Malaysians win all eight squash titles at Pontefract

James Willstrop will have the support of a large group of Pontefract Squash Club members in New York. Picture: Steve Line/SquashPics.com
James Willstrop will have the support of a large group of Pontefract Squash Club members in New York. Picture: Steve Line/SquashPics.com

Andrew Cross, the former long-time Pontefract Squash Club player and now Malaysian national coach, brought his usual contingent of players to the Pontefract Junior Open.

The Pontefract tournament leads into the British Junior Open in Sheffield, the most important junior championship in the world after the World Under 19 Championship.

Players from America, India and Japan made the tournament truly international but the Malaysians swept the board, winning all eight titles.

Eain Yow, the world’s leading 17 year old and seeded number two in the British Under 19 Open, won the under 19 championship with the minimum of fuss.

There was remarkable family match ups when two Malaysian sisters Aifa and Aira Azman took on two American sisters Marina and Lucie Stefanoni in the under 17 and under 13 events.

The Malaysians won both but the two talented Americans both battled hard in 2-1 defeats.

Pontefract’s Sam Todd and Ben Sockett produced the match of the championship in the semi final of the under 15s.

The improving Sockett prevailed in the fifth and went on to extend Muhammed Hafiz Zafri in the final.

Todd played well again to win the third/fourth play off in style and he goes to Sheffield seeded number one in the under 13s, England’s best hope of a win.

Elliot Ridge reached the under 17 final and played splendidly to win the first game before losing 3-1.

Pontefract have 12 players competing in Sheffield, as well as three others who are coached at the club.

With over 400 entries from all over the world, the experience will be invaluable.

The first World Tour event of 2016 is the glamorous and prestigious Tournament of Champions played on the famous Grand Central station in New York.

Pontefract’s James Willstrop won in 2012 when he beat three Egyptians in a row - Karim Darwish, former world number one, the genius that is Ramy Ashour and the legendary Amr Shabana.

Willstrop plays Alistair Walker, formerly of Chapel Allerton and now based in America, in the first round with the prospect of a second round match against German number one Simon Rosner.

After his hip operation Willstrop’s world ranking dropped to 24 but his exceptional performance in the World Championships in Seattle when he beat world number one Mohammed El Shorbagy and world number five Miguel Rodriguez has seen him rise to 15 in December and to 11 in January.

He will have the support of a large band of Pontefract members in New York. Another good performance there should see him back in the top 10.