Malliff and Romiglio book World Champs spots at Val de Reuil Normandie
England’s Katie Malliff and Argentina’s Leandro Romiglio have secured their places at the 2021-2022 PSA World Championships in Cairo, after taking the titles at the Val de Reuil Normandie, a Challenger 5 level event held at Tennis et Squash Val de Reuil in France.
The 18-year-old Englishwoman reached the final of the first qualifying event for the PSA World Championships, the Odense Open, earlier this month, losing out to South Africa’s Alexandra Fuller. Although she may well have had a place in the sport’s premiere event anyway due to Fuller’s World Ranking, she made sure of it with a convincing performance against Spain’s Marta Dominguez Fernandez in the final on Sunday afternoon.
It was a very fair and clean final, with both players strong through the middle, and able to track a lot of balls down to all corners of the court. It was the Englishwoman that started the stronger of the two though, taking the first game 11-9, before then holding off a fight back from Fernandez in the second to hold a two-game advantage in the contest.
The Spaniard, who already has two titles to her name despite only coming on to the Tour in the summer of 2021, was able to take the third game, using her power to knock Malliff off the ’T’, and the Englishwoman seemed to be struggling come the end of the third. However, she was able to build a five-point lead early on in the fourth, a lead that she wouldn’t relinquish, going on to secure her first PSA Tour title, and with it, guarantee her spot at the 2021-2022 PSA World Championships.
“I am really pleased! Getting to the final in Odense, I was lucky to be qualifying because Alexandra Fuller was already in the World Championships, but this time, I feel like I have earned it because I have won the tournament!” the Englishwoman said.
“I just tried to play my game, getting a good length, and then when she was behind me, I went short. That’s as simple as it was really, but then when under pressure, I was using height, and those tactics worked!
“When I came off court after the third game, my legs were really heavy, a lot of lactic acid, because I have had some tough matches in the last few days. She probably felt the same as well, but in that fourth game, I really gave it one last push.
“It’s amazing [to be in the World Championships]! I am really pleased. I just finished college and I have been training hard for the last six months. I know it is not long but I feel like I have improved quite a lot physically! I have nothing to lose, so I will give it my all and try and get as many points as I can! Try and make it as long as possible and to enjoy it!”
Joining her will be Argentina’s Leandro Romiglio, who won the men’s event after a marathon 104-minute final against good friend and training partner Juan Camilo Vargas, as he had to hold off a come back to win an entertaining contest in the fifth and deciding game.
It looked like the World No.130. and Argentinian No.1, had the match wrapped up, as he led by two games after 35 minutes of the clash. But Vargas did not give in, and was able to find his lengths in the third game, to keep the match alive. He kept that momentum into the fourth game as well, setting up a decider to end the tournament.
The fifth and final game was the longest, with several brutal rallies in the army part going the way of the Colombian. However, Romiglio was able to fight back, coming from three points behind to eventually win the fifth 11-9, and with it, claim his third title of the season. After 104 minutes of action, the Argentinian also booked his spot in the World Championships for the first time in his career.
“Tired! When I won the first two games, I was in control and I tried to finish it, but he came back strong in the third. He started to play better at the front and I felt it in my legs and the glutes,” Romiglio explained.
“In the fifth, he started very well and I told myself to push one last time! Luckily, I won, but I am really happy with the performance. If I couldn’t win in three, I will fight to win in 100 minutes, whatever happens, happens!
“It means a lot for me. It will be my first time in the draw. I played in Manchester [in 2017] but I only played in qualification, so I am really happy! I tried to not think about it, and I didn’t think about it, I was just focussing on the match! This is a gift! I am sure in Argentina, my family, friends and the squash community will be very happy to have the Argentinian flag on show at the World Championships!
“The top seeds are going to have to be careful! If they want to play 100 minutes or maybe they will chop me in 20, but to have that experience! Let’s see, I will be ready and I don’t have any expectations. When I am just enjoying the game, I play at my best!”
