Whilst the festive period is usually one associated with indulgence, for squash juniors it’s amongst the busiest times of the year climaxing with the prestigious Dunlop British Junior Open in Birmingham, and for Luton’s 3 young starlets this season was no exception.
First off the Main sisters travelled to Scotland for the JC Lindsay Scottish Junior Open in Edinburgh. Lily got off to a disappointing start losing rather meekly 3-0 to Scotland’s Jessica Shaw, whom she had beaten quite comfortably at the British National Championships two months earlier. By contrast sibling Natalie showed incredible maturity and determination to upset the 5/8 seed, Scotland’s Rowan Niven, taking the match in a tie break in the 5th.
Natalie then faced an Egyptian Canadian who had taken out the number 2 seed and she was roundly beaten. Like her sister the day before, Lily was involved in a dramatic 5 game match, but she suffered a reverse to France’s Rose Lucas-Marcuzzo who benefitted from a long blood injury break when under serious pressure. Later in the evening Lily was involved in another 5 game match, but this time fought back from 2-0 down to triumph 3-2. Natalie’s evening match was against another very strong opponent, last years GU13 winner, Korea’s Ain Jun. Main played well in patches but simply didn’t have the strength to match Jun.
In her final match Lily seemed out of sorts losing to Scotland’s Jemma Young in three. Meanwhile, her younger sister was battling with her compatriot Jessica Wetherspoon at the other venue to determine who would be the highest finishing English player in the event. The Luton youngster ultimately triumphed 3-2 to finish 7th overall.
Almost immediately the bells sounded in a New Year it was time for Sophia John to join the Main sisters at the biggest junior event in the world where nearly 800 competitors from 75 countries descended on Birmingham.
John started her campaign against Norwegian Camillia Hendy. John was very slow to get started and lost the first, but once into her rhythm ran out a comfortable 3-1 winner. Later in the day she faced a far tougher prospect in the shape of America’s LucieStefanoni. John seemed miles off the pace as she suffered a 3-0 reverse, winning a paltry 3 points in total.
Lily was up first of the Main sisters where she faced a very strong Japanese player AkariMiorikawa. Whilst battling hard Main was simply outclassed by the stronger opponent. Her sister, however, faced her conqueror in Scotland, Ain Jun with a similar outcome.
John had a bye the next day, but the Main sisters were back in action. Lily pulled off a tremendous victory, her first at this event, over a late English entrant, Millie Flynn. Her sister faced a familiar opponent, England’s Bhuvan Kumar. In five previous meeting Natalie had only ever taken one game, but after a shaky start, repeated the feat to level at 1-1, the portents were not good as Kumar took the 3rd, but Main showed great spirit to level it to take it to a fifth. Main had match ball at 11-10, but couldn’t convert and lost in the tie-break.
Another day another round and John returned to face Slovakian Ella Galova. A slow start again cost her as she slumped to a 2-0 deficit, the third could have easily gone to the Luton youngster, but it was not to be as she lost out in the tie-break
In the next round Natalie faced Slovenian Lana Nedic and struggled to rediscover the form she showed the day before going down 3-1, whilst her elder sister faced England international Amy-Campbell-Wynter. Playing some of her best squash of the tournament wasn’t good enough as Wynter triumphed 3-0.
In the next round Lily faced another English player in the shape of Lauren Hall and with a bit of luck could have won both the first and third, but it wasn’t to be as she went down 3-0.Meanwhile her younger sister put in a rather lacklustre performance going down 3-0 to England’s Ailas Bruce. Sophia John had the chance to at least exact some manner of revenge on behalf of her clubmate as she faced Ain Jun, but Jun showed her class to take the match 3-0.
The final day’s competition personified the general fatigue that appeared to have set in after an exhausting tournament as first John went down 3-0 to Yorkshire’s Amy Royle, followed by Natalie losing to an identical score against Norwegian Camillia Hendy, whilst Lily completed the unwanted hat-trick going down to the Czech Republic’s Riana Alexova.
The girls now return to Luton for hard work between now and the next event in Surrey in February.