Two years on from becoming the first male to win a Dunlop British Junior Open title since fellow Yorkshireman James Willstrop in 2002, Sam Todd has grown both in height and stature.
Following a one-way victory in the under-13 category at the event billed as the ‘junior Wimbledon of squash’, the 14-year-old from Yorkshire has grown eight inches and captured three U15 crowns, including the US Junior Open, and an U17 title at the Cologne Cup.
Having made his debut in the Premier Squash League this season and taking on far older players, Todd heads into the BJO as top seed in the U15 event and aiming to make further inroads into Willstrop’s three junior titles.
“With Lee [Beachill] and James training at the club all their lives, it makes me want to do the same and follow in their footsteps. It helps loads to play people two or three years older than me. It helps me when I lose and pushes me forwards on what to do next and how to improve.”
He is doing so alongside his coach, Malcolm Willstrop, who believes that, in time, Todd could even trump Pontefract’s most successful duo. For now, the club is the perfect schooling for the teenager, with Willstrop snr imparting coaching advice from over five decades in the game.
“It’s such a welcoming club and like a big family. I know everyone and the support there is great. Everyone follows what I do around the world so it really spurs me on.
“And as soon as I win a big title, Malcolm puts me back down again, keeps me grounded, stops me from being too cocky and keeps me focused.
“He has been in the game a while and he is like ‘the God’. You have to take in everything he says. Sometimes you may not agree with him but you have to get on with it. I love being coached by him.”
This will be Sam’s last year in the U15s. Naturally, he wants to win major junior titles in every age category before a senior career beckons. Yet, he may even be a professional on the world tour before then.
“I want to break the mould and be like Ramy Ashour, starting early and getting good titles early. I just have to keep focused and hopefully I will aim that way.”