Monday, August 3, 2009

Shorbagy still the Champ, Sherbini is the youngest ever

[1] Mohamed El Shorbagy (Egy) bt [2] Ivan Yuen (Mas) 11/9, 12/10, 11/2 (36m)

Nour El Sherbini (Egy) bt [4] Nour El Tayeb (Egy) 5/11, 11/7, 11/6, 11/5 (31m)

Shorbagy still the Champ

Mohamed El Shorbagy is still the world junior champion. The Egyptian world #17 beat Ivan Yuen in straight games, fending off a strong challenge from the Malaysian second seed before storming through the third game to retain the title he won in Zurich last year.

Sherbini is the youngest ever

An Egyptian double was guaranteed with an all-Egypt girls' final, and history was made when Nour El Sherbini came from a game down to beat compatriot Nour El Tayeb, becoming the youngest junior girls' world champion, beating Nicol's record by well over two years ..

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Three Egyptians in the finals ...

[1] Mohamed El Shorbagy (EGY) bt [4] Andrew Wagih Shoukry (EGY)
11-7, 11-9, 11-6 (37m)
[2] Ivan Yuen (MAS) bt [17/32] Aurangzeb Mehmund (PAK)
11-6, 11-9, 11-3 (28m)

[4] Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt [1] Dipika Pallikal (IND)
11-6, 8-11, 11-8, 11-7 (33m)
[9/16] Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt [8] Maria Toor Pakay (PAK)
11-8, 11-6, 11-6 (20m)

El Tayeb Topples Pallikal
Howard Harding reports

Dipika Pallikal's bid to become the host nation's first ever world squash champion ended in disappointment in the semi-finals when the top seed tumbled out in four games to fourth seed Nour El Tayeb.

El Tayeb, a 16-year-old from Alexandria ranked 60 in the world rankings, took the first game before 17-year-old Pallikal - 12 positions higher in the world list - drew level.

But the fourth-seeded underdog fought back to take the next two games to record a stunning 11-6, 8-11, 11-8, 11-7 victory in 33 minutes.

"I was trying to keep the ball off her forehand - she’s so strong there, she can kill the ball at will," said El Tayeb. "My coach devised a plan for the match and I stuck to it as much as I could.

"I’ve spent the last six months thinking of this semi-final, but on the bus on the way here I didn’t believe I could win it. I didn’t think about winning until I got to match ball. I remember Heba being so far ahead yesterday and not winning.

"I don’t know how I feel now, to beat Dipika, here in India, it’s such a feeling. I’m in the world final!"

In only the second all-Egyptian final in the event's history, Nour El Tayeb will face compatriot Nour El Sherbini, a 9/16 seed who continued her giant-killing charge through the event with an 11-8, 11-6, 11-6 defeat of Pakistan's No8 seed Maria Toor Pakay in just 20 minutes.

"I didn’t feel any pressure going into this match, even though it was quite different from yesterday’s. I was just trying to keep the ball tight to the back, and put in dropshots when it was loose, and I think I played to that plan well," explained the 13-year-old from Alexandria.

"I’ve played Nour a few times already, and won most of them, but tomorrow will be different. It’s a final and we’ll both be trying our best to win."

Egyptian Mohamed El Shorbagy is now one win away from becoming only the second player in history to successfully defend the men's title after beating fellow countryman Andrew Wagih Shoukry, the fourth seed, 11-7, 11-9, 11-6.

"I played very well today," admitted the 18-year-old from Alexandria. "In all the matches so far I’ve been playing the player and the pressure - and haven’t been able to cope with both at the same time.

"Today I played the pressure and the player and beat both of them. My concentration didn’t drop at all, except for a short spell at 6-3 in the second - but you can’t expect to keep full concentration for a whole match, one small lapse is acceptable.

"I was really nervous before the match, but I talked to my mum and she made me so relaxed - she’s amazing."

The favourite, ranked 17 in the PSA world list, will now face Malaysia's Ivan Yuen, the No2 seed who beat Pakistan outsider Aurangzeb Mehmund 11-6, 11-9, 11-3 in just 28 minutes.

"I feel I’m playing pretty well," said Yuen, who has only dropped one game throughout the tournament. "I hadn’t played him before, so I had to just try to keep it steady and see what happened. I’m so very glad I played well here, it was a nice feeling when he stopped in the middle of the third.

"I’ve been thinking about this final for a while, so it’s nice to actually get there. I hope I play as well tomorrow and we have a good final," added the 18-year-old from Selangor.

The pair met at the quarter-final stage last year - and in the British Junior Open final earlier this year - El Shorbagy prevailing in both. "I’ve watched Ivan playing this week, he’s playing very well," admitted the favourite. "It should be a harder match than the British, and that was pretty difficult!"

Friday, July 31, 2009

Sherbini & Aurangzeb gatecrash the semis

After two days of two rounds it was back to sanity with the quarter-finals today, with a definite Egyptian flavour to them - six girls and three boys gave Egypt over 50% of today's competitors, underlining their recent dominance at junior and senior level.

If Dipika Pallikal is to win India's first-ever world squash title the chances are she'll have to beat four Egyptians in a row to do it, and if Mohamed El Shorbagy is to retain the boys' title there's a good chance he will have to beat players of different nationalities in each of his five matches ... the luck of the draw!

In the event both top seeds came through with only minor scares - both dropping a game - but the story of the day has to be the performances of unseeded (or seeded so low it doesn't really count) Nour El Sherbini and Aurangzeb Mehmund.

Sherbini's recent form suggested at the very least a close match with compatriot Heba El Torky, the second seed, and so it proved. At 2-1 and 9-4 the game looked up for Sherbiny, but she staged a stirring comeback to reach the semi-finals at just 13 years of age.

Mehmund's story is equally remarkable. Having despatched the fifth seed in a marathon five-setter yesterday, he repeated the performance, prevailing over Lucas Serme in the longest match of the tournament.

Another special mention goes to Maria Toor Pakay, who becomes Pakistan's first ever girls' semi-finalist (she was probably the first quarter-finalist too).

The other semi-finalists are Ivan Yuen, Nour El Tayeb, and Andrew Wagih. As the saying goes ... read all about it (on the main site)


[1] Dipika Pallikal (Ind) bt [5] Nouran El Torky (Egy) 11/6, 4/11, 11/8, 11/6 (37m)
[4] Nour El Tayeb (Egy) bt [9/16] Salma Hany (Egy) 11/7, 11/6, 11/1 (21m)
[8] Maria Toor Pakay (Pak) bt [9/16] Kanzy El Defrawy (Egy) 6/11, 11/4, 11/9, 8/11, 11/8 (47m)
Nour El Sherbini (Egy) bt [2] Heba El Torky (Egy) 11/8, 8/11, 11/9, 11/13, 11/8 (61m)

[1] Mohamed El Shorbagy (Egy) bt [9/16] Raphael Kandra (Ger)11/7, 7/11, 11/9, 11/8 (44m)
[4] Andrew Wagih (Egy) v [8] Farhan Zaman (Pak)11/8, 11/7, 11/8 (25m)
Aurangzeb Mehmund (Pak) bt [9/16] Lucas Serme (Fra) 8/11, 11/9, 7/11, 11/8, 11/8 (93m)
[2] Ivan Yuen (Mas) bt [6] Amr Khaled Khalifa (Egy) 11/3, 11/8, 11/7 (39m)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Egyptians dominant in last sixteen as boys' seeds continue to fall ...

