Azmans Celebrate Historic BJO Success
7 Jan 2018
Malaysia's Aifa Azman and Aira Azman became the first sisters to win British Junior Open titles in the same year as the Asian nation recorded its best ever performance at the long-running junior event.
Malaysia had produced four finalists for the first time in the tournament's history. And they duly produced a clean sweep of titles at the Dunlop-sponsored championships in Birmingham, capped off in superb fashion when highly-rated Sivasangari Subramaniam ended her junior career with victory in the girls' under-19 event. Egypt also picked up four titles.
But the day belonged to the sisters from Kedah as Aifa Azman blitzed to her third British junior title with a commanding straight-game performance over American top seed Marina Stefanoni, a multiple junior title winner, to win the girls' under-17 title.
Her younger sister, Aira, also took the girls' under-15 title after Egypt's Sana Ibrahim was disqualified for being ill on court in the deciding game of a thrilling match. The pair matched brothers Mohamed Elshorbagy and Marwan Elshorbagy, the Egyptian siblings who won two boys' BJO titles in 2010.
Aifa, who now steps up to under-19 level, said: "I had to be confident this time after losing to her two years ago.
"I'm so happy to win this and now I want to win all the age groups. Having a sister means there is less pressure and we are always there for each other and before each match. It's a dream."
Egypt certainly didn't have it all their own way during the 2018 edition. For the first time in eight years no Egyptian made the final of the girls' under-19 showpiece final as Subramaniam beat Japan's Satomi Watanabe, who was also playing her last junior match.
Meanwhile, the boys' under-19 finalists will surely be facing each other in future years on the PSA World Tour after Egyptian Marwan Tarek and Victor Crouin of France set up a repeat of last summer's world junior championship climax.
The 17-year-old from Cairo made it a double with a convincing performance against Crouin, who was aiming to become the first Frenchman to win a title since Gregory Gaultier in 2001. Victory made it a British Junior Open treble for Tarek.
Earlier, the top two seeds Omar El Torkey and Mostafa Asal contested the third successive all-Egyptian final in the boys' under-17 category. And it was second seed Asal who prevailed with an explosive 11-4, 11-6, 11-5 victory.
The hosts also enjoyed a successful week with England winning two titles in the event for the first time since 1995.
Second seed Jonah Bryant claimed the biggest global title of his junior career with a 3/0 triumph over top seed Islam Kouratam in the Boys' U13 event, wrapping up proceedings 11-2, 11-5, 11-6 in an impressive 22 minutes.
"I've dreamed about this ever since I got to the semi-finals last year and lost," said the 12-year-old from Sussex.
"I've trained for 12 months for this tournament so I'm really happy.
"I tried to keep focused as much as possible and if I let the Egyptian back in he could have won. So I was so happy to keep that concentration and close it out 3/0."
It means England have now celebrated two B13 champions in the last three years, with Yorkshireman Sam Todd having achieved the feat in 2016.
And 14-year-old Todd himself consolidated this BJO success by securing an 8-11, 16-14, 11-0, 14-12 victory in 37 minutes over India's Neel Joshi in the U15 final.
It means Todd becomes only the second Englishman this century to win two British junior open titles and follows James Willstrop into the record books after his Pontefract team-mate lifted the under-17 and under-19 titles in 2000 and 2002 respectively.
"I am just so happy. I am now half way to winning all the age groups and I just want to carry on like James did," said the Pontefract schoolboy.
"I had to vary the pace a lot against Neel and reset the rally and it's something I've been working on back at Pontefract."
In the tournament's first ever under-11 age category, the two finals proved to be all-Egyptian affairs.
Amina Orfi, the top seed, etched her name into the event's record books when she beat compatriot Janna Galal in the girls' final - while fellow top seed Ahmed Rashed then came back from a game down in the other final to beat Mohamed Zakaria as both players showed unerring skill for such youthful years.