2018 Finals: Azman sisters mastermind Malaysian success

Malaysia celebrated a double family triumph as Aira and Aifa Azman became the first sister act to claim British Junior Open titles in the same year on an extraordinary finals day, which saw England celebrate two home titles for the first time in over two decades. 

Aira Azman capped off her scintillating run in this year’s tournament as she claimed a five-game victory in the G15, after Egypt’s Sana Ibrahim was disqualified for being in sick on court in the fifth.

It was an unfortunate set of circumstances for the Egyptian second seed, who had clawed her way back into a nail-biting tie after recovering from two games down before Azman was handed an 11-8, 11-5, 10-12, 6-11, 4-2 victory.

But her disqualification warranted Azman’s jubilation, as the [5/8] Malaysian became the lowest-seeded player to taste BJO glory at the University of Birmingham’s 500-seater arena on Sunday – which will stage squash at the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

And there was more joy for the Azman family as Aira’s older sister, Aifa claimed her third BJO crown after winning the G17 final with an 11-7, 11-5, 11-9 victory over the USA’s Marina Stefanoni [1].

It was also a good day for England, as Jonah Bryant and Sam Todd claimed BJO titles in the B13 and B15 finals respectively – the first time the country has achieved the feat since Iain Higgins won the B19 and Tania Bailey claimed the G16 in 1995.

Second seed Bryant claimed the biggest global title of his junior career with a 3-0 triumph over top seed Islam Kouratam in the B13, wrapping up proceedings 11-2, 11-5, 11-6 in an impressive 22 minutes.

“I’ve dreamed about this ever since I got to the semi-finals last year and lost,” said second-seeded Bryant.

“I’ve trained for 12 months for this tournament so I’m really happy.

“I tried to keep focused as much as possible and if I let the Egyptian back in he could have won. So I was so happy to keep that concentration and close it out 3-0.”

It means England have now celebrated two B13 champions in the last three years, with Bryant’s older compatriot Todd having achieved the feat in 2016.

And it was Todd himself who consolidated on his own BJO success by securing an 8-11, 16-14, 11-0, 14-12 in 37 minutes victory over India’s Neel Joshi [3/4].

It means Yorkshireman Todd becomes only the second Englishman this century to win two British junior titles following his under-13 success in 2016 and follows James Willstrop into the record books after his Pontefract team-mate lifted the under-17 and under-19 titles in 2000 and 2002 respectively.

“I am just so happy. I am now half way to winning all the age groups and I just want to carry on like James did,” said Todd.

“I had to vary the pace a lot against Neel and reset the rally and it’s something I’ve been working on back at Pontefract.”

Egypt’s Mostafa Asal [2] had not dropped a single game heading into his final against top B17 seed Omar El Torkey and maintained that perfect record with a 3-0 victory over his Egyptian counterpart, winning 11-4, 11-6, 11-5 to claim his maiden BJO crown.

In the G19, Malaysian Sivasangari Subramaniam justified her top seed status with an entertaining win over Japan’s Satomi Watanabe [2] to bring the curtain down on her junior career with a 12-10, 11-7, 11-9 win in just over half an hour.

Egypt’s Marwan Tarek added to the B17 crown he won at last year’s tournament by sealing a 3-0 victory over Victor Crouin [2] in the B19, to deny France a BJO winner. The top seed – who saved two game balls in the second – battled to an 11-6, 13-11, 11-7 win in 48 minutes.

Elsewhere, Amina Orfi and Ahmed Rashed made history as the No.1 seeds became the first ever juniors to take home a BJO U11 crown.

Orfi overcame her Egyptian counterpart and second seed Janna Galal 11-3, 11-2, 11-1 to celebrate a remarkable tournament in which she did not drop a game.

It was a harder victory, however, for Rashed, who recovered from a game down to seal a 3-1 victory over a determined Mohamed Zakaria [5/8], 9-11, 11-2, 11-6, 11-3.

“I feel so excited to have won the first British Junior Open Boy’s Under 11,” said a relieved Rashed.

“The first game didn’t go very well, but then I thought, ‘I want to win this British Open – I can do it,’ and I came back in the last three games.”

In the G13, Sehveetrraa Kumar won the battle between two [3/4] finalists, as the Malaysian overcame Fayrouz Abouelkheir (Egy) to win the title with a 3-0 victory, 11-7, 11-9, 11-9.

“I felt pretty nervous, but I stayed strong and confident,” said a thrilled Kumar.

“I thought I played well, but the opening was quite tough but after that I thought I could handle it.”


FULL RESULTS – Dunlop British Junior Open 2018 (Under 11 to 19)

G11:  [1] Amina Orfi (Egy) 3-0 [2] Jana Galal (Egy)    11-8, 11-7, 11-8 (27m)

B11: [1] Ahmed Rashed (Egy) 3-1 [5/8] Mohamed Zakaria (Egy) 9-11, 11-2, 11-6, 11-3 (28m)

G13:  [¾] Sehveetrraa Kumar (Mas) 3-0  [¾] Fayrouz Abouelkheir (Egy) 11-7, 11-9, 11-9 (27m)

B13:  [2] Jonah Bryant (Eng) 3-0 [1] Islam Kouratam (Egy) 11-2, 11-5, 11-6 (22m)

G15: [5/8] Aira Azman (Mas) 3-2  [2] Sana Ibrahim (Egy)  11-8, 11-5, 10-12, 6-11, 4-2  disqualified (ill on court)

B15: [1] Sam Todd (Eng) 3-1 [¾] Neel Joshi (Ind)   8-11, 16-14, 11-0, 14-12 (37m)

G17:  [2] Aifa Azman (Mas) 3-0 [1] Marina Stefanoni (Usa) 11-7, 11-5, 11-9 (27m)

B17:  [2] Mostafa Asal (Egy) 3-0  [1] Omar El Torkey (Egy) 11-4, 11-6, 11-5 (38m)

G19:  [1] Sivasangari Subramaniam (Mas) 3-0 [2] Satomi Watanabe (Jpn) 12-10, 11-7, 11-9 (33m)

B19:  [1] Marwan Tarek (Egy) 3-0 [2] Victor Crouin (Fra) 11-6, 13-11, 11-7 (48m)