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20 May 2024

Frenchman Nicolas Shocks No2 Seed To Reach World Juniors Quarters

14 Aug 2022

It was a day of upsets and history in the WSF World Junior Championships in France as French 9/16 seed Brice Nicolas stunned No.2 seed Noor Zaman to reach the quarter-finals; India's 14-year-old Anahat Singh shocked 5/8 seed Torrie Malik; and Juan Jose Torres Lara and Rowan Damming became the first players from Colombia and the Netherlands, respectively, to reach the event's last eight.

Nicolas came into the match in the French city of Nancy as an outsider, with the powerful 18-year-old Zaman, grandson of the great Qamar Zaman, fancied to add to this year's U19 Asian Championship title.

The last French player left in the competition, though, was hungry from the beginning and took the first game 11-5 on the back of his impressive speed.

Nicolas then moved into a commanding position after an 11-8 win in game two, with excitement growing amongst the home crowd as they sensed a famous upset.

Although Zaman struck back well after an injury break to reduce the deficit with a 11-9 win, Nicolas was able to complete the shock result with a hard-fought 11-4 victory, sparking wild celebrations.

Afterwards, Nicolas said: "I am so happy and I don't think I've realised I am in the quarters yet. We did a lot of work during the month to prepare the tournament, with a lot of fitness sessions, and it's great to see it pay off.

"I think I played a great match, and the support of my team as well as the crowd helped me a lot. I hope it will be the same tomorrow!"

Nicolas will face Egypt's 9/16 seed Mohamed Zakaria in the quarter-final after the 14-year-old came through an all-Egyptian clash with Salman Khalil.

Brice's win was far from the only upset of the day, with 9/16 seed Singh knocking out England's 5/8 seed Malik, the reigning British Junior U19 Open champion, in the women's event courtesy of a 3/1 win.

Despite her young age, Singh is fast becoming a household name in the world of squash following her exploits on the junior circuit and at the recent Commonwealth Games, where she reached the second round.

Just as in Birmingham, Singh was fearless, playing a number of brilliant winners as she caught the 5/8 seed cold with an 11-5 win in game one before taking the second game by the same scoreline.

The 9/16 seed was pegged back 11-6 in the third game when Malik found more opportunities to volley, but quickly reset and sealed a quarter-final clash with Egypt's 3/4 seed Fayrouz Abouelkheir, who downed the USA's Lucie Stefanoni 3/0, with a decisive 11-7 win.

"I'm really excited to have beaten her because she had won the British Junior Open, I didn't really expect to beat her," Singh, who is the first 14-year-old to progress to the quarter-final since Marina Stefanoni in 2017, said.

She added: "I really wasn't nervous, because I didn't have anything to lose. I just wanted to play my best, so I wasn't nervous at all, which was surprising. It felt similar to playing at the Commonwealth Games, because I've been playing seniors."

Elsewhere, the winner of tomorrow's quarter-final clash between Torres and Damming is guaranteed to make history, after they became the first players from Colombia and the Netherlands to reach the quarter-finals.

Torres, who yesterday stunned Egypt's 3/4 seed Kareem El Torkey in a rollercoaster 3/2, was able to progress more serenely today as he overcame India's Krishna Mishra 3/0.

The Colombian edged the first game 13-11, with his impressive recovery skills wearing Mishra down as the match wore on as he became the only unseeded player to reach the quarter finals with 11-7 and 11-3 wins.

"I'm so happy and I can't believe it right now, that I've made history. It's crazy!" Torres said.

Damming, too, qualified courtesy of a 3/0 win, with the 17-year-old beating Ireland's Denis Gilevskiy 11-9, 11-5, 11-8.

Afterwards, Damming said: "I am very happy to hear I am the first Dutch player to make the quarters of the World Juniors, I wasn't aware of that! A Colombia vs. Netherlands clash is unusual for sure at this stage, it's a big opportunity for the two of us."

Elsewhere, women's top seed Kenzy Ayman will face England's 5/8 Saran Nghiem after they beat Asia Harris and Xin Ying Yee, Malaysia's 3/4 seed Aira Azman beat compatriot Sehveetrraa Kumar to set up a quarter-final with Salma El Tayeb, and No.2 seed Amina Orfi will contest an all-Egyptian quarter-final against 5/8 seed Malak Khafagy after beating the USA's Caroline Fouts.

Completing the men's draw, England's 9/16 Sam Osborne-Wylde will face roommate and compatriot Finnlay Withington, the 3/4 seed, after upsetting Malaysia's 5/8 seed Joachim Chuah 3/2, while top seed Hamza Khan will play Egypt's 5/8 seed Mohammed Nasser after a comfortable win over Malaysia's Ameeshenraj Chandaran.