International squash is on court at the Royal Oak Racquets Club this weekend with the hosting of the Royal Oak PSA Squash Open featuring a number of the best players from around the country
The women’s PSA Challenger tournament features New Zealand national champion, Emma Millar ranked 98 in the world as the top seed. Millar won the recent Henderson Open and hasn’t been defeated since the Auckland Open last year. She faces 16-year-old Ashlee Pepper from the Belmont Club on the North Shore in the first round.
Second seed is Auckland’s Abbie Palmer at 116 in the world. Palmer was a finalist at the Nationals to Millar in 2020 and also at the Henderson Open as well.
A bonus for the tournament is the entries of a number of former top juniors adding depth to the draw.
Rebecca Barnett has returned from overseas and was previously one of the youngest national junior title winners. Also keen to get back in to the sport is Manawatu’s Kaitlyn Watts, who like Barnett was a former national junior champ and a member of the New Zealand senior women’s team.
Watts faces 15-year-old Waikato player, Sophie Hodges who was fourth at the senior Nationals last year in the first round while Barnett at her new home club plays another current highly-rated junior in Ella Lash.
Former top 100 ranked Lana Harrison is the other big name in the women’s draw.
In the men’s PSA Satellite draw there is plenty of intrigue between three players in particular with top seed Lwamba Chileshe from the Waikato ranked 152, then second seed Joel Arscott at 215, a finalist at the Henderson Open and fourth Seed Temwa Chileshe who recently defeated older brother Lwamba in the final of the Eastern BOP Open in Whakatane.
Elijah Thomas ranked 239 is back after a couple of weeks off with injury while 2018 Commonwealth Games team member, Zac Millar is the third seed ranked 227 in the world. Another wildcard player in the draw is former New Zealand junior champ, Gabe Yam who is currently on hold for his squash scholarship at Drexel University in the United States.
The tournament runs Friday 19 March to Sunday 21 March with the finals from 2pm. Live streaming on the @royaloakracquetsclub.