Bajans impress in squash

Three of the four Barbadian participants played at least once on finals day with Barbados and Caribbean champion Khamal Cumberbatch who was only seeded here at No. 5/8, facing the  No. 3/4 seed Ethan Eyles (Australia) on Monday in the Under-13 semi-final. Eyles is coached by his father, the former World Open Squash Champion and World No. 2, Rodney Eyles, and was the steadier of the two players and defeated Cumberbatch in four games 11-4, 11-5, 4-11, 11-5 in 26 minutes.

Cumberbatch then played off for third place yesterday against the other No. 3/4 seed, the Canadian Salaheldin Eltorgman, but lost in four close games, 8-11, 9-11, 11-2, 11-13 and therefore finished fourth, which was an excellent result since Cumberbatch was only seeded to reach the quarter-finals.  Eyles lost in straight games in the final to the top seeded Canadian Abdelrahman Dweek.

Barbadians Meagan Best and Amanda Haywood (the current Barbados and Caribbean U-13 and U-15 champions respectively) both easily won their two matches in the consolation draw on Monday without dropping a game.  Both juniors can be very proud of the fact that despite neither of them being seeded by the event organizers they defeated several opponents that were ranked higher than themselves and, in an amazing coincidence, both lost in their respective quarter-finals to the player who went on to win that particular age group.

On Monday in the U-15 event, Amanda Haywood beat Amelia Knapp (Canada) 3-0 in the third round of the consolation draw and then beat the No. 5/8 seed Bethany Churchill (Canada) 11-9, 11-4, 12-10 in the consolation quarter-finals. Yesterday in the consolation semi-final Haywood dispatched Maria Paula Moya Lopez (Colombia) 11-6, 11-8, 11-6 but then went down in a tense five-game match in the consolation final to the No. 3/4 seeded Italian, Dina Anguiano, who won 11-6, 8-11, 11-8, 7-11, 11-4 and finished in fifth position in the competition with Haywood finishing in 6th place.  The event was won by Marina Stefanoni (USA) who was only awarded a  No. 5/8 seeding but she beat the top seeded Canadian Miriam Mansoor in the final 3-0.

In the U-13 consolation draw, Meagan Best cut through the field like a hot knife through butter and played five matches, winning them all 3-0 and only gave up a maximum of sixteen points in any of those encounters.  After from dispatching Alessia Ferris (Canada) 11-4, 11-7, 11-2 on Monday the powerful Best overran another Canadian, Molly Chadwick, who was seeded at No. 3/4 – 11-3, 11-3, 11-6.  On Tuesday, Best then blitzed Maya Mansoor (Canada) the No. 5/8 seed 11-3, 11-1, 11-4, before wrapping up a successful four days of competition by overcoming Lucie Stefanoni (USA) also in straight games  11-5, 11-2, 11-9 to finish in fifth place overall.  The winner of this age category was the top seeded Canadian, Lucia Bicknell, who won all of her matches 3-0 apart from her quarter-final showdown with Meagan who took the first two games before Lucia pulled back from the brink to win in five nail-biting games.

Craig Archer, president of the Barbados Squash Association was delighted with the performance of the trio.

“Barbados is fortunate that we have some exceptionally talented young junior players who have trained hard and have done great credit to their nation all year in general and in this tournament in particular. Amanda made the full senior team last year at age 13 and Meagan did so this year at the age of 12.

“Their improvement over the past six to eight months has been remarkable and I expect that if squash is admitted by the IOC into the summer Olympic Games programme for Tokyo in 2020 these two young ladies [Meagan and Amanda] as well as boys like Khamal [Cumberbatch] and few others will form the nucleus of our team there.

“Our kids have proven that they are competitive with some of the best in this region, and their next challenge will be in the US Junior Open next week as the draws are even bigger since many Egyptians and more European players have entered,” Archer said.

The four-day US Junior Open will be hosted at the prestigious Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut and commences on December 20.

There were 258 juniors entered this year in the Canadian Junior Open in eight age group categories (U-13, U-15, U-17, and U-19) for boys and girls.


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