Players  and coaches will likewise have an eye on events, with markers to be put down for upcoming international selection.

“The Scottish Junior Open @scottish_squash #SJO2017,” said Tournament Organiser Allan McKay, “is a prestigious opportunity for young players to gain ranking points, hone skills and test themselves on the global stage.

As seedings emerged over the Hogmanay weekend, bags are being packed across the world for journeys to The Grange Club and Edinburgh Sports Club, joint hosts for the event from Saturday 7th to Monday 9th January.

“We are intrigued by some of the duels in prospect,” said Allan. “We will be welcoming 140 top junior players from as far afield as Norway, Botswana, Luxembourg, India and Canada. As we grow our reputation, this international dimension will only increase.

“And with two of the top seeds being home talents – Huzaifah Ali (Under 13) and Alasdair Prott (Under 17) – and several others highly-fancied in their age groups, we are hopeful, of course, of some Scots success. But when we see the arrival on court of the likes of Sabine Petersen (Denmark), Laura Neill (Ireland), Luke Logan (Ireland) and Grace Thomas (Canada), we know there will be keen competition for every game, every point. And to some extent mystery surrounds many players coming north from England, who don’t always take part in European Tournaments. So I have no doubt that skilled players like Keane Appleton, Isaac Rawcliffe, Katie Malliff, Adam Goad and Asia Harris will present serious challenges.

“Edinburgh Sports Club and The Grange, our hosts, will be fantastic places for sports fans to visit this coming weekend. The Scottish Junior Open 2017 will be a crucible of explosive energy – a pot-pourri of sound and vision.

Latest News Young stars descend on Edinburgh – 13th December 2017

January 2017. Not far away. Just when the good folk of Edinburgh were planning to tidy up after the revels of Hogmanay, comes news of another invasion.

Not the Jacobites, this time, with their claymores and uisge-beatha, but an army of young Squash players from around the world. 140 of them, descending, from 7th-9th January, on Edinburgh Sports Club and The Grange Sports Club, for the 2017 Scottish Junior Open Squash Championships.

The event comes as Scottish Squash enjoys a new dawn, signalled by its recent Gala Awards Evening. So it is appropriate that this 71st SJO boasts not one, but two new venues, as well as new sponsors, Eye Rackets and JC Lindsay.

Squash has had a big boost from Rochester University’s study showing its benefits, in terms of healthy heart, reduced blood pressure and positive mental health. In Scotland, the international success of Dougie Kempsell, Kevin Moran, Alan Clyne and Greg Lobban, shows things are heading in the right direction. And the Scottish Women’s team steps up a level in the 2017 European Team Championships.

unnamedSo, many eyes will be on the Scottish Junior Open. But the incoming tide of Koreans, Belgians, Slovakians, Pakistanis, Danes, Canadians and others will not make it easy for our youngsters. Especially the Under-17s and Under-19s looking ahead to joining the senior ranks before long.

At Under-19, Grace Thomas (Canada) looks favourite, but nothing is straightforward at the SJO. We welcome back Patrick O’Sullivan, of Giffnock and Connecticut, as he returns to home shores to do battle with Luke Logan, a top Irish player, and Theo Pelonomi of Botswana.

At Under-17, Dries Verhaegen, talented Belgian, and a strong field, will not make life comfortable on court for Inverness’ Alasdair Prott, though the young Scot has been in terrific form of late. Another Under-17 Belgian star, Laura Deruyck, will be someone to watch in this category.

But arguably the most intriguing competition looks to be at Under-15. As Tournament Director, Allan McKay, comments: “We’re really excited about the tournament as a whole, but galleries will be packed, I’m sure, for the Girls Under 15s. Glasgow’s Orla Young, Scottish Champion and European no. 8, will have her work cut out against the likes of Katie Malliff (England), Marie Amelie Callebaut (Belgium), and Ella Galova (Slovakia), who are all No. 1 in their respective countries. And Lucy Jones (Wales number 2) is no slouch. Orla will have to be at her most patient and accurate in this company.

Similarly, there are great competitors in the Boys Under-15s, both from home and overseas, such as England’s Adam Goad (European no. 4), Salaheldin Eltorgman (Canadian no. 1) and top-ranked Norwegian Oliver Gangso Badawy.

“At Under-13, a promising group of Scots, Huzaifah Ali, Ben Barron, Struan Donald, Kyle Penman and Jamie Cargill, face the strong Indian no. 1, Shereyas Mehta; and among the Girls our Scottish Champion, Jemma Young, comes up against Asia Harris of England, European no. 7, Salma Mounir, Canada’s no. 1 and Leungo Katse, Botswana’s no. 1.

“The Scottish Junior Open Squash 2017 will be a great event, and we look forward to welcoming, not only our own players from throughout Scotland, but also our international guests, and all the coaches and families coming to Edinburgh.

“We’re delighted to have great sponsors in Eye Rackets & JC Lindsay, and we hope that many others will come along to Edinburgh Sports Club and The Grange Sports Club to enjoy what should be a great New Year feast of sport.”

January 7th 2017. Not far away.

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For more information contact info@scottishsquash.org