8:34 pm
25 May 2024

World Junior Championships Return After 3-Year Gap

12 Aug 2022

The WSF World Junior Squash Championships made a triumphant return after a three-year absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic as the world's best young players gathered in the French city of Nancy.

After being wowed by the opening ceremony in the Hôtel de Ville, young athletes from 37 countries began competing across two venues - Le Rêve, Maxéville and Jarville TSB.

In the men's draw Pakistan's top seed Hamza Khan, already ranked at world No.162, impressed as he overcame spirited Colombian Jose Santamaria 3/0. The 16-year-old from Peshawar, who last year won the US Junior U19 Open, entertained with brilliant attacking shots, with his late swing able to deceive on a number of occasions.

After taking the first game 11-7 and then overturning a game ball in game two, Khan never looked back, and he finished the match in style with an 11-3 win in the third game.

"I'm very happy with the win, I think I played well," Khan - who will face compatriot Noor Zaman in the final if the tournament goes to seedings - said afterwards: "I hope I can go all the way to an all-Pakistan final, and then win!"

On the evidence of both Pakistani players, Khan could well meet Zaman in the final, after the 18-year-old No.2 seed powered past Korea's Seojin Oh 3/0.

In the women's draw, Egyptian top seed Kenzy Ayman beat the USA's Sonya Sasson in an entertaining match. Ayman, who took the opening game off defending World Champion Nour El Sherbini in a second round defeat at this year's World Championships, started strongly, with her powerful shots proving a potent weapon as she took the match 11-7, 11-9, 11-5.

Afterwards, Ayman said: "I feel happy with the win and to be here in Nancy. I was really nervous in the first game, but then I enjoyed it. I'm really happy with the win and hope to win tomorrow.

"I've been made to feel very welcome in Nancy - it's such a peaceful city!"

Elsewhere, the day went largely according to seedings. In the women's draw, 3/4 seeds Fayrouz Abouelkheir of Egypt and Aira Azman of Malaysia progressed comfortably, while in the men's draw, 3/4 seeds Finnlay Withington of England and Egypt's Kareem El Torkey picked up 3/0 wins.

For the hosts, the day saw mixed results. In the women's draw, Lauren Baltayan was the sole player to progress, while on the men's side, Laszlo Goode, Brice Nicolas, Antonin Romieu, and Melvil Scianimanico all made it through to the second day, with the pick of the results being Romieu saving two match balls to win in the fifth game to go from 2/0 down to a 3/2 winner against Canada's Sayan Singh.

Yann Menegaux, French national coach, said: "It's been a very positive day for the French boys. They relied on their respective strengths to win their matches, they were solid and efficient. It's been tougher for the girls, with only one of them making it to the third round. Tomorrow, Lauren Baltayan will need to be at her very best."

Romieu added: "We just had a huge match, probably the match of the day - although I may be a bit biased!"

The WSF World Junior Squash Championships resume today (12 August) and will be streamed live on the WSF YouTube channel, Squash Du Reve, Sportall, and Sport en France.