Five Nations Share British Junior Open Honours On Thrilling Finals Day
7 Jan 2019
Five nations shared the spoils at the 2019 Dunlop British Junior Open finals in Birmingham as players from Egypt, Malaysia, England, India and the USA lifted the coveted titles.
Egyptian players claimed five of the trophies on offer on the University of Birmingham courts, while Malaysia won two, and there was one apiece for England, India and the USA.
Three Englishmen contested finals for the first time in 20 years - and the first of these, Warwickshire's Abdallah Eissa, took to the court in the morning for the U13 title.
And in a pulsating contest that lasted just a minute under an hour, the second seed edged out Malaysia's 5/8 seed Harith Danial Jefri in a match which went to the wire - Eissa prevailing 11-7, 9-11, 9-11, 11-7, 14-12 to ensure that the title, held by Jonah Bryant of Sussex, stayed firmly in English hands for a second year running.
"That's the most exciting and nerve-wracking final I've ever played," admitted the breathless but happy 12-year-old Eissa afterwards.
"I worked really hard. He's a good player. I had to really push to the end."
England's two other hopes were ultimately dashed at the hands of top-seeded Egyptians, as Yorkshiremen Sam Todd and Nick Wall fell respectively to Yehia Elnawasany and Mostafa Asal - albeit, in each case, following a valiant effort and before a passionate crowd.
Second seed Todd went two-up in the U17 final against an opponent who, like him, had previously claimed both the U13 and U15 titles. But Elnawasany made up a points deficit to claim the third, before giving Todd few chances in the fourth, and winning the fifth - again from behind - to become champion just three days before his 17th birthday.
"When I won, I couldn't believe it," said Elnawasany after completing his comeback. "But it feels amazing.
"I had to change my game plan and play more defensively. It was very tough to do that, but I'm glad I managed."
Current British National Junior champion Wall, a 3/4 seed, featured in an U19 final that, for him, produced a fifth successive 3/1 scoreline - only this time, alas, not in his favour, as reigning U17 champion Asal produced some typically powerful and composed play to prevail 11-4, 11-7, 4-11, 11-5 in 38 minutes.
Egypt's three other successes emerged in girls' finals - with former U13 winner Salma El Tayeb upsetting the odds in the U15 event by edging out reigning champion, and top seed, Aira Azman of Malaysia 11-8, 9-11, 7-11, 15-13, 11-7.
India's victory provided one of the day's biggest upsets, as Anahat Singh, seeded 3/4 in the Girls' U11 event, triumphed 13-11, 11-9, 7-11, 11-9 over top seed Whitney Wilson of Malaysia, who had dropped only one game on her way to the final.
Malaysia's second title, in the Boys' U15 event, was rather less expected - with 5/8 seed Ameeshenraj Chandaran coming from behind to prevail 8-11, 11-6, 11-5, 11-7 over the top-seeded Irishman, and 2016 U13 champion, Denis Gilevskiy.
Last, but by no means least, top seed Marina Stefanoni became the first American girl in 17 years to claim the Girls' U17 title, after beating Hong Kong's Chan Sin Yuk in four games, 9-11, 11-9, 11-8, 11-5.
"I feel really good," exclaimed Stefanoni, who was beaten in the 2018 final by Aifa Azman of Malaysia.
"I've played this tournament a bunch of times, and been in the finals three times, so it's great to finally clinch the title.
"This is definitely my biggest title, 100 per cent. It's the biggest tournament in the world, so it feels great."