Whilst most members would have been groaning under the excess of the festive period the young starlets at the club had to be careful as the biggest tournament of the season, The Dunlop British Open, kicks off on the 2nd Jan in Birmingham. Sophia, Lily and Natalie returned with mixed outcomes, with Natalie being the most pleased with here result.
Thursday saw Lily take on the number 2 seed, and eventual winner of the GU17 category, Sana Mahmoud Ibrahim of Egypt. Whilst battling hard throughout the match, Lily was well beaten, but not disgraced. Natalie, meanwhile, faced the American Khusi Kukadia who was seeded significantly above her. Despite playing some of her best squash the American was clinical in despatching the Luton starlet. A tough first day
Friday saw Lily take on fellow English player Katie Maxwell Armstong. Lily started well and took the first 11-9, before going AWOL in the nest two. In the vital fourth a couple of errors were to prove costly as she lost it 11-9. Natalie also faced English opposition in the shape of Madeleine Willers. Natalie exerted control early on and never relinquished it winning 3-0, guaranteeing a highest ever finish at the event.
Saturday saw both girls have two matches at opposite ends of the day. Lily faced more English opposition, firstly in the shape of Sophie Bolland, then later in the guise of Hannah Rowley. In neither game did Lily do herself justice losing both 3-0. In Natalie's first match of the day she faced the exotically named, Wai Leng Yeung from Macau. Natalie struggled to find the form of the previous day, but battled hard to the end, ultimately going down 3-0. Her final match of the day ended in controversial circumstances against her English opponent Sophie Hill. Main took the first in a tie break, and took the second comfortably. Her opponent led throughout the third until at 8-9 she started bleeding at the knee. Having left court to have it seen to, remarkably she returned with no plaster on meaning that when the bleeding resumed the referee informed her she had to concede, despite leading 11-12!
Natalie was first up on the final day, Sunday where she faced Scot Robyn McAlpine. In all honesty it was a shock to see the Scot playing for position 41-44 given how strong she was and so was too strong for Natalie. A finish of 43rd though was eminently respectable and much of the work done in recent months with new coach Alice Green was clearly bearing fruit.
It was then down to Lily to supply enough drama in her last match to serve a whole tournament. Facing the Czech, Veronika Vejrostova, she lost the first carrying on the poor form of earlier in the event. However, a stern pep talk with her dad, seemed to have the desired effect as she only narrowly lost the second in a tie break. The third was nip and tuck until Vejrostova led with two match balls, but Lily was determined not to go down without a fight and ultimately saved three match balls before winning 14-12. The Czech player was visibly rattled as Lily raced to a 10-0 lead in the fourth, before trying to force the issue and causing mild alarm before ultimately winning 11-6 to tie the match. Lily resumed her onslaught in the fifth to take it 11-3, and complete a remarkable fightback. Whilst it was a great way to end the tournament, Lily knows that with a bit more consistency she could well have finished some 20 places higher than her ultimate finishing place of 63rd, but she is very young for U17 and there were lots of positives to take away as well as things to work on with Alice.
Ninon Lemarchand France 6-11, 0-11, 2-11
Isabel McCullough 11-6, 10-12, 0-11, 8-11
Lea-Iris Murrizi German 4-11, 11-8, 7-11, 5-11
Daisy Hill 12-14, 9-11, 9-11
Aparna Maheshwari 6-11, 4-11 11-2, 11-9, 7-11