The 16th November saw two of Luton’s brightest squash stars travel to Wroclaw to compete in the Polish Junior Open.
As the only two English competitors in the whole event it was always going to be an adventure, but with Lily Main coming a superb 3rd and her younger sibling Natalie coming a very creditable 9th, it proved to be a worthwhile one, with both only losing one match.
Play started on Friday as Natalie Main, in the under 13 category, swept aside Barbova Vodickova from the Czech Republic with little drama in 3 games. Later the same day she faced Germany’s Maya Weishar. The pair faced each other in the first round of the Dutch Open last season, where the German won comfortably. The German ultimately triumphed again, but all three games could have gone either way as each of them went against the Lutonian 11-9, relegating her to the 9-16 section of the draw.
In the U15 category, sibling Lily opened her campaign against Ukraine’s Olena Brylenko. The first two games were tightly contested as Main took them both 11-8, before the Ukrainian struck back. A large and very vocal crowd had gathered to support Main’s opponent sensing a comeback and she had three game balls to take it to a fifth, but Main showed incredible reserves of resilience to hit a brilliant winner at 15-13, whereupon the crowd were silenced aside Main’s sister and father.
Saturday’s quarter final opponent for Main was Russian Teia Khudoiants. Clearly benefiting from the confidence boost of the win the day before, Main ran out comfortable winner to take her place in the semi-finals. Meanwhile, her younger sibling also faced another Russian in the shape of Mariya Spirina. Main was far too strong and saw her off in quick time to face home based Tola Otrzaesk. The Pole had no answer to Main’s power and pace, so the English girl booked her place in Sunday’s 9/10 place play off.
Lily Main returned to face Ukrainian no 1 seed Vladislava Tverdochleb. Main had chances, but went down 11-8, 11-3, 11-8, resulting in a ¾ play off on Sunday.
Lily Main’s final opponent was Polish girl Jagoda Gora. The first game could not have been tighter as Main failed to convert a game ball, the Pole took it 15-13, Main replied positively in the second to take it 11-8. The match was now shaping up to be a classic as Gora took the third in a tie break. She looked to be on course to thwart the ambitions of the English girl as she raced to a 7-1 lead in the fourth. However, Main was having none of it and battled back to level things in a tie break saving 2 match balls in the process to take it to a deciding 5th. Momentum had clearly shifted back to Main as she took the final game 11-3 to take a brilliant 3rd place. The picture shows a delighted Lily on the podium.
The final match for the young English pair was Natalie facing another Ukrainian Kristina Begeba. Main started solidly enough taking the first 11-8 in confident fashion, but she lost her length in the second and went down rather tamely 11-4. Main regrouped to take the third 11-7 and looked to be heading to a straightforward win when Begeba stumbled and had to take an injury break, however she showed commendable strength to return after the break to take it to a deciding 5th. Predictably, the large Ukrainian contingent had gotten word of events and a large crowd gathered to support their player, with the ref having to warn them not to coach mid-game. At match ball at 10-9, it looked like she would complete an unexpected comeback, but Main had other ideas as she cracked a vicious backhand down the line to level and take it to a tie break. Main quickly got a match ball and after a brutal rally managed to convert it at the first attempt, silencing another partisan crowd.
The two girls will undoubtedly benefit from this experience and return to more familiar ground next weekend as they travel to Yorkshire for their next domestic National event in Pontefract and Leeds.