The next qualifying event for the 2021-2022 PSA World Championships in Cairo will be the University of Birmingham Open, which will take place from April 5-9.
Day THREE – Semi-Finals
Finalists Decided on high quality Semi-Finals day
The final four are set at the Val de Reuil Normandie, with Spain’s Marta Dominguez , England’s Katie Malliff, Argentinian Leandro Romiglio and Colombia’s Juan Camilo Vargas all winning their respective semi-final contests at the second qualifying event for the 2021-2022 PSA World Championships.
The Val de Reuil Normandie is the second of four qualifying tournaments, with the winners receiving a spot at the sport’s premiere event. The first was the Odense Open, with Katie Malliff reached the final, and she has continued that great form this week in France, making into in a second straight final.
She overcame Germany’s Saskia Beinhard, the tournament’s No.4 seed, in a four-game battle, coming from behind to win after dropping the first game. She had been in control of the first, but a quick run of points for the German put her ahead, and she went on to take it 11-7.
However, from there, the Englishwoman was able to push on, and she regained control of the ’T’, and the match. She went out to a lead in each of the next three games, with her movement being too much for Beinhard, as she continued to chase down every loose ball returning most with interest. She won in four games, after 39 minutes of high-quality action on court at Tennis et Squash Val de Reuil, moving through to a second consecutive final on Tour.
“Very pleased, pleased with my performance in the last three games. I felt like I stuck to my game plan, getting a good length and it really paid off!” Malliff said.
“I was a little bit gutted after the first game because I think I was 6-2 up and I was playing well but then I left a few loose balls in the middle and she started killing, and winning some quick points. After the first game, I still felt confident, and I really focussed on getting a good length!”
The 18-year-old will now face Spain’s Marta Dominguez Fernandez in Sunday’s final in Normandie, after the Spaniard downed the last remaining French player in the tournament, Taba Taghavi, in another four-game battle.
The pair were first on court on semi-finals day, with a close to capacity crowd behind Court 1 cheering on the Frenchwoman. She started the stronger of the two, but Fernandez, who already has two wins to her name despite only making her debut on Tour last summer, fought back to take the first 11-8.
The Spaniard then won the second at ease, but Taghavi fought back, and went on to secure the third game to keep her hopes of reaching the final on home soil alive. Fernandez was able to regroup after the end of the third game, though, to go on and win the fourth, booking her spot in the final of the Challenger 5 level competition.
“It is amazing to be in the final, because all the matches are really close! Yesterday I won 3-2 in a very hard match, and today was also hard,” Fernandez said.
“It was difficult, because I thought that she was down, but she made an effort and she won the third game. I had to keep pushing and keep fighting, and that was good for me!”
The men’s final will be contested between Argentina’s Leandro Romiglio and Colombia’s Juan Camilo Vargas after the pair both won their respective last four encounters on Saturday afternoon. Romiglio took to the court against England’s Charlie Lee, and after a mammoth first game, which lasted over 25 minutes, he found himself behind in the match.
However, the Argentinian was able to battle back, and won the next two games quite comfortably to flip the match on its head, moving into the lead of the contest. As the third game went on, Lee started to struggle, and Romiglio was able to push on, winning in four to book his place in the final.
“I have been playing great the whole week! Yesterday was a tough day, playing two matches in a day was really tough, but I came through! Luckily because in the morning I was two games down and I came back!” Romiglio said.
“We had a tough first game, 30-minute game, and I felt that he dropped a bit so I told myself to push and I won! I am looking forward to tomorrow! No pressure, just enjoying the squash. I wasn’t in the tournament three days before the start, and now I am in the final, so I am really happy!”
He will face who friend and training partner, Colombia’s Juan Camilo Vargas, in Sunday’s final, after Vargas got the better of Finland’s Henrik Mustonen in the last match of the day, coming from two games down to win a quick-fire five game battle.
