Five Indians in quarters of British Open squash

Indo Asian News Service

Sheffield (England), Jan 4 (IANS) Indians enjoyed a successful outing at the British Junior Open squash championship here with as many as five players making the quarterfinals in various categories.

Mahesh Mangaonkar (Under-19), Kush Kumar (U-17) and Velavan Senthil Kumar (U-15) in the boys section, and Aparajita Balamurukan and Lakshya Ragavendran in the Girls Under-19 section entered the round of eight with contrasting victories Thursday.

Unseeded and first time British Junior entrant, Lakshya fought back from a 0-2 deficit to win her pre-quarterfinal match against 5/8 seed Emilia Soini from Finland.

Lakshya squandered 7-5 and 10-7 leads in the first game and saw herself facing defeat after dropping the second game 9-11. However, after a convincing third game performance, Lakshya saved three match balls in the fourth that she won 15-13.

The fifth game saw fortunes swing when Soini led 5-0 playing some delightful drops. Lakshya came back roaring and took control of the game winning the next seven points.

An error from Lakshya got Soini back one point, but the Indian, playing with total aggression, won the next four points.

The biggest upset of the day was when 9/16 seed Aparajitha knocked out 3/4 seed Salma Esmat (EGY) 7-11, 11-9, 11-5, 6-11, 11-9 to reach the quarterfinals.

Aparajitha started very tentatively, but grew in confidence as the match went on. Dropping the fourth game was critical for Aparajitha as Salma took control playing some exquisite drops and lobs.

In the fifth game, the players went neck and neck until 8-8. At that juncture, Aparajitha broke open and took the lead. Salma saved one match point due to a volley drop error from Aparajitha.

A forehand boast from Aparajitha sealed the historic victory for the Indian who qualified for the quarterfinals for the first time in seven tournament appearances.

There was further joy for India. Mangaonkar scored a comfortable victory while Kush Kumar had to sweat it out before overcoming 9/16 seed Youseff Soliman (EGY) and Velavan played brilliantly to win a five-game tussle against Charlie Lee from England.

"This is my 10th year at the Open and for the first time ever we have five players in the quarter finals. We have had super success today. Let us hope we can continue this tomorrow," said National Coach Cyrus Poncha.

The results (all pre-quarterfinals):

Boys Under-19: Mahesh Mangaokar bt Fedrico Cioffi (ARG) 11-6, 11-6, 11-2;

Under-17: Kush Kumar bt Youseff Soliman (EGY) 11-7, 11-6, 10-12, 11-9;

Under-15: Velavan Senthikumar bt Charlie Lee (ENG) 11-3, 11-1, 7-11, 5-11, 11-5.

Girls Under-19: Aparajitha Balamurukan bt Salma Esmat(EGY) 7-11, 11-9, 11-5, 6-11, 11-9; Lakshya Raghavendran bt Emilia Soini (FIN) 10-12, 9-11, 11-5, 15-13, 11-7.