10:38 pm
24 May 2024

England Celebrate European Junior Double Hat-Trick

27 Mar 2024

England won both ESF European U19 Individual Championship titles for the third year in a row - but both Jonah Bryant and Amelie Haworth were taken to five games in two pulsating finals at Aerosquash Baneasa in Bucharest.

Boys' top seed Bryant became only the third male player - and the first ever Englishman - to win the European junior title twice. His 11-7, 11-13, 8-11, 13-11, 11-4 victory over France's Melvil Scianimanico was a terrific, undulating duel featuring exhausting rallies and tremendous shot-making.

Girls' champion Haworth went one better than her runner-up finish last year by coming from two games down, saving six match balls en-route to victory over France's top seed Lauren Baltayan 8-11, 8-11, 11-3, 17-15, 11-7 in another epic five-setter.

For Bryant, Scianimanico and Haworth it was their last ever individual junior tournament before they join the adult ranks, but 16-year-old Baltayan will get two more attempts to take the coveted title.

Bryant, who was runner-up in January's British Junior Open to Egypt's Mohamed Zakaria and has already won four PSA Tour titles, admitted he was "so happy" to have defended his European trophy (an achievement matched only by Gregory Gaultier and Victor Crouin since the tournament began in 1989).

Bryant survived a late Scianimanico fightback to take game one 11-9, but the Frenchman drew level with a 13-11 win in the second after Bryant had saved three game balls at 7-10 down. The 3/4 seed then went 2/1 ahead before Bryant went on the attack and levelled by winning the fourth on a tie-break.

In the decider, the brutal four prior games seemed to have sapped the energy of the Frenchman, and Sussex representative Bryant was able to frequently step up the court as he closed out an entertaining encounter with an 11-4 win.

"That was a very tough match," said Bryant. "I think in the first three games I was too defensive and too passive and you can't be defensive against someone like Melvil.

"My coaches said, 'You need to start attacking him or you're going to go down,' so I just tried to be more aggressive and use more variety. When the ball died off, I took advantage massively, making the rallies shorter and keeping the ball cold.

"It was definitely up there as one of the toughest finals I've played. He's one of the best movers I've ever played, the balls he picks up are ridiculous. But, impressive as it is, it's tiring for him and I had to believe in the process and keep working him as the court opened up."

For girls' winner Haworth, who lost to compatriot Asia Harris in last year's final, her stunning comeback against Baltayan left her "speechless."

The reigning English Junior U19 champion from the Isle of Wight, who beat Baltayan in the semi-finals last year, struggled early on as the Frenchwoman raced into a 2/0 lead. But Haworth hit back in game three, blowing Baltayan away with a flurry of accurate attacking boasts as she scored 10 consecutive points to win 11-2.

Baltayan reset in the fourth game, with the top seed chasing the Hampshire girl's shots down relentlessly to earn four championship balls at 10-6. But Haworth defended brilliantly to force a tie-break, then saved two more match balls before finally taking it 17-15!

Game five was initially tight, and with the scores at 6-6 either player could have won it. Eventually, though, it was Haworth who broke the deadlock to record a spectacular win, powering on at the end to claim the decider 11-7.

"I'm so happy to have won this," she said. "It's been a long-time goal for me and I've wanted this for so long, since I lost in the final last year.

"I never wanted to give up, I just kept pushing and pushing. I've been able to come back from that sort of position before and just thought I could do it again. Lauren is a fantastic player and is two years younger than me, which is crazy! I wish her the best, I'm just so happy to have won!"

The boys' bronze medal play-off was an all-English affair with Abdallah Eissa hitting back from a game behind to defeat 3/4 seed Yusuf Sheikh 5-11, 11-9, 11-4, 11-4.

The girls' bronze medal went to Germany's Maya Weishar who conquered the Czech Republic's Karolina Sramkova in a lengthy encounter which finished 10-12, 11-7, 11-6, 5-11, 6-11.

After a rest day on Wednesday, the players are back in action on Thursday for the start of the ESF European Mixed Teams Championship.