Today's evening session saw the last sixteen rounds in both girls and boys draws, the girls having played their fourth round earlier in the day.

Local favourite and top seed Dipika Pallikal opened proceedings on the showcourt, ending the run of unseeded young Egyptian Yathreb Adel, but after that there was no stopping the Egyptians as they claimed six of the remaining places in the quarter-finals.

Nouran and Heba El Torky, Salma Hany, Nour El Tayeb, Kanzy El Defrawy and Nour El Sherbini took up those places, with Pakistan's Maria Toor Pakay claiming the final spot.

In the boys' event top seeds Mohamed El Shorbagy and Ivan Yuan won comfortably enough, but these two plus Andrew Wagih, Amr Khaled Khalifa and Farhan Zaman remain from the top eight seeds.

France's Luca Serme, Germany's Rafael Kandra and Pakistan's Aurangzeb Mehmund - who won a nail-biting match to put out fifth seed Alfredo Avila in five - claimed unexpected quarter-final places.

Day Two - Girls Round Three

Yethreb & Egyptians march on,Sobhy stuns Gemmell ...

Having beaten the 9th seed yesterday Yethreb Adel continued on her winning ways with a straight-games win over 18th seed Milou Van Der Heijden.

"I can't believe it," said a delighted Yethreb, "I'm the youngest one here and now I'm in the last 16!".

Yethreb is joined by six other Egyptians - Heba & Nouran El Torky, Nour El Tayeb, Nour El Sherbiny,Kanzy El Defrawy and Salma Hany in tonight's last sixteen, and

Yathreb faces the daunting task of meeting top seed Dipika Pallikal on her home turf. The top seeds cruised through her early-morning match, playing up to her favourite's billing so far.

That wasn't so much of a shock, but the final match of the round saw the departure of third seed Laura Gemmell, one of the pre-tournament favourites.

USA number two Amanda Sobhy, 16 last month, took a two-game lead, and at 6-3 in the third it looked all over for the Canadian favourite. Gemmell dug in to pull that back 11/9, but Sobhy came out firing in the fourth, building another big lead and this time there was no mistake.

"That's probably my best win so far, certainly the best in juniors," said a delighted Amanda.

"I'd never played her before, but I knew she was very consistent. So I had to compete with that, keep the rallies going and not hit any tins. It paid of, and towards the end I kept telling myself that she must be tired too, because I was.

"I had a lead in the third, let that slip, but once I'd got a bigger lead in the fourth there was no way I was going to blow that one too ..."

It was a good morning for the USA, with Olivia Blatchford - expectedly - and Elizabeth Eyre - who scored an upset win over England's Kimberley Hay - joining Amanda in the last 16.

The Malaysian pair of Low Wee Nee and Nessrine Ariffin both reached their seeded positions, with Canada's Samantha Cornett and Pakistan's Maria Toor Pakay making up the final sixteen.

Dipika to strive ro create history

From the Hindu

Chennai (PTI): India's Dipika Pallikal, who has been top seeded in the World junior individual championship, will strive to create history by winning the women's title.

Seventeen-year old, Dipika is fast emerging as a squash superstar. She has steadily been gaining points in the world junior circuit ever since she had the rare distinction of being the first Indian squash player to be ranked No. 1 in the European and Asian rankings in the under-15 category.

In the history of the championship, India's Joshna Chinappa has the best results having lost in the 2005 title clash at Herentals (Belgium) to Egypt's Raneem el-Weleily.

National coach Cyrus Poncha has also pinned hopes on Pallikal creating history by becoming the first Indian to win the title. "Obviously, we are all excited for Dipika. She best represents our hopes in becoming the first Indian ever to win a World title. The ICL Academy courts are where she began her squash career and she will have our backing."

However, Pallikal, being sponsored by the L.N.Mittal Trust, feels that she needs to be patient in scoring winners against the tough Egyptian rivals and few others.

She has to ward off a bunch of talented Egyptian players, six of whom are among the top 16 seeds, besides Canada's Laura Gemmell (third seed). "The competition will not be just from the Egyptians. Everyone in the fray has been training hard. I will take one match at a time and give my best", Pallikal, who is also into modelling, said.

The top seed at the championship, which begins on Wednesday, said the world junior title is a priority for her. She has been training under Amir Wagih in Egypt with that in mind.

"I have been training with Wagih for the last two years and everything has been going in the right direction. This year my hope has been to peak for the junior world title."

With only Anwesha Reddy, seeded 9-16 for company in the seeding list, Pallikal has fairly easy rounds with a bye to the second round until she meets 17-32 seeded player from New Zealand or the Netherlands in the quarterfinals.

Apart from Pallikal and Anwesha, India has fielded nine other players in the women's section.

On the other hand, Egyptian el-Shorbagy, the defending men's champion, is considered a certainty at retaining his title in men's section.

The Indian challenge in the boys’ individual event will be led by 9-16 seeds Aditya Jagtap and Ravi Dixit and the 17-32 seeds Karan Malik and Ramit Tandon and eight other unseeded players.

On the chances of India in the championship, Dixit, an Asian Junior bronze medallist said "it is a tough field. We have to give our best and perform to our potential to progress into medal contention. We have had the best of preparations for the event. Malim, Tandon and myself had a month long training under Malcolm Willstrop in Leeds in England. It was a great experience as the focus was building our basic game."

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Day One: Big upsets in the Boys'

It was a hectic day in Chennai, with two rounds of play in both draws. At the end 15 of the top 16 seeds were left standing in the girls' draw, but the boys' draw was missing its 3rd and 7th seeds ...

Top two safely through

The local press was out in force for the first appearance of top seed Dipika Pallikal, who eased past the USA's Natasha Kingshott in straight games. Unfortunately I missed the whole thing, but there will be lots in the papers tomorrow, so we'll get some clippings.

Also out in force was the newly-arrived England Team (see morning report below), supporting Nathan Lake as he took on defending champion Mohamed El Shorbagy. Lake took a game off the world #17, but Shorbagy asserted to take the last two games and keep his title bid on course.

Egyptians girls out in force

The girls' second round saw the strong Egyptian contingent enter the fray, and seven of them went through to the last 32 including second and fifth seeds Heba and Nouran El Torky.

Performance of the day was from Yathreb Adel, who overcame 9th seed Tong Tsz-Wing 13-11 in the fifth in the longest match of the day.

Pakistanis progress

The biggest upsets were reserved for the boys event though, as Nosherwan Khan and Nasir Iqbal both took out top eight seeds.

