Pune: Junior National silver medallist Arnaav Sareen achieved the best result of his squash career when he finished at No 6 position in Boy’s Under-15 category in the British Junior Open Squash, the marquee championship wherein youngsters from around the world take part.
The BJO, as it is popularly known in the squash circles, shifted to Birmingham this year after over 20-year run in Sheffield, and a host of Indian players tested their capabilities against the best in the world of squash.
Highly regarded as a world junior tournament, BJO this year ran from January 3 to 7 in which over 600 competitors from 30 different nationalities in five age categories—Under-11, U-13, U-15, U-17, U-19—for boy’s and girl’s took part.
Arnaav in best form
Arnaav punched well above his waist when he was faced with the top-16 seeded Shaam Gambhir of the United States and wriggled out after a grueling third round match that he won in five games—11-6, 11-3, 8-11, 10-12, 11-8.
The Pune boy, a 9th standard student of St Mary’s School got a first round by in a draw of 128 and he won his Round 2 match against Farid Farrag of the Czech Republic hands down—11-4, 11-2, 11-1.
In the very next round he had a face-off with Gambhir, whom Arnaav beat 3-2 to reach pre-quarterfinals where he met No 2 seed Alhassan Khalil from England.
Khalil had made it through the Round 4 clash after beating another Indian in the field, Tanay Punjabi 11-4, 11-4, 11-4 in the third round.
Arnaav was quick to understand Khalil’s game and engaged the English boy in long rallies and wore him out before winning his fourth round 11-9, 16-14, 11-7.
In the quarterfinals, Arnaav had 3-4 seeded Ahmed Aly as a opponent and the Egyptian turned out to be much stronger. In a 51-minute match, Arnaav was the first to take the initiative and win the first game 11-5, but Aly composed himself well in time before taking the next three games 11-7, 11-5, 11-9.
After losing quarterfinals, Arnaav was drawn to play in the positional matches for 5-8 places wherein he won his first match against Egypt’s Ahmed Marzouk 12-14, 111-6, 11-8, 11-6, but in the match for 5-6 position the Pune boy, who trains under coach Deepak Moolani at the Poona Club courts, lost to another Egyptian in the fray, Ahmed Ismail—11-13, 11-13, 11-7, 3-11.
Neel finishes 2nd
Another Indian in the same category, Neel Joshi, was a revelation as he went on to make it to the final before losing to No 1 seed Samuel Todd of England 11-8, 14-16, 0-11, 12-14.
On the way to the final Neel defeated two Egyptians, an English, an Irish and a Malaysian boy. His semifinal clash with Malaysia’s Muhammad Amir Amirul Azhar stretched to five games before the Indian emerged winner-13-11, 11-9, 5-11, 3-11, 11-8.
In Boy’s Under-17 category, India’s Tushar Shahani did well to finish fourth after beating Haris Qasim of Pakistan in the second round.
He defeated Mexican Juan Carlos Vargas in the third round before taking out England’s Lewis Anderson in three straight games.
In the quarterfinals Tushar beat country-mate Saksham Choudhary before losing in the semifinals to Egypt’s Omar El Torkey.
Pune’s Yoshna 21st
Much was expected from the National Girls Under-17 champion Yoshna Singh, but the city girl stumbled at the second hurdle losing to England’s Alice Green after having won her first round tie against home girl Amber Copley.
In the play-offs for the 17-24 positions, Yoshna first defeated Ayumi Watanabe of Japan before losing to Ashley Manning of the United States.
Arnaav Sareen factbox
Adjudged most Promising Player’ by JSW Sports at Bombay Gymkhana.
Second Runner-up at the 8th Indian Junior Open Squash Championship, Jaipur 2016.
Second Runner-up at the Dutch Jr Open 2017, Amsterdam, his 1st international outing.
Represented the country in Asian Junior team and individual championships in Jordan in 2017.
Currently ranked No.4 in Asia.
Silver medal at the Jr National Championship, Ajmer 2017
(Key Indians in action at Birmingham)
Arnaav Sareen: finished 6th
Round 1: bye
Round 2: bt Farid Farrag (Cze) 11-4, 11-2, 11-1.
Round 3: bt 1-Shaam Ghambir (US) 11-6, 11-3, 8-11, 10-12, 11-8.
Round 4: bt Alhassan Khalil (Eng) 11-9, 16-14, 11-7.
Quarterfinals: lost to Ahmed Aly (Egy) 11-5, 7-11, 5-11, 9-11.
Play-off for 5-8 places:
bt Ahmed Marzouk (Egy) 12-14, 11-6, 11-8, 11-6.
lost to Ahmed Ismail (Egy) 11-13, 11-13, 11-7, 3-11.
Statistics: Played: 6, Rubbers: 4-2 (66.7%), Games won: 14-9 (60.9%), Points won: 235-193 (54.9%).
Neel Joshi: Runners up
Round 1: bye
Round 2: bt Dominic Bayley (Eng) 11-3, 11-3, 11-2
Round 3: bt Dylan Moran (Ire) 11-3, 11-5, 11-1.
Round 4: bt Seifeldin Shams (Egy) 11-9, 11-8, 11-7.
Quarterfinals: bt Ahmed Ismail (Egy) 11-9, 10-12, 11-4, 8-11, 11-9.
Semifinals: bt Muhammad Amir Amirul Azhar (Mal) 13-11, 11-9, 5-11, 3-11, 11-8.
Final: lost to 1-Samuel Todd (Eng) 11-8, 14-16, 0-11, 12-14.
Statistics: Played: 6, Rubbers: 5-1 (83.3 %), Games won: 16-7 (69.6%), Points won: 230-185 (55.4%).
Tushar Shahani: Finished 4th
Round 1: bye
Round 2: bt Haris Qasim (Pak) 9-11, 10-12, 11-9, 11- 8, 11- 8.
Round 3: bt Juan Carlos Vargas (Mex) 11-9, 12-10, 11-5.
Round 4: bt Lewis Anderson (Eng) 11-9, 11-7, 5-11, 6-11, 11-1.
Quarterfinals: bt Saksham Choudhary (Ind) 11-6, 11-7, 10-12, 11-5.
Semifinals: lost to 1-Omar El Torkey (Egy) 11-9, 2-11, 3-11, 8-11.
Play-off for 3-4 place: lost to Yehia Hesham Fathy Elnawasany (Egy) 5-11, 7-11, 13-15.
Statistics: Played: 6, Rubbers: 4-2 (66.7 %), Games won: 13-11 (54.2%), Points won: 222-220 (50.2%).
Yoshna Singh: Finished joint 21st
Round 1: bt Amber Copley (Eng) 11-5, 12-10, 11-13, 11-3.
Round 2: lost to Alice Green 5-11, 6-11, 9-11.
Play-off for 17-24:
bt Ayumi Watanabe (Jpn) 13-11, 11-7, 12-10
lost to Ashley Manning (US) 9-11, 10-12, 13-15.
bt Cristina Tartarone (Ita) 13-11, 13-11, 11-8.
bt Emma Carney (US) 13-11, 11-4, 11-7.
Statistics: Played: 6, Rubbers: 4-2 (66.7 %), Games won: 12-7 (63.2%), Points won: 205-182 (53.0%).