Mustonen got off to a quick start, and won the first two games in no time, as the Colombian struggled to get a foothold in the match. However, Vargas then won the next two games for the loss of just two points, including winning the fourth 11-0. He continued that form into the deciding fifth game, taking it 11-4 to win in just 44 minutes, moving through to the final.
“It was a bit confusing tactically at the beginning. He was just shooting and everything was going in. He was reading me so well and I felt so outplayed,” Vargas admitted.
“I just started to slow things down, focus on my basics at the back and to give myself more time, make it more physical. Once I was able to feel better with my shots and feel that the wasn’t comfortable, the momentum changed, and I was on top of him!”
Day TWO – Last 16 and Quarters
Taghavi Carries Home Hopes As Top Seeds Fall On Second Day
The second day of the Val de Reuil Normandie, the second of four qualifying events for the 2021-2022 PSA World Championships in Cairo, saw a bumper day of action with both the second round and quarter finals being played, and several seeds being knocked out in the process.
Frenchwoman Taba Taghavi was the only home hope left in the tournament come the quarter final stage, having gotten the better of Scotland’s Katriona Allen in a back and fourth five-game battle in the second round of the competition.
She then came up against the No.2 seed for the women’s event, Switzerland’s Celine Walser, and found herself behind in the contest after the World No.133 claimed the first game 11-9. Taghavi, who sits above her opponent in the World Rankings, then started her comeback, with the backing of the partisan home crowd behind her at Tennis et Squash Val de Reuil.
The Frenchwoman fought back to take both the second and third games of the contest, before then finding herself in a battle in the fourth game. Walser saved a single match ball to push the game into a tie-break, but Taghavi was able to book her spot in the last four of the competition, winning the fourth 12-10.
“I’m still in shock! I lost to her two years ago 3-0… I am just in shock, I don’t know what to say!” Taghavi said after her victory.
“Two or three times, I looked at her and her face showed me that I could get on top so I tried to move her a lot around the court, and that worked today!
“I played well, and with this tournament in France, it helped me a lot to be here and the crowd were shouting for me, cheering for me. I was so happy at the end, and I am still trying to digest it! I am so happy.
“I am really looking forward to tomorrow! Today, I played two matches, so tonight I can rest, get a good rest and to prepare for my match tomorrow! I am looking forward to having more people here at the club supporting me!”
Taghavi will now face Marta Dominguez Fernandez, the No.3 seed, in the semi-finals of the Challenger 5 level competition, after the Spaniard came from two games down to overcome Germany’s Katerina Tycova in a five-game battle that lasted more than 50 minutes.
After her run to the final in Odense earlier this month, England’s Katie Malliff continued her great form by taking out top seed Fayrouz Aboelkheir to reach the semi-finals of the Val de Reuil Normandie.
The pair did battle for 50 minutes, with the Englishwoman coming from a game down to win 3-2, and saving five match balls in the process. The 18-year-old was 10-7 down in the fourth game, but managed to send it to a tie-break, before saving a further two match balls to take it 15-13. She then won a tight fifth game to down the top seed, and move through to the semis where she will face Germany’s Saskia Beinhard.
“I am very chuffed with how I played. To get the 3-2 victory, I was really proud because I was 10-7 down in that fourth game, and I just kept my head, tried not to make any errors and tried to make the rallies long and hard, and that’s what paid off in the end,” the Englishwoman said.
“I didn’t feel tired, because the rallies were quite short. I think she was a little bit tired so my gameplan was to make the rallies as long as possible, and to try and get the ball deep, because it’s quite hard to get the ball deep on these courts, so I was really focusing on my length.”
While the top eight seeds all made it through to the quarter finals in the women’s draw, it was a much different story in the men’s event, with six of the second round ties being won by the unseeded player. The top two seeds, in England’s Nick Wall and Robert Downer, both lost out in the last 16, with only No.3 seed Juan Camilo Vargas and No.8 seed Emyr Evans making it into the last eight.
