International squash returns at Auckland Open

Tuesday 14 May 2024, 1:30PM

By dave worsley


International squash returns with the Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Open as most of New Zealand's best young players try to improve their PSA World Rankings.            
The tournament runs Thursday 16 May - Sunday 19 May at the North Shore Squash Club with the women's finals at 2pm followed by the men's final. Top seed in the men’s draw is Temwa Chileshe at an entry ranking of 121, a few places below his high of 105. The 23-year-old competed for New Zealand at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games in 2022.
Chileshe has been a beaten finalist the last three years at the tournament; 2021 to Evan Williams, 2022 to his brother Lwamba and again 12 months later to Australia's Joseph White.
"Hopefully this is my year," said the 23-year-old from the Waikato.
The second seed is Auckland's Anthony Lepper at 144 who is searching for his first Challenger title as is Taupo's third seed William Donnelly. 
Left-hander Mason Smales from the Henderson club is the fourth seed ranked 264.
A total of nine different nations will have players competing in the draws from Samoa, Malta to Australia, Scotland, England, Korea, Hong Kong, India, and plenty of New Zealanders.
Of the younger kiwis in the draw are Oliver Dunbar who recently won the Australian junior title as well as the Oceania junior title and New Zealand junior title and has a PSA ranking of 415 at the age of 18. 
There's also other player who are like Dunbar in the New Zealand junior team to compete at the World Champs in the USA later this year such as the Northland duo of Flynn Venmore and Freddie Jameson 
The women's draw is littered with numerous teenagers looking to kick-start their pro careers. It's headed by Aussie 18-year-old Madison Lyon at 133 followed by Ella Lash who won the Oceania and New Zealand junior tiles and was a finalist at the Oceania juniors. 
Third see is Bay of Plenty left-hander Winona-Jo Joyce ranked at 205 in the world while there’s also improving teens Sophie Hodges from the Waikato, Anabel Romero Gemmell (Manawatu) and Mackenzie Tait (Wellington).
Unseeded is Lana Harrison, the winner of the Auckland Champs on three occasions including the last two years will keep the youngsters in check and will again be a favourite for the title.
Over 160 are players taking part in the numerous graded champs, all at the North Shore Club in Takapuna.
 The Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Open PSA Challenger tournament runs from Thursday 16 May to Sunday 19 May, with main court matches streamed on Squash Auckland facebook