A couple of first-time triumphs for the top seeds at the 2020 New Zealand National Squash Championships in Auckland.
The victories were in very different contrasts as Emma Miller from the Waikato accounted for North Shore Club member Abbie Palmer in straight games with a very focussed display to win 11-8, 11-6, 11-6 .
For Millar, 29 the victory was a display of fast-paced squash against the left-hander Palmer who has just turned 23 at the beginning of the tournament. Millarshowed she is the best domestic player at present with a wide-variety of shots and a tempo which appeared to trouble her opponents shot-making.
Even with a fulltime job as a school teacher, Millar was on-key throughout the tournament and was able to reel off a series of winners to keep ahead of her opponent throughout the match.
In the men’s final it was Evan Williams ranked at 87 in the world who triumphed over 144th ranked Lwamba Chileshe the second seed with an intense 84 minutes clash which never had a definitive leader until the final few points.
The first game went to the tiebreak as Williams just managed to take the set 12-10 in a powerful display from both players. In the second the younger player at 10 years junior of his opponent, Chileshe, 21 forced the game to another tiebreak which neither player wanted to give up. The score went the way of Chileshe 18-16 in what can only be called an epic set.
The experience of Williams came to the fore in the third game as he raced away to a win 11-4. However Chileshe didn’t give up and returned with yet another tiebreak set, this time 13-11.
As the match went into a fifth there were a couple of uncharacteristic errors from Chileshe which gave Williams the initial break and saw him work his way to a lead and then onwards to victory 11-8 in a gruelling, but entertaining encounter.
For Williams, 31, who now coaches in the Wellington the victory was sweet after twice being a beaten finalist in the tournament.
“I’m really pleased, very delighted, nice to get over the line and get my first national title. It’s always nice to win anything let alone the national title. It was always going to be a hard match and this is what we train for and what we live for and what we want. I was hurting at the end, but was great to push through and get the win.”
The third and fourth playoff matches saw Temwa Chileshe, the younger brother of Lwamba beat Chris van der Salm 11-4, 4-11, 12-10, 12-10 for his best finish at the tournament while the more experienced third seed, Lana Harrison accounted for 15-year-old fourth seed and Waikato player Sophie Hodges in straight games.
(1)Evan Williams (Wellington) bt (2) Lwamba Chileshe (Waikato)12-10, 16-18, 11-4. 11-13, 11-8
(1) Emma Millar (Waikato) bt (2)Abbie Palmer (Auckland) 11-8, 11-6, 11-6,