The 2023 Czech Nationals were played at two clubs in Prague – Hector and SBC – and on the brand new ASB glass court set up in Galerie Harfa shopping mall, reports Tomas Forter.
Earlier rounds did not bring many surprises in both events. All 8 top seeded men made it to the quarters and only one of the top 8 seeded women didn´t make it to the last 8.
Top seeded Martin Svec lost his quarterfinal against David Zeman, the other semifinalists were Daniel Mekbib (seeded no. 2), Marek Panacek (no. 4 seed) and defending champion Jakub Solnicky (no. 5 seed) who beat his long time training partner and no. 3 seed Viktor Byrtus in the quarters.
In the first semifinal Marek Panacek won comfortably 3/0 against David Zeman. Second semi brought together champions from previous five years as Daniel Mekbib won the title 4 times before Jakub Solnicky won it last year. Daniel started better and managed to win the first game but after that Jakub was the dominant player and won the next three games.
In the final Marek tried to play fast paced squash but wasn´t able to put Jakub under lot of pressure. Jakub´s defence worked really well and when he was given an opening he was able to convert it into points with some very nice drops and volley drops. Both first games looked similar and it looked like Marek was struggling to find any answers to very simple but effective Jakub´s play. 11/6 11/5 to Jakub.
When he won 4 points in a row from 3/5 to 7/5 in the third it looked like he was going to close the match in three games. But Marek kept fighting and managed to win the game 11/9. Jakub started the fourth game better, was always in front by a few points and soon got to 9/5 and 10/7. Marek managed to save all three matchballs but the next two rallies belonged again to Jakub who won his second national title today.
Daniel Mekbib beat David Zeman 3/1 to win the bronze medal.
In the women’s draw the top 4 favourites made it to the semis.
Natálie Babjuková who was seeded no. 1 for the tournament as she is currently no. 1 in Czech ranking played against 16 year old top Czech junior Karolína Šrámková. Natálie started better and her accurate game full of drops and lobs worked really well on the glass court. From the second game Karolína managed to up the tempo and played very fast squash which meant Natálie had less time and her accuracy was not as good as in the first game. Karolína won the second game and dominated even more in the next two to reach her first women´s nationals final.
The other semi was played between Olga Kolářová and Eva Feřteková. Both are very experienced former PSA players. Olga played her typical fast and powerful squash in the first two games and Eva struggled to keep with the pace. From the third she managed to slow the pace down and was causing lot of troubles to Olga with a very accurate lob serve. Any loose returns were punished with good drops and Eva won the third game. The fourth was close all the way but at the end it was Olga who won it 11/9 and reached her 14th nationals´ final.
In the final Olga got a good lead in the first game and soon reached 10/6. Karolína managed to save all gameballs and at 11/10 had her chance as well but Olga managed to win the next three points to go 1/0 up. Second game was very similar. Olga again got a good lead, Karolína started to come back but this time only managed to get to 9 points and Olga was 2/0 up. The third game was controlled by Karolína who won 11/6 but Olga regained control early in the fourth, got a big lead and this time there was no comeback from Karolína like in the first two games. Olga won her 6th national title.
She equalled the score of her long-time rival Lucie Fialova with 6 titles. Only Jana Šmeralová has more as she won 9 titles. But the fact Olga won her first three titles before she got married, won her fourth after she had her first child, won her fifth after she had her second child and now won her sixth after she had her third child is pretty unique and not just in squash but in any sport.
Natálie Babjuková won the third place against her very good friend Eva Feřteková who managed to come back from 0/2 down but couldn´t finish her comeback in the fifth.