Thanks to that, one of the finalists is guaranteed to be unseeded, as England’s Charlie Lee and Argentinian No.1 Leandro Romiglio will go head-to-head in the semi-finals. The Englishman started his day with a straight games victory over Czech Republic’s No.6 seed Jakub Solnicky, before meeting Egypt’s Ibrahim Elkabbani in the last eight.
The Egyptian had knocked out the tournament’s top seed, Nick Wall, in the second round of the competition, and came up against Lee, another Englishman in the quarter finals. It was Elkabbani that started the stronger of the two, winning a mammoth first game 13-11. However, from there, the unseeded Englishman was able to fight back, and win the next three games, to move through to the last four of the competition.
“It is always on your mind the day before, having to come through a day like today. Two matches at any level, but on the PSA, it is extremely difficult. To come through relatively unscathed is pretty satisfying,” Lee said.
“I’ve not had too much experience on the Tour so those types of battles are good for me. Having to weather a storm and come back from 1-0, 6-4 down against a good young player, it fills me with a lot of confidence.
“It’s a fantastic crowd! The French have a reputation for great atmospheres, and especially in squash. I remember some epic atmospheres in the past, when I was watching. I’m just looking forward to it, I have been on a good run recently and long may it continue!”
Lee will now face Argentina’s Leandro Romiglio in the semi-finals, after he got the better of No.4 seed Timothy Brownell in the second round, before then overcoming the challenge of New Zealand’s Temwa Chileshe in straight games. Colombia’s No.3 seed Juan Camilo Vargas and Finnish No.1 Henrik Mustonen will face off in the other semi-final.
The second qualifying tournament for the 2021-2022 PSA World Championships, the Val de Reuil Normandie, got underway on Thursday, with New Zealand’s Temwa Chileshe setting up a second round contest with his elder sibling at Tennis et Squash Val de Reuil.
New Zealand’s Chileshe came up against one of several French wildcards in the Challenger 5 level tournament, in Guillaume Duquennoy. Chileshe would come through in three games, but it was a tough match for the Kiwi, as he took a tight first game 11-9. He was then able to carry that momentum through both the second and third games of their contest, taking both by an 11-8 scoreline, to book his place in the second round, where he will face older brother Lwamba, the No.7 seed for the men’s event.
It will be the fifth time that the siblings have faced off on the PSA World Tour, with older brother Lwamba holding a 3-1 advantage over Temwa, including their last meeting, which came in the final of the Northland Open, in their home nation of New Zealand.
“I am feeling good. The first game was tough, an 11-9, but once I got underway and got a bit more confident, I started to play some good squash,” Chileshe said.
“I have played wildcards in the last two tournaments, and it is hard when you don’t know them and you don’t know how they play, but I think I am started to get used to it so at the start, I was a bit less nervous.
“There’s going to be no respect for Lui [Lwamba],” he added jokingly. “It should be good, we are both pretty fair when we play each other and we know each other’s games so well! It is a pretty nice match-up and we haven’t played in a while, we haven’t even trained much because there are so many players at the Nick Matthew Academy, but yeah, I am looking forward to it!”
Toufik Mekhalfi will carry the French hopes in the men’s event, after he defeated Ukrainian No.1 Valeriy Fedoruk in a four-game battle. He will now face No.8 seed Emyr Evans in the last 16 of the event.
The biggest story of the women’s event saw wildcard Ninon Lemarchand overcome the challenge of Germany’s Aylin Gunsav, with the 18-year-old Frenchwoman winning in four games, coming back from a game behind to win 3-1 against her more experienced opponent.
She was the first of four French players to make it through to the second round of the competition, with Ana Munos causing a seeding upset in the opening set of matches, as she got the better of Canada’s Hannah Blatt, defeating the World No.150 in a four-game battle, the last of which being won by Munos 16-14.
Elise Romba was the final Frenchwoman to make her way into the second round of the Challenger 5 level tournament, getting the better of compatriot, and wildcard, Kara Lincou.