Over 300 matches played in a condensed three days of competition meant there was no easy road to a title at the AON New Zealand Junior Squash Nationals came to a conclusion in Christchurch.
The 170 players who took part in the tournament from Whangarei in the north, to Invercargill in the south proved there is a good spread of talent around the country and some potential talent for the future of the sport.
In what can sometimes be regarded as the premier titles prior to players turning professional top seed Elijah Thomas (Eden Epsom in Auckland) scored a straight game win over Leo Fatialofa from the Henderson club to claim the prestigious U19 Boys trophy.
It was just reward for Thomas still 17-years-old but ranked just inside the world’s top 250 PSA men’s senior rankings after he lost the previous year’s final to Glenn Templeton.
On a normal day Thomas’s finals rival, Fatialofa would play a match of shot making and winners from all corners of the court, however he appeared somewhat subdued and tried to out-rally Thomas who was precise and efficient with his shots for a 11-3, 11-3, 11-5 victory.
The girls U19 final had 16-year-old top seed Natalie Sayes from Auckland taking the title in four games over Thames Valley’s Georgia Robcke The match itself was a messy affair with neither player able to gain control and keep it. Sayes grabbed an early 6-0, but then dropped the next six points as the left handed Robcke, 18 came back into the match.
Eventually Sayes with a PSA world ranking of 308 came through with the victory 11-9, 11-4, 8-11, 11-6 in an match the Auckland player was relieved to win.
Hamilton’s top ranked Sophie Hodges won the U17 Girls title in a display which was competent and professional to negate the power of Hawke’s Bay second seed Jena Gregory 11-7, 11-6, 11-6.
The U17 Boys was a display of contrasting styles as Henderson second seed Mason Smales created opportunities with his left-handed shot-making while Marlborough’s top seed Paul Moran showed grit to stay in the match. Smales eventually winning in an entertaining encounter 11-5, 11-9 7-11, 11-6.
In the younger age grades, Auckland’s No.1 ranked Agatha Griffiths beat Casey Ellery (Christchurch) in straight games for the U11 title, while Bay of Plenty top seed Zeima Waitai defended his U11 Boys title with a four game defeat of Christchurch player Dominic Lim with both players displaying plenty of squash knowledge and tactics.
Auckland’s No.1 seed Zoe Lepper scored a marathon five-game win over Whanganui’s Aria Bannister in the U13 Girls after saving a couple of match balls in the fourth game while in the battle of the two Central Districts players, Brodie Bennett was victorious in the U13 Boys over Maximus Mathews in five games.
Wellington’s Madison-Lee Coe was able to counter the power of Auckland rival, Maia Smales to take the U15 Girls championship in four games while the battle of the two Marlborough players had the tall Chris Hebberd triumph over Charlie Prince 11-9, 11-7, 12-10.
Players now remain in Christchurch for the national teams event and for some of the leading competitors preparation for the NZ Senior Nationals in Auckland at the end of the month.