Nosherwan took a tight first game against third seed Karim Abdel Gawad, but lost the second after taking an injury break. He reasserted though to take the next two for a stunning upset, 15/13, 11/2, 11/7, 11/5.

"I lost to him in the BJO semi-finals, I was ahead in all the games but lost due to mistakes. So I knew I had to play differently today, I was controlled but still played aggressively and it worked well," he said.

"The injury affected me in the second game, but I couldn't feel it in the third and fourth games. My coach prepared me really well for this match, I want to thank him for that, I'm really happy with this win and Insha'allah I'll continue to do well in this tournament."

And as often happens, you wait all day for a significant upset and two come along at once - Nasir Iqbal, one of youngest players in the draw at just 15, taking out Finland's seventh seed Henrik Mustonen in five - 11/9, 11/9, 11/13, 7/11, 11/3 - to make it a great day for Pakistan.

In the final match of the day second seed Ivan Yuen (it really was him in Cairo for the ATCO Junior, even though he was down as Yven Youri there) beat Kuwait's Nasser Al-Rashid in straight games, although the Malaysian needed many extra points to take the second, 21-19.

Tomorrow brings two more rounds for the girls, and one for the boys, at the end of which we'll be down to the quarter-finalists. With 15 of the girls top 16 still in contention, and the boys looking for more upsets, it should be some day ...

A Grand Opening

The Minister of State for Youth Affairs & Sport (that's not him on the photo) summed it up in an off-the-cuff speech that went down really well with the 300 or so people assembled in the Taj Hotel for the opening ceremony ...

"We've had so many problems in the world recently, with people from different countries fighting each other, but here, in Chennai tonight, we have young sportspeople from all over the world assembled in harmony and about to embark on a great sporting occasion. Why can't we settle all our differences with sporting contests ..."

And it's true, there was a great feeling tonight of people from all over the world excited to be here, excited to get started, getting along great and having fun.

After being bussed to the Taj (we're staying in the Marriott but the Taj's meeting room is bigger) everyone assembled in the foyer, with lots of photos being taken, before Major Maniam (he should have been a comic, he really should), called the teams into the hall in alphabetical order (starting with Denmark, don't ask ...)

Assuming his master of ceremonies role Maniam presided over the speeches with great humour, WSF President N Ramachandran highlighted some of the stars in attendance, the Minister put it all in context, and the Chief Secretary of the Tamil Nadu government made everyone feel so welcome in Chennai before officially declaring the championships - the first ever combined Boys' and Girls' World Junior Championships - open.

There's a lot going on in Chennai, we'll cover some of it in later issues, but for tonight let's just get ready for the action and enjoy the photos ...

Official Opening Photo Gallery

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

North Americans enjoying India

News from the USA and Canadian squads ...

"I Love India"

Today we woke up to find a 10 person bus with the inscription “I Love India” on the side. This was our transportation for the day. We drove in our cool ride to the courts and had a nice, hot, hit at the courts.

After a shower and quick lunch, we hopped in our new favorite ‘RV’ and headed out to Mahabalipuram, which is a popular tourist spot near Chennai. On our way to the temples, we stopped at an arts and crafts center where they had many local goods for great prices!

Team USA Blog

Hello Everyone!

It’s Team Canada reporting live from Chennai, India! We arrived here late Wednesday night to busy streets, crazy driving, and extreme heat.

So far we’ve explored temples, rode elephants, and saw snakes and crocodiles in captivity. It’s a complete culture shock and we actually decided to buy sarees the first day in an attempt to “blend” in. People still stare and chuckle, but we think we look good.

Even though our days have been very busy with tourist activities, we still have been training hard every day on court. The courts here are very different from the courts we all are used to back home.

Team Canada blog

We'll be having updates from Team England too - just as soon as they get their visa problems sorted and arrive in Chennai !

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Zoya has pleasant memories of India

Hindu Sports Reporter

CHENNAI: Seventeen-year-old Zoya Khalid from Lahore likes watching re-runs of Bollywood movies and says she did not face any problems at home or school in taking up squash.

“I was always encouraged to play by my parents and the federation.

“We were taken to Malaysia for a tournament recently. I’ve played in Delhi and have taken back pleasant memories of this country,” she says after practice at the Indian Squash Academy here on Sunday morning.

A fan of Amr Shabana and Cristiano Ronaldo, Zoya reveals she is friends with Indian players Surbhi Mishra and Dipika Pallikal. “I have also taken tips from Joshna Chinappa.”

Zoya, along with Pakistan’s left-handed No. 1 Maria Toor Pakay, is here with the Pakistani squash team to participate in the World junior championships later this month.

The team’s manager-cum-coach, former British Open champion (1975) Qamar Zaman, admits not many girls play squash in Pakistan, but that “the federation is doing its best to encourage participation”.

“Our team has been selected on an open trial basis. Peshawar is an active squash centre in Pakistan. We don’t have many girls, but we are trying.”

“We had absolutely no problem in getting a visa. At every stage we had the complete support of both the Federations. We feel very welcome here,” says the man from Peshawar.

Pakistan will compete in two individual events at this event, with four boys and two girls. Zaman admits that the girls may find the competition at this stage a little overawing.

“The girls are a little inexperienced, but we will give our best. We have worked very hard and that always pays off.”

On the popularity of the sport in Pakistan, Zaman says having a player in the family goes a long way in a youngster taking up squash.

Malaysia not expecting girls' Medals

by Aftar Singh, Malaysian Star

Malaysia cannot expect medal winners in the women’s competition of the world junior squash championships, which begin on Wednesday in Chennai.

National elite coach Ajaz Azmat has conceded that none of the seven players in the team — Low Wee Nee, Tan Yan Xin, Nessrine Ariffin, Rachael Goh, Vanessa Raj, Yong Sue Ann and Celine Yeap — will make it to the semi-finals.

"The juniors of the other countries are strong and the best we can hope for is seeing Wee Nee (sixth seed) and Nessrine (ninth-16th) in the quarter-finals," said the Pakistani coach.

The top two seeds are India’s Dipika Pallikal and Egypt’s Heba El Torky.

Ajaz added that the four players who would carry Malaysia’s challenge in the team competition, involving 16 countries, were Wee Nee, Nessrine, Yan Xin and Rachel.

"The seedings for the team event will be based on the players’ performance in the individual competition. I hope the players will give their best in the individual event to earn a good seeding," said Ajaz.

For the first time in the World Juniors, the boys’ and girls’ individual events will be held simultaneously. But there will be no boys’ team competition.

Ajaz said that Asian junior champion Ivan Yuen is Malaysia’s best bet for a medal.

Ivan is the second seed behind defending champion Mohamed El Shorbagy of Egypt and in his half of the draw is another Egyptian, third seed Karim Abdel Gawad. The other Malaysian in the boys’ competition is Mohd Zul Azri.

The last Malaysian to win the world junior boys’ title was Ong Beng Hee in 1999.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Taking on the World - Olivia's Dream

By JOHN NASH Wilton Villager Sports Editor

As the seventh ranked junior squash player in the entire world, Olivia Blatchford dreams big.

