PSA stars reminisce about BJO triumphs

Elizabeth Botcherby reports

Ahead of January’s Dunlop British Junior Open (BJO) which will see the world’s finest juniors descend on Birmingham for the most prestigious event on the junior circuit, several former champions including Raneem El Welily, Tarek Momen and Nicol David look back on their BJO successes.

For current World No.1 Raneem El Welily, playing and winning the British Junior Open six times fuelled her passion for the game:

“The British Junior Open is where I completed internationally for the very first time. It was my door to a whole new world, a world that made my eyes sparkle and where my love for the game grew bigger and bigger each year.”

Former World No.1 James Willstrop won three BJO titles and believes the prestigious junior event is a key stepping-stone to becoming a professional player.

“The British Junior Open is the tournament to win as a junior. It represents a springboard for the world’s best aspiring young players, certainly those aiming to become a pro. Some of the best senior players started by winning the BJO so it was good to win a few. I worked hard to win them and always look back on those tournaments as being very formative experiences.”

For Nicol David, winning her first BJO title in 1996 was a major milestone which demonstrated that she could compete on the international stage.

“Winning my first BJO title in the GU14 was significant for me to gauge where I was in the world. This gave me the confidence to take on everything else after that whenever I competed elsewhere.”

David, who retired earlier this year, went on to win three further BJO titles before embarking on an impressive pro career which saw her secure eight World titles.

Current World Champion, and two-time BJO title holder Tarek Momen echoed David’s sentiments:

“Being the best in your age group can only inspire you to become the best in the world. With my BJO title wins, I truly believed I could do it one day.”

England’s Nick Matthew won the BU19 title back in 1999 and went on to become World no.1 and a three-time World champion. Winning a BJO title in his hometown was extra special for Matthew:

“Alongside the World’s, it’s the biggest title in junior squash. I think my ‘win’ was unique in that it is the only walkover on finals day in the event’s history but it didn’t detract from how special the event was, especially when I was able to play in my hometown of Sheffield.”