Royal Oak Open 2021

Women’s $2k PSA Challenger, 19-21 Mar, Auckland, NZ


Kaitlyn Watts wins first PSA title with dramatic win at Royal Oak.

The comeback continued for 20-year-old Manawatu squash player Kaitlyn Watts as she took away her first PSA Challenger title in what truly was a return to top squash in so many ways, reports Dave Worsley.

Facing top seed and 98th ranked player in the world, Emma Millar it came down to a fourth game in which the higher ranked player held a significant lead at 10-3 and 2-1 up in sets to have a huge opportunity to take the title.

Each time Millar looked like winning the match and her first PSA Challenger, Watts somehow fought back and hung in against the current New Zealand champion.

There was a total of six lets when the score was 10-9 to Millar and number in the points leading up to there as well. Millar whose demeanour on court is usually unflappable, smiley and quiet questioned a number of calls, as point after point was repeated.

Eventually as the final went in to the fifth set it was all the way of a fired up Watts who won her first title at that level 8-11, 11-8, 7-11, 12-10, 11-1 in 53 minutes and enjoyed being back on court competing again after having just over a year away from the sport.

For Millar it was her first loss domestically since a similar stage last year in the final of the Auckland Open

In the men’s PSA Satellite final, Taupo’s Willz Donnelly, 20, continued his like of long matches after his two five set victories in his quarters and semis.

In the final he pushed top seed Lwamba Chileshe, 21 and ranked 152nd in the world, all the way to five sets and even had a two games to one lead. Chileshe kept his head and was fortunate to hit five winners in the fifth game which helped him get across the line 11-7, 6-11, 9-11, 11-3, 11-6 in 50 minutes to take his eighth Satellite title.

Day TWO : Comeback kid Kaitlyn reaches the final

A nice comeback to competitive squash for 20-year-old Kaitlyn Watts on a return from a break away from the sport emerged to be a finalist at the Royal Oak PSA Challenger tournament.

Watt’s looking for her first PSA Challenger title had been ranked just inside the top 100 a couple of years back won against Auckland’s Juee Bhide in her quarter-final and then defeated the more experienced Lana Harrison, in the semis in four games using a well worked game-plan to negate the power of her opponent.

Harrison had earlier beaten second seed Abbie Palmer in her quarter-final in straight games.

With coach Kashif Shuja giving advice during game breaks Watts played smart against Harrison and didn’t mind diving for the odd ball as she played controlled to make the final where she will face top seed and top-100 ranked Emma Millar for the title.

Millar , also searching for her first PSA Challenger title after being a finalist on several occasions had earlier defeated another player on a comeback to competitive play, former national junior champ Rebecca Barnett in straight games.

In the men’s Satellite draw top seed Lwamba Chileshe will face Willz Donnelly in the final after the later scored two five game victories in one day.

Donnelly, 20 beat second seed Joel Arscott in five games in a lengthy match which went well over an hour and then turned out in the semis to defeat Zac Millar in over an hour 13-11 in the fifth set in what was an entertaining contest. Millar provided some unorthodox and unpredictable hitting which added to the drama of the match.

Donnelly showed plenty of patience at times to hold off the flamboyance of Millar and provided his own shot making in the victory.

How the two big matches effect Donnelly against Chileshe who scored a straight game win over teenager Mason Smales in the quarters and then won 14-12, 11-9, 11-1 against Elijah Thomas in the semis is up for debate.

Unfortunately in his semfinal, Thomas suffered a nasty fall in the third game which saw him limp off the court with what looks to be a serious ankle injury.

Day One : Experience shows through in Auckland

Experience showed through in the first round of the women’s Royal Oak PSA Squash Open as those players returning to the game proved they still have what it takes, reports Dave Worsley.

Top seed and world No.98, Emma Millar from the Waikato won in straight sets over Auckland junior Ashlee Pepper and will now face Hawkes Bay junior Jena Gregory in the quarter-finals. Millar, 29 is the current national women’s champion and hasn’t lost a match since early last year.

Former top junior Rebecca Barnett played her first tournament match in New Zealand for some time and duly defeated 15-year-old Ella Lash in straight games, although the third was 15-13. She now plays teenager Dora Galloway from Wellington.

Another former top-ranked junior and former NZ women’s rep, Kaitlyn Watts was also a winner over a now younger player. Watts accounted for Waikato player, Sophie Hodges in straight games and is set to face 24-year-old Juee Bhide in the last eight after Bhide defeated Bay of Plenty junior Katie Templeton.

Further down the draw former top 100 ranked Lana Harrison beat 21-year-old Grace Hymers to cement a players in the quarters where she will play second seed Palmer.

In the men’s Satellite draw there were no major upsets in the first round with the top two seeds Lwamba Chilese ranked 152 and Joel Arscott 215 having an initial bye. Third and fourth seeds, Zac Millar and Elijah Thomas both had easy straight game wins.

Thomas, the current New Zealand junior champ now has an intriguing clash with a recent junior champion in Gabe Yam while Arscott plays Taupo’s Willz Donnely in another anticipated quarter-final.