She does not just yearn for more victories on her resume or for more trophies to fill the empty spaces inside her family's Wilton home. Instead, she dreams even bigger than that, imagining a future that is better for her friends, her teammates, and her sport.

On Thursday afternoon, the 16-year-old Blatchford, the eldest daughter of Peter and Elizabeth Blatchford, left for the faraway land of Chennai, India, where she will take part in the 2009 World Junior Squash Championships. But, she'll tell you before she takes flight, this isn't just about her.

It's all about the future.

The Smashing Pumpkins is one of Blatchford's favorite bands and one of her favorite songs, "Today," from the 1993 album "Siamese Dreams," tells the listener to focus on the here and now:

"Today is the greatest
Day I've ever known,
Can't live for tomorrow,
Tomorrow's much too long"

Blatchford, however, seems to have a foot in both worlds -- today and tomorrow.

As she speeds through life at 100 miles per hour, bubbly and effervescent, she relishes her todays as she works toward her World Juniors appearance. Yet she also longs for a tomorrow that could very well leave her as the second Wilton resident, following soccer's Kristine Lilly, to take part in the Olympic Games, if not becoming the world's best squash player somewhere down the road.

Organizers of the Olympics could be adding two sports to its roster in 2016 and squash is one of the serious candidates. A decision is expected by August or September.

"What an honor it would be to play in the Olympics," Blatchford said, "to be able to represent your country in the biggest and most honorable event ever. It'd be stellar, it'd be magnificent, it'd be awesome."

Blatchford, the No. 1 ranked Under-19 player in the country, is already an ambassador for her sport as well as one of its best players.

"There are 127 countries that play squash. You'd be surprised," Blatchford tells a reporter who knows literally very little about the game. "I really hope and pray we get in (to the Olympics). It's such a deserving sport. It's physical chess. You're trying to anticipate somebody's moves and you're trying to get them to do something all while running. It's such a deserving sport."

And Blatchford, it seems, is as deserving of becoming an Olympian as anyone who has worn the red, white and blue before her.

* * *

The Blatchford family is a squash family.

Her parents, Peter and Elizabeth, who learned the game when she was younger, both still play as adults. It was while tagging along with her father during one of his weekend matches that Olivia, then just 5 years old, first picked up a squash racquet.

"I was really into playing and I was in an amateur tournament on a winter Sunday while we were living in lower Manhattan," Peter Blatchford recalled. "She was about five and I guilted her into coming with me. She was sitting behind the glass while I played. I never really had thought about her playing, but after I was finished she asked, 'When do I get to play?' We went out on the court and she picked up the racquet and was trying to swing a real swing, not just push at the ball. She tried to emulate what she had seen and after two or three times she was doing it quite well. I remember going home and saying, 'Olivia might have a lot potential at this game.'"

Little did the Blatchford family know that only eight years later, as a 13-year-old, Olivia would be a world champion in the Under-15 level when she was the last player standing at the British Junior Open.

It was as though she was born to play the game, a natural who by the time she was 10, was told by a well-respected British coach she had the potential to become the best player in the world.

Olivia realized right away, however, she was going to have to combine her God-given talent with a work ethic few others could match.

"It's so funny because people will tell you you have potential to be something and, to be honest, a lot of people, if you're being told you're good, you might get big-headed," Blatchford said. "I just took it at face value and it doesn't really get to me. Everything I earn depends on how hard I work and how much I choose to give to the sport."

She's giving a lot so far.

While her younger sister, Georgia, will be a sophomore at Wilton High in the fall, and kid brother, Ian, will be at Cider Mill, Olivia Blatchford is being home schooled.

This allows her to take the train to New York City for training sessions and also allows her to travel the world to play in tournaments.

"It's been amazing," she said. "I've been to so many places. I can't even name them all. Amsterdam, all over France, all over England, Wales, Scotland, Belgium. I've been to Germany 20 times. I've been to Hong Kong, Malaysia, Egypt. It's an amazing experience. Life's so different in other countries. It's like an honor to go to these places and play."

Full story on Wilton News

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Look out India - here comes Team USA

Pre-Trip Training: Day Three

Joined by Julie this morning, Haley, Olivia and Lexi (the Brooklyn-ites) made our morning commute to midtown to meet up with Libby, Natasha and coaches Wyant and Quick for the match of the day: Team USA vs. Harvard Club Men’s A team.

Team USA beat up on those old men resulting in a 5-1 final score. After our first win, one massage, two saunas, and six showers, the team said goodbye to Natasha for the day and headed to Café Manhattan for a healthy lunch. Next stop: US Squash headquarters to pick up our uniforms. We trekked through Time Square, arriving at the Garment District to pick up our smashing uniforms.

After we opened our uniforms and exclamations like, “Oh my God!” “We have our names on them?!” “They’re SO nice!” “I love these!” were thrown back and forth, we packed all our clothing AND the boys’ clothing into our bags, and crammed in a cab before heading back to Brooklyn.

After a little down time, Lexi, Libby and Haley made their way to Target for some last minute USA paraphernalia: red, white and blue nail polish, shoelaces – you name it. This was followed by Lexi’s first time eating Thai food at Joya in Brooklyn. The day ended with last minute packing and an early bed time for tomorrow’s last session and 6:10p.m. takeoff…India here comes team USA!

Julie Cerullo

Team USA Blog

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Squash team India’s visit to help cement sports ties: Qamar Zaman

PESHAWAR(APP): Pakistan squash team visit for World Junior Squash Championship scheduled in Chennai, India would help extending more sporting ties in the days to come, former World Champion Qamar Zaman told APP here on Tuesday.

Named as manager-cum-coach of the six-member Pakistani squad that would leave for New Delhi on July 25, Qamar said that sports ties with neighboring India should be continued.

He also appreciated both the governments for their continuing efforts in cementing sporting ties and exchange of visits. The squash team visit would be a roadmap for similar kind of sporting ties from both sides in future, Zaman, who is also vice President of Pakistan Squash Federation, remarked.

"It is better for durable friendship and peace and such sporting ties would certainly develop a sense of understanding between the two neighboring countries and its people," Qamar added.

About the performance of the players in the World Junior Squash Championship, he said: "the teams comprising Nasir Iqbal, Farhan Zaman, Nowsherawan, Aurangzeb and two females including Pakistan No. 1 Maria Torpakai and Zoya have tuned up for the tough battle.

"They are in classic form and have under training from the last two months with national team Coach Fahim Gul who is working very hard on the physical fitness and practice matches of the team.

"We are expecting tough fight from Egyptians but otherwise the team has enough potential and capability to show good result against other world teams taking part in the event,” Qamar opined.

He also lauded President Pakistan Squash Federation on his stance of selecting team on merits. It was actually a performance based selection of the players for an important event and certainly the players are eager to show their worth.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Fram chats to the Defending Champion

After winning the title last year in Zurich, Egypt's Mohamed El Shorbagy has risen to world number 17, and after the decision to hold the event annually, has an unexpected opportunity to defend the title ... Framboise talks to the defending champion with a week to go ...

