Henderson Open : top seeds triumph

Men’s $6k Challenger, 19-21 Feb, Auckland, New Zealand

report from NZ Sportswire

A couple of dramatic finals in the Henderson Rochelle Hobbs PSA Open squash tournament in Auckland with both men’s and women’s matches going the distance.

The women’s contest featured top-100 ranked Emma Millar winning in five games over Henderson club captain and former top ten pro Shelley Kitchen, who at 41-years-old showed plenty of power and fitness as if she was ready to play in the British Open once again.

Kitchen won the first game 10-12 after an initial struggle, but then found herself well beaten by current New Zealand national champion, Millar from the Waikato, however the tables were turned in the third game with Kitchen again winning, this time 11-9.

Into the fourth the style of play became a little bit less frantic and the two players varied the pace more and Millar equalled the games.

In the fifth and final it was difficult to pick a winner as Millar, 12 years the junior of Kitchen chipped away to eventually win 12-10 in an enthralling and powerful contest.

The men’s final had Joel Arscott ranked 248 in the world in his first PSA Challenger tournament final take an early lead and look-odds on to score a victory over the much more experienced Evan Williams from Wellington.

Arscott was up two games and had a total of four match balls before Williams ranked 89th somehow edged his way back into the match on each occasion scrapping his way into the contest to fight for another point.

Going into the fourth game 1-2 down, Williams used all of his experienced to take the set 11-8 and then with renewed vigour hit the fifth game with energy as Arscott appeared zapped of energy to win the fifth and final game 11-1 for an overall score of 9-11, 10-12,16-14, 11-8, 11-1 in well over an hours play.

For the left-handed Williams, a Commonwealth Games rep at the Gold Coast games it was his seventh pro Challenger title and one of the harder fought tournaments having played a five game quarter-final win, four games in the semis and then five in the final.

The next tournament in the Summer Series of events in this week at Eden Epsom with two PSA Satellite events.

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Day TWO : Surprise finalists in Auckland

Top seeds Evan Williams and Emma Millar are through to their respective finals at the Henderson Rochelle Hobbs PSA Open in Auckland after a busy day of matches featuring plenty of interest, but they will face surprise finalists.

Williams ranked in the world’s top 100 will be looking to defend his title at Henderson, but didn’t have it all his way to make the final. He was taken to five games in his quarter-final earlier in the day by Temwa Chileshe and then to four games in his semifinal.

His opponent for the title, Joel Arscott is ranked 248 in the world and known for his competitiveness on court. For 21-eyar-old Arscott it will be his first PSA final and came after two straight game wins, one over Finn Trimble in the quarters and then Elijah Tomas in the semis.

Earlier teenager Tomas scored the upset of the tournament with a five game victory over second seed and world No.149 Lwamba Chileshe.

In the women’s draw Millar who is ranked 98 on the PSA rankings beat teenager Sophie Hodges in her quarter-final and then had a dramatic struggle to overcome Lana Harrison in five games in the semis.

A 5-5 in the fifth Harrison copped a racquet in the forehead from Millar and needed a blood timeout. She’s now sporting a large lump and a nasty gash after the accidental hit to the head. Millar eventually won 8-11 9-11 11-4 11-3 12-10.

Millar will take on former top-ten ranked Shelley Kitchen for the title. The now 41-year-old Kitchen who is the club captain at Henderson displayed plenty of power to defeat second seed Lauren Clarke in straight games. Earlier Kitchen beat Katie Templeton in straight games in the quarters.

Kitchen continues to look like she could still match it on the PSA circuit and will now doubt give national champion, Millar a competitive match.

Day ONE : Down to the quarters in Auckland

Dave Worsley reports

After the first round of the PSA Henderson Rochelle Hobbs Open there’s plenty for the top seeded players to be concerned about as the tight draw hits the quarter-finals.

The Challenger 5 for men and a Satellite for women tournament in Auckland at the Henderson Squash Club is being played under Level 2 restrictions which means gatherings of under 100. However the competitors themselves are playing with energy and enthusiasm in what may be one of the few pro tournaments they can earn PSA ranking points and prize money in the shifting environment of travel around the world.

Top seed Evan Williams was one of three New Zealand Commonwealth Games reps in the men’s draw. The world No.87 accounted for junior Joe Smythe from the Bay of Plenty in straight games and next has a somewhat harder task against Temwa Chileshe ranked 255 in the last eight.

