England confident of BJO success

Elizabeth Botcherby reports

England’s national coaching team is confident of landing podium finishes at the forthcoming Dunlop British Junior Open 2020 (BJO) from the 2-6 January in Birmingham. 

Last year saw England record its highest number of finalists since 2001 with Abd-Allah Eissa capturing the BU13 title, and Sam Todd and Nick Wall reaching the BU17 and BU19 finals respectively.

Building on the success of 2018 in which England produced two champions, National Junior Coach Lee Drew believes England are heading in the right direction.

“We keep seeing steady progress with our juniors which is exactly what we want. It was our best [medal] performance since 2001 when our golden generation were playing as juniors, so the signs are positive,” he said.

“I want to take a few more medals away from the top teams, the likes of Egypt and Malaysia, and I’m confident of our chances at the BJO.”

Analysing England’s entrants, Drew said: “We have a couple of past champions playing at the top of their age groups so I would expect those players to be competitive, but we have talent across the spectrum which is great to see.”

England’s strongest title challenger is Sam Todd (Yorks) in the BU17. Todd (pictured above) is a two-time BJO champion (U13, U15) and earlier this month became the first Englishman to lift the US Open Junior BU19 title, aged just 16.

“Sam got to the final last year. He’s one year older and has a great chance of taking the title,” said Drew.

England can also expect strong performances in the BU19s with Drew struggling to pick just one medal contender.

Current English Junior champion Max Forster (N’bria), BJC semi-finalist Simon Herbert (Leics) and 17-year-old Ben Smith (Lincs) will all be in the hunt for medals but it is World Junior Championship bronze medallist Lewis Anderson (Warks) who Drew believes has the best chance.

“Lewis is a surprise package and can deliver at the highest level. After the World Championships, some players will be cautious of him, others will see him as a target. If he goes in and plays his squash he has a great chance.”

Alice Green (Essex) is the standout contender in the GU19 whilst Katie Malliff (Bucks) will fancy her chances in the GU17.

“Katie will be looking to win a major title,” said Drew. “She got to the final of the European Junior Championships in the under 19s so she’s going to be competitive.”

Last year’s GU15 bronze medallist Torrie Malik (Sussex) will also be competitive in the GU17 alongside Yorkshire’s Asia Harris.

“The Girls under 17s will be a really strong age group for us,” said Drew. “It’s hard to name all of our good players but we’re in with a strong chance with Katie, Torrie and Asia.”

Elsewhere, reigning BU13 champion Abd-Allah Eissa (Warks) will be looking to challenge Jonah Bryant in the BU15 whilst Drew expects BJC finalist Hassan Khalil (Warks) to be competitive in the BU17.

Lower down the age groups, Jake Johnston (Surrey) and Tala Abaza (Middx) are home hopefuls in the BU11 and GU13 respectively after their recent triumphs at the BJC.