Mohamed, just tell me how you feel right now…

I’m fine Fram, and everything is fine. I’m just training for the World Juniors, it’s so soon now, I’m going to Chennai this Saturday and hopefully, I can do well and win.

Would you have ever thought you would defend a World Title?

To be honest, I didn’t expect myself to be defending a title as big as the World Juniors… I have been lucky throughout my career... and this time around I am too.

It’s the first time they are having the individuals every year, so I’m lucky to be playing it. I put in a lot of hard work and effort last year for the WJ, and I guess even more this year, because defending a title takes much more effort. The pressure will be all on me, everyone wants to win this title so badly so it’s going to be very tough.

There are pros and cons being the top seed, but I have learnt a lot about how to deal with pressure over the years and hopefully I can perform well.

Inshallah, Mohamed. But would you like to change anything in your game?

No, I don’t think so. My game has worked for me till now and I don’t think I would change anything in particular. I’m 18, I still have a a lot more to learn about the game, and I’m learning something new everyday.

And anything you like in particular in your game?

Over the years with Jonah, I’ve learnt to adapt to different styles of games, and at the senior level you have to be able to adapt to any game… and I have worked a lot about it with Jonah… I change my game when necessary so I think that’s what's good in my game.

Your best squash memory?

Of course, the WJ last year!!! It’s always been a dream and this title will always be very special to me. I still remember when I won and my mum came on court and hugged me and cried. That was the most emotional moment I had in my life.

And I was so happy to have my father and my mum supporting me there and sharing that moment with me. They did a lot for me and they are still doing a lot for me in my life, and without them I wouldn’t have done anything of what I have done.

Your parents are special, aren’t they…

I remember last year in Switzerland, I was so nervous and I called my dad and my mum, and told them “I am so nervous, I need you to be with me”. The day after, they flew all the way from Dubai to Switzerland for me, the minute they knew that, once again, I needed them to support me. Without them with me last year, I wasn’t going to win the tournament.

What do you expect from this tournament, Mohamed?

This title means a lot to me, and I’m going to do everything I need to win this title. Last year during the finals I went on court and Aamir Atlas had more pressure than me. This year, it’s going to be the other way around, I’m the one who’ll have the whole pressure of the tournament…

It’s going to be big if I can defend my title this year. But you know what? I’m just going to let my racquet do the talking…

Full article with more quotes and photos

Monday, July 20, 2009

Egypt top interim team seedings

Egypt, three-time winners of the trophy since 1999, are seeded to retain the Women's World Junior Team Squash Championship title in India next month - according to the interim seedings for the event announced today.

Heba El Torky, the 18-year-old world No42 from Alexandria who is expected to reach the women's individual final, will lead the Egyptian squad - which also includes her younger sister Nouran El Torky, as well as 13-year-old Nour El Sherbini, one of the youngest competitors in the championship.

Malaysia are named as second seeds and are expected to meet Egypt in a repeat of the 2007 final in Hong Kong.

Hosts India are seeded four - but will hope to finish higher than their best-ever fourth finish in the 2003 championship in Cairo.

Seeded third, Canada are expected to record their highest-ever finish in 12 appearances since the inaugural event in 1985.

"Successful players in these world junior championships in Chennai would be expected to be in their prime by 2016 – when Squash hopes to be making its long-awaited debut in the Olympic Games," said WSF President N Ramachandran.

The final seedings, and positions in the pools, will be decided on semi-finals day of the individual women's championship.

Interim Team Seeding:

[1] Egypt; [2] Malaysia; [3] Canada; [4] India; [5] Hong Kong; [6] USA; [7] England; [8] France; [9] New Zealand; [10] Australia; [11] Netherlands; [12] Germany; [13] South Africa; [14] Denmark; [15] Spain; [16] Sweden

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A New Concept in Chennai

Cyrus Poncha looks at the Championships

A New Concept for the World Juniors ...

This is a special world junior championship. For the first time in its history we are having an additional individual event. Since its inception the world juniors have been held biennially. Junior men (Individual and team) one year, and junior women (Individual and team) the following year.

A 17 year old junior playing in the championship may peak only the following year, however as no championship is scheduled for that the youngster misses out on an opportunity to do well and perhaps become a world champion.

So the SRFI began a campaign to have an annual individual event included in the WSF calendar. After some deliberation at the highest level in the WSF, the proposal was finally accepted. India was given the honour of organising the inaugural stand-alone junior championship.

This year it will be the world junior women’s individual and teams event whilst the boys will be an individual event only. Next year it will be the world junior men’s individual and team event and the girls an individual event only. The team event remains a biennial event.

Individual Championship

The 13th World Junior Women’s Squash Championships will be held from 29 July - 2 August 2009.

This year in the junior women’s individual event Indian squash is proud of the fact that their No.1 junior player Dipika Pallikal (also ranked 48 in WISPA) has been given top billing, and is favourite to take over from Raneem El Weleily, winner of the last two championships.

Three years ago the SRFI had the foresight to bid for this event knowing that they will be developing a crop of young girls who could excel in the championships. Dipika who started her career at the Indian Squash Academy will expect strong opposition from second seed Heba El Torky from Egypt and 3/4 seeds Laura Gemmell from Canada and Egyptian Nour El Tayeb.

The 16th World Junior Men’s Individual Championship will be held concurrently with the women’s individual from 28 July - 2 August 2009.

In the individual junior men’s event defending champion Mohamed El Shorbagy from Egypt has taken his rightful place as the No.1 seed. At 17 in the PSA rankings, Shorbagy becomes the highest ranked player to participate in a world junior championship and could become only the second player to win this title twice after Ramy Ashour, winner in 2004 and 2006 (not taking into consideration the fact that Jahangir Khan was a world amateur senior champion as a 15 year old). Seeded two is Ivan Yuen from Malaysia for whom Chennai is a favourite hunting ground having won the Asian Junior title earlier this year. Seeded 3/4 are Karim Abdel Gawad & Andrew Wagih Shoukry, both from Egypt.

Team Championship

The 16th World Junior Women’s Team Squash Championships will be held from 3 - 8 August 2009. The junior women’s team event follows on immediately after.

With all their girls featured in the top 16 seedings, the Egyptian team have secured top billing. India who attained the 9th position in 2007 with Dipika, Surbhi, Anwesha and Harita being the team members are all eligible this year. The SRFI will announce its final women’s squad during the individual event. This year the Indian girls have been given an interim seeding of four behind Egypt, Malaysia and Canada.

And also ...

Dr. M.S.Gill, Minister of Youth Affairs and Sport will inaugurate the championships at the Hotel Taj Mount Road on 28 July 2009 at 1930hrs. Shri. Suresh Kalmadi, President Indian Olympic Association and Member of Parliament will release the championship souvenir which will be received by Shri. K.S. Sripathi, Chief Secretary, Govt. of Tamil Nadu. Shri. Sripathi will also give away the prizes on 2 August 2009 to the individual world champions at the Indian Squash Academy. The trophies for the team championship on 8 August will be given away by Shri. K. P. Jain, Director General of Police and Shri. N. Ramachandran, President World Squash Federation at the Indian Squash Academy.