Lance Beddoes who was at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games accounted for the powerful Glenn Templeton in straight games but now faces the lightning quick Sion Wiggin ranked at 212 in his quarter-final.

The lanky Finn Trimble will face Joel Arscott in another quarter after Trimble had to battle against the third Commonwealth Games rep in Zac Millar.

In the final men’s quarters contest Lwamba Chileshe the world ranked 149th player and runner-up at the national champs to Williams last year will take on national junior champ Elijah Thomas.

The top half of the women’s draw has national champion Emma Millar safely through to the quarters where she will play 15-year-old Sophie Hodges, also from the Waikato in her last eight match. Hodges finished fourth at the nationals in 2020.

Lana Harrison a from top 120 ranked PSA player is in the top half of the draw as well and takes on another young teen in Ella Lash.

In the bottom half of the draw second seed Lauren Clarke plays Canterbury’s Grace Hymers while former top-ten world ranked player Shelley Kitchen playing at her own club takes on Katie Templeton from the Bay of Plenty.

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Top seed Evans looking forward to return

Top seed Evan Williams said :

“It feels fantastic to be able to play a PSA event again, it has been severely missed these past 11 months. In terms of playing though we have been so lucky in New Zealand to be able to do what we have.

“It’s hard to know exactly where my game is at seeing as it is the first event of the year. Being experienced though I feel like I am tracking well. I’m happy with my fitness and my coach is happy with how I’m hitting it so I’m looking forward to finding out.

“No pressure at all being the top seed. We are all starting from scratch and will have a few things to iron out as the event goes along. I’m lucky I’ve done this for many years now.

“It absolutely helps as we know everyone in the draw so analysis becomes easier. Going to be great to see so many familiar and friendly faces too.”

Tournament Preview

It’s early in the year but competitive squash is getting underway in New Zealand with a PSA  at the Henderson Squash Club in Auckland this weekend.

The tournament is able to proceed under Level 2 guidelines and creates an opportunity for professional and semi-professional domestic squash players around the country to earn world ranking points and prizemoney.

The Henderson Rochelle Hobbs Open is a Challenger 5 for men and a Satellite for women meaning players can earn valuable PSA world ranking points without having the expense of needing to travel overseas, while also generating interest in the sport in New Zealand.

Main court matches will be shown live on the Henderson Squash Club facebook site https://www.facebook.com/hendersonsquash which will assist with Level 2 crowd requirements. There will also be live commentary for the semifinals and finals.

The strength of the players entered is testimony to their enthusiasm to get back on court again and compete .

Top players include Commonwealth Games rep and world No.87 Evan Williams the current New Zealand champion as men’s top seed while Lwamba Chileshe the man Williams beat in the national final is second seed and ranked 149 in the world.

Two other Gold Coast Commonwealth Games team members are also included in Lance Beddoes and Zac Millar along with the majority of other PSA ranked players.

The women’s draw features national champion Emma Millar who is ranked 98th along with second seed, Lauren Clarke from the Bay of Plenty, Lana Harrison from Auckland and Sophie Hodges (Waikato) as some of the challengers for the title.

The tournament runs from Friday 19 February until the finals from 2pm on Sunday 21 February.

The Henderson tournament is part of the Barfoot & Thompson PSA Summer Series with tournaments also being held in successive weeks at Eden Epsom Tennis & Squash Club, North Shore Squash Club (Auckland Open), Whakatane Squash Club and Royal Oak Racquets Club.

The Auckland Open will be held at the North Shore Squash Club and is elevated to Challenger 10 status for the men and to a Challenger 5 for the women, with a total of US$9000 prize money up for grabs.

Barfoot & Thompson PSA Summer Series Schedule:

Feb 19-21 : Henderson Rochelle Hobbs Open (Challenger 5 Men’s and Satellite Women’s)
Feb 26-28 : Eden Epsom Doug Flint Memorial Open and PSA Satellite
Mar 04-07 : Auckland Open at North Shore (Challenger 10 Men’s and Challenger 5 Women’s)
Mar 12-14 : Eastern BOP Open and PSA Satellite at Whakatane
Mar 19-21 : Royal Oak Open (Challenger 3 Women’s and Satellite Men’s)