On 6th & 7th August 2009, the Management Committee and Executive Committee of the World Squash Federation will meet in Chennai for the first time to discuss the Olympic bid and other administrative matters.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Pelletier hungry for championships


Squash starlet Jennifer Pelletier has conquered Canada and now looks to squish her competition at the world junior squash championships this month in Chennai, India.

The holder of four national titles; twice winning both the under-13 and under-17 Canadian girls titles, the Langstaff Secondary School student looks to add yet another impressive performance half way around the world, planting the maple leaf atop the squash world racquet.

Holding a Canadian record of participation in seven straight national finals, unmistakable confidence flows forth when speaking with the 16-year-old, but by no means is it misguided cockiness from the teenager who balances world class squash with school, five to seven days of practice each week, and a part-time job at the local Pizza Hut.

Admitting her rigorous routine can get a little tiring at times, Ms Pelletier says her toughest training challenge remains to not stuff herself on the cheesy pies she makes for extra cash.

"Lucky for me I have a high metabolism. I eat a lot of pizza," she laughs.

"It is tough to say no. Pizzas are discounted for employees and I get to make my own creations. It's delicious," Ms Pelletier said.

This voracious appetite spills over to her squash game, as the Richmond Hill resident regularly trains and practices against older boys to find a suitable level of competition in preparation to her upcoming foray onto the global stage.

She has competed at national and continental tournaments in the United States and Peru, but this latest experience makes Ms Pelletier's mouth water at the prospect of once again representing her country in the sport she loves, while testing her mettle against the world's elite players.

It is a love affair she has nurtured since age six, and she plays the game like a chess match at breakneck pace, often leading to a checkmate over her opponents.

"With each player and each match the strategy changes. Some hit harder, some are more crafty, keeping shots close to the wall, making opponents run. A lot of people try to compare squash to tennis, but it is tougher than tennis and much more technical," Ms Pelletier proclaimed.

"One technique that is a little unorthodox is aiming for your opponent. Its a clever tactic if you want to frustrate the person you are playing against. It can get pretty amusing," she added with a laugh.

In India, Ms Pelletier will compete in team and single competition and according to the junior national women's team coach Glenn Stark, his squad of young guns carries high expectations approaching the world championship.

"Looking at the other countries, we have a lot of depth and I wouldn't be surprised if we are seeded in the top-five, which would be our highest ever seeding going into the junior worlds," Coach Stark was quoted on Squash Canada's website.

"Our success is due to the fact we've identified potential players early and helped them get the experience," coach Stark added when describing his team of five ladies.

Ms Pelletier is similarly confident in results, but less confident in her pizza-loving stomach handling the spicy local cuisine she will no doubt find in India.

"I am pretty darn worried to be honest. I don't do well with spicy food. My Indian-Canadian friends keep saying 'I'm screwed'," Ms Pelletier said with a sigh.

"I might have to bring like six loaves of bread with jars of peanut butter and jam. Hopefully I can find some bland food there," she woefully added.

With a spicy game on the court and one of the younger competitors in a tournament that predominantly features 18-year-olds, Ms Pelletier says her individual expectations remain moderate, citing any place within the top 25 as an amazing accomplishment, with the team looking to snag a top five overall finish.

Rob Brooks has coached Ms Pelletier for the last seven years at Fabulous Fitness in Vaughan as the club's head squash pro. He raves that his star pupil's style of play will serve well, despite her young age.

Calling her one of the smartest young players he has ever coached, he expects the championships to provide Ms Pelletier with an unparalleled stepping stone of experience and further advance her already heightened sense of the sport.

"She has marvelous vision and it causes her opponents a lot of havoc. Because of her smaller size, she has to stay a step or two ahead of her opponent, but even if the game turns more physical she can handle herself. She is no shrinking violet out there that's for sure," Coach Brooks stated.

"She has a good head on her shoulders and at such a young age she has a great sense of humour. The next two years of squash will be important for her and with the personality to match her game, she is good enough so there is no ceiling to her potential," he added.

Good enough could mean a medal at the world's, another national title, the prospect of a university squash scholarship south of the border and possibly participation in the Olympics.

Squash is not yet included in the line-up of events on the Olympic Summer Games, but a movement from the World Squash Organization looks to bring about inclusion in time for 2016.

"It is silly to think of the huge popularity of the sport and not include it in the Olympics," Ms Pelletier said. "I am confident things will change and hopefully I and others from around the world will get to experience the Olympic stage," she added.

Hopefully for Ms Pelletier, the city that land's the 2016 Games bid will provide a more temperate cuisine.

Pakistan squad leave on 25th

A six-member Pakistan squad will leave for India on July 25 to feature in the inaugural Individual Squash World Junior Championship to be held in Chennai from July 29 to August 3.

The Pakistan squad comprises of four male and two female players who hope to give good performance in the championship.

“This is an individual event and I think our players have the best opportunity to show their mark in a competition which is generally specified for upcoming talent,” said Pakistan Squash Federation (PSF) general secretary Shamsul Haq on Friday. He said that due to law and order situation Pakistan itself was unable to organise a major international championship and this tournament would be like a blessing for upcoming Pakistan stars to show their mettle.

This will be the first ever visit by any sports team of Pakistan to India after last year’s Mumbai attacks that strained the relations of the two countries.

Players: Nasir Iqbal, Farhan Zaman, Nosherwan Khan and Aurangzeb Mohmand. Ms Maria Toor Pakey and Ms Zoya Khalid.

Sports Ministry issues NOC

Pakistan's sports ministry has issued no objection certificates (NOC)s to the national squash and table tennis federations to send teams to India for upcoming international events.

Sports minister, Aftab Shah Jillani told newsmen today that the ministry had issued NOCs as it wanted to normalise sporting ties with India.

"Unfortunately while we are looking forward to restoring bilateral sporting ties with India we are not getting the same response from them," Jillani said.

Pakistan and India have frozen bilateral sporting ties since the Mumbai terror attacks last November and while the Indian government refused to send its cricket team to Pakistan early this year the Islamabad also didn't allow its players to take part in the Indian Premier League.

Hockey ties between the two nations were also affected by the tense relations between the two nations since the Mumbai attacks.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Strokes of success?

From the Hindu

Hard work is the buzzword among the players who are honing their skills for the World Junior Squash Championship to be held in the city later this month

A water pump chugs in the background as a lone painter spruces up the boundary wall of the Indian Squash Academy with long, supple strokes. Inside, an entirely different range of strokes is on display.

“I need to work on my drop shot,” pants 18-year-old Ravi Dixit, who won the Malaysian junior open last month. “But it is going to be a tough field.”

Dixit is referring to the World Junior Squash Championship that starts July end in Chennai. With participants from 28 countries, including Egypt’s defending champion Mohammed El Shorbagy and Asian juniors winner Ivan Yuen, pencilled in for the competition, winning is going to be tough.

Ravi is hopeful that a month-long coaching stint under Malcolm Willstrop in England will further his cause in the event because “exposure to foreign players and techniques is very important at this stage in my career”.

The tournament, that comprises individual events for boys and girls followed by girls’ team matches, will witness top seed Al Shorbagy — ranked in the top 20 of the senior world rankings — attempt to win consecutive boys’ titles.

India’s Dipika Pallikal, a finalist at both the British junior open and Asian junior championship earlier this year, will head the field in the girls’ singles event, her main resistance likely to come from the second seeded Egyptian, Heba El Torky.

National coach Cyrus Poncha watches practice from a chair, occasionally dishing out advice, and admits that India’s focus in the tournament will be the girls’ team event where the country is competing for the first time since finishing fourth in Cairo in 2003. Though Dipika is a direct entry into the Indian team, the other three members are yet to be identified.

“We did not participate in the girls’ event in 2005 and 2007 because our players were very young.

“The team event takes place after the individual one, so other members of the squad will be selected based on form and performance in the singles. Dipika is in Egypt and will join us shortly. The others have started to practice…our emphasis is on footwork and keeping the ball in play,” Poncha says.

The event also marks a landmark change in that, henceforth, individual events for boys and girls would be conducted on an annual basis, unlike the biannual pattern in place till last year. The team events will be conducted alternately.

Consultant coach Major (Retd.) S. Maniam, who had been taking this issue up with the World Squash Federation for almost a decade, is pleased with the move.

“I know so many players who had a strong chance of being junior champions, but they couldn’t compete at their peak, i.e. when they turned 18 there was no tournament scheduled for that year. And the next year, when the tournament would be held, the player would have turned 19 and overage.

“If you’re 15 and want to win the junior title, you should have a few clear shots at it. An annual event will give younger players more chances for that,” he concludes.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Pakistan confident of good results

From Dawn

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s junior squash players are confident of putting on a good show at the upcoming 15th World Junior Men’s Individual Squash Championship.

The eight-member contingent will participate in the event slated to be held in Chennai, India, from July 29 to August 2.

"I am confident of putting up strong resistance against my rivals in the upcoming ranking tournament," said Pakistan’s emerging young squash player Nasir Iqbal.

Nasir, 17, added: "I have been training under Faheem Gul’s for the past month. His support and guidance during my crucial fixtures will hopefully be an added advantage against my opponents."

The event will see Egypt’s star player Mohamed El Shorbagy defending his title.

Faheem is also travelling along with the team as its coach while squash great Qamar Zaman has been nominated as manager for the five-day tournament by the Pakistan Squash Federation (PSF).

Nasir, who hails from Bannu in the NWFP, pointed out: "This exposure is ultimately going to help me gain experience while my target is to lift a major junior squash title in 2010."

Two female players Zoya Khalid and Maria Toor will also be testing their mettle in the World Junior Women’s Individual Squash Championship.

"There is a huge probability of me making a big difference in the competition by winning some important fixtures in the tournament," claimed the top-ranking national player Maria.

"I am the eighth seed in the tournament that includes 128 female players. But I have had good training, which will now be the test of my professional skills. My international ranking too is likely to improve after a good finish," she concluded.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

US team named

Following a full year of competition in selection tournaments and a final playoff, U.S. SQUASH named the members of the 2009 U.S. Junior Women’s Squash team that will compete at this summer’s World Junior Women’s Squash Championships in Chennai, India.

Eight juniors will be making the trip to India: Olivia Blatchford (Wilton, CT), Julie Cerullo (Brooklyn, NY), Elizabeth Eyre (Haverford, PA), Natasha Kingshott (Greenwich, CT.), Haley Mendez (Brooklyn, NY), Yarden Odinak (Bellevue, WA), Alexis Saunders (Wilmington, DE), and Amanda Sobhy (Sea Cliff, NY).

Competing for the U.S. in the team event will be Blatchford, Sobhy, Cerullo, and Odinak.

Olivia Blatchford will be competing for the top position on the squad. Although she is only 16 years old, Olivia is already one of the most promising and successful women’s squash players in the country. She has had considerable success in both junior and adult tournaments this year- having won the Girls National Championship in early March and placing in third in the Women’s National Championship the following weekend. Olivia was also a member of the Women’s National Team that competed in Cairo this past winter.

Amanda Sobhy will be another member of the squad competing for a top spot in the team event. The 16-year-old (her birthday was during the recent ATCO Junior Open in Cairo) has been playing years above her age over the past junior season- maintaining a healthy rivalry with Blatchford throughout the Junior Championship Tour, in addition to trying her luck at the professional level in several WISPA tournaments.

Julie Cerullo and Yarden Odinak will be the elder statesman of the squad this summer, as both 18-year-old will be bringing their fiery competitive spirits to the courts of India. Cerullo and Odinak finished third and fourth, respectively, at the Junior Championships last March.

Elizabeth Eyre, Natasha Kingshott, Haley Mendez, and Alexis Saunders will also be traveling to India to compete in the Individual event taking place from July 29- August 2. These four girls earned their spot on the team through their results this past season in the Junior Championship Tour and the Junior Women’s Team playoff from April 3-5 at the Fairmount Athletic Club. All four will be looking to gain experience at the individual level and will train with their squad mates in the team event.

Accompanying the team to India will be Head Coach Jack Wyant and Assistant Coach Meredith Quick.

Coach Wyant believes that by improving the team’s overall fitness and reinforcing basic tactical skills the team will definitely improve on its finish two years ago at the 2007 World Junior Women’s Team Championships in Hong Kong. Blatchford, Cerullo, and Kingshott were all members of the 2007 squad and will be trying to use their experience in that event to their advantage here in 2009.

Wyant also commented on how Olivia and Amanda should be well accustomed to the international style of play after the two played in several professional tournaments this summer. Although the team will be geographically dispersed throughout the country during the early summer months, Coach Wyant will be corresponding with each squad member individually and will be organizing a training session in Philadelphia.

Coach Quick will be organizing a second training session in Brooklyn. The team will then meet together in mid-July before the competition begins to train together and review team goals.

Overall, the 2009 U.S. Junior Women’s Squash team has the potential to be one of the most competitive teams in the history of US SQUASH. With a solid core of experienced players combined with the youthful exuberance of several newcomers, the players and coaches alike seem to be optimistic about the team’s chances in India.

Scott Leighton

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Pakistani squad gets Chennai go-ahead

From Dawn

ISLAMABAD: Standoff between Pakistan and India over sports took a U-turn on Monday with the Ministry of Sports allowing an eight-member squash contingent to proceed to India to feature in international junior squash event.

India first took a hard stance on sports against Pakistan after ‘Mumbai mayhem’ when the Indian cricket team was not given a go ahead by their Sports Ministry and a tense diplomatic stand-off was seen between both the neighbours.

In response to Indian action, Pakistan later refused to send its hockey and squash teams to India citing security concerns after the Mumbai terror attack.

A top federal government official told Dawn: "The ministry has no objection of sending the team to India however; in a letter issued by them [sports ministry] it was clarified that the permission was subject to clearance from the Foreign and Interior Ministries due to prevailing geopolitical situation in the region."

The PSF has selected junior squash players Aurangzeb Momand, Nasir Iqbal, Nosherwan, Farhan Zaman, Maria Toor and Zoya Khalid for ranking based junior international event.

National coach Faheem Gul will travel along with the team to India while Qamar Zaman has been nominated as the manager.

"The High Commission of Pakistan in India has also been informed about the arrival of Pakistani squash team’ said the official. "We have shown a good will gesture for resumption of sports ties with our neighbour but it must be reciprocal," Federal Sports Minister Aftab Shah Jilani said.

He said: "The decision has been made for the development of sports in the region."

Asked to comment about the security assurances if any provided by the Indian government, he said: "The host country will manage the security affairs of our players while the assurances are between the two federations."

Meanwhile, senior vice president of the PSF, AVM Asim Suleman said: "There is always a certain level of security cover for Pakistani players in India and if required we can request the Indian Squash Federation for special security arrangements for our players and sort it out with the host federation."

Wee Wern sets sights on seniors

From the Malaysian Star

Malaysia's British Junior Open champion Low Wee Wern will turn 19 this month, and she is no longer eligible to compete in junior tournaments.

The Penangite will now turn her attention to competing on the Wispa circuit tournaments to improve on her world rankings.

The three-time Asian junior champion, whose birthday is on July 25, said that it was a disappointment that she would not get to take part in the World Juniors for Under-19 players in Chennai (July 31-Aug 5).

"I have to concentrate on playing in more professional tournaments," said the world No. 38 ranked Wee Wern, who hopes to get among the top 30 by the end of the year.

"I will play in at least eight tournaments over the next six months to achieve my goal."

Wee Wern, who bagged the British Junior Open Under-19 title in January, is now the fourth ranked national player behind Nicol David, Delia Arnold and Sharon Wee.

She will feature in the US$16,000 NSC Series No. 6 tournament, starting today at the National Squash Centre in Bukit Jalil. Wee Wern is third seed and will meet Japan’s Misaki Kobayashi in the first round. She is tipped to play against world No. 23 and top seed Delia Arnold in the semi-finals.

"I defeated Delia in the Sukma (Malaysia Games) final in Terengganu last year. But this time I can expect a tough match as Delia is well-prepared after a recent three-month training stint in England," said Wee Wern, who has been training for six years under Aaron Soyza in Penang.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Pallikal & El Shorbagy Top Seeds

India's Dipika Pallikal and Egyptian Mohamed El Shorbagy have been named as top seeds for next month's World Junior Squash Championships, the World Squash Federation event which has attracted players from 28 nations to the ICL Squash Academy in Chennai, India, from 29 July to 2 August.

Born and raised in Chennai, Dipika Pallikal is seeded to become India's first ever world squash champion. Already ranked inside the women's world's top 50, 17-year-old Pallikal has established a significant junior career, winning the British Junior U17 Open title in 2008 and reaching the final in both the British Junior U19 Open and Asian Junior Championship earlier this year.

Pallikal is expected to meet Egypt's No2 seed Heba El Torky in the women's final. Winner of British Junior Open titles at U13, U15 and U17, the 18-year-old from Alexandria has also already notched up two WISPA World Tour titles, at last year's China Open and Pakistan Open.

Heba's younger sister Nouran El Torky is also amongst the event's top seeds: The 16-year-old, seeded five, is one of six Egyptians named in the top 16 seeds – including the youngest, 13-year-old Nour El Sherbini, also from Alexandria.

Whilst the women's individual event will precede the Women's World Junior Team Championships – the biennial event which is held in alternate years to the men's junior team championships – this year sees the staging of the first annual men's individual world championship. Responding to feedback from Member National Federations, the WSF plans to run men's and women's individual world junior championships annually from this year, staged alongside the biennial team championship.

Title-holder El Shorbagy has the chance to become only the second player in history to win the men's crown twice. The 18-year-old favourite from Alexandria has already enjoyed a meteoric run in the sport - and boasts a senior world top 20 ranking following notable success on the PSA World Tour which has included final berths in the recent Spanish Open and Irish Open and a quarter-final finish in last year's World Open in his maiden appearance in the sport's premier championship.

El Shorbagy's predicted final opponent is Malaysian Ivan Yuen. Winner of the recent Asian Junior Championship title, also in Chennai, the second seed from Selangor made his debut in the world's top 100 in May.

Squash Canada names team

OTTAWA- Squash Canada announced today that Laura Gemmell of Toronto, Samantha Cornett of Ottawa, Jennifer Pelletier of Richmond Hill, Ont., and Danielle Letourneau of Calgary have be named to the Canadian team for the women’s world junior squash championships.

Gemmell, 18, is one of Canada’s most successful junior players of all time and is seeded third in the individual tournament. She’s won the national under-19 title four years in a row and was a member of the last two world junior squads helping Canada to seventh place and near upset of second-seed Britain in the team event in 2007 and sixth place in 2005. Gemmell advanced to the fourth round in individual play at the 2007 world juniors.

"Laura can challenge for a medal in the individual event this year," said Canada’s junior national women’s coach Glenn Stark of Calgary. "She`s coming off two exceptional tournaments in Britain, including a third place at the British Junior Open, and has played these girls before."

Cornett, 18, brings more international experience to the table and is seeded individually in the 9-16 bracket. She was also on the 2007 team and has been a member of the last two Canadian teams at the Pan American junior championships highlighted by an individual gold in 2008.

"We’re feeling super confident," said Cornett. "We think we can win a team medal. This year it looks like a very even tournament and the medal chase is pretty wide open. We’ve shown at the last two junior worlds that Canada is closing in on the other countries. Two years ago we came so close to breaking into the medal round."

Pelletier and Letourneau are the two young guns on the squad. Pelletier has won the last two under-17 national titles and both players have travelled internationally for tournaments. Pelletier was on the 2008 Pan Am Junior team and Letourneau has competed at major junior tournaments in Britain.

"Looking at the other countries, I think we have the potential to do really well," said Stark. "We have a lot of depth and I wouldn’t be surprised if we are seeded in the top-five, which would be our highest ever seeding going into the junior worlds."

Stark says Canada has followed the lead of the other top nations by inserting young players into its world junior line-up.

"Our success is due to the fact we’ve identified potential players early and helped them get the experience," he said. "So for example Jennfer and Danielle will already have a world junior experience for the next championships."

The Canadian team will gather in Toronto and arrive in India, a week before the start of the tournament.

Alix Younger of Winnipeg is the team’s non travelling reserve.

The junior men’s individual world championships will also be held in Chennai over the same period. Arjun Gupta of Toronto is Canada’s lone entry.