Day four of the Dunlop British Junior Open (BJO) in Birmingham culminated in a series of sensational semi-final showdowns as 40 players representing nine nations locked horns for a place in the finals of the world’s most prestigious junior squash tournament.

20 players representing seven countries will contest ten titles at the University of Birmingham tomorrow from the Under 11s through to the Under 19s.

Having started the day with 20 semi-finalists, Egypt remain the leading nation across the 10 age categories with eight representatives – and will be guaranteed at least two titles, with the Girls’ Under 13 and Under 19 finals being all-Egyptian affairs.  

But Malaysia enjoyed a proportionately healthier return, after seeing five of its seven players get through the last four, while home supporters were jubilant on witnessing three of the five English hopes progress.

Major upsets were relatively thin on the ground, as all nine remaining top seeds prevailed – although two of them were taken to five games by Egyptian opponents, with Denis Gilevskiy from Ireland, eventually prevailing against [5/8] Kareem El Torkey 11-5, 7-11, 11-4, 10-12, 11-5 in the Boys’ Under 15 event, and US hope for the Girls’ Under 17 crown, Marina Stefanoni, edging out [3/4] Nour Khaled Aboulmakarim 9-11, 12-10, 11-9, 8-11, 11-6.

A relieved Stefanoni, who was beaten in the 2018 final said: “That was tough! I just had to forget about the score and concentrate on my game. It’s good to be in the final again, let’s see if I can win it this time.” 

The American will face Asian number one [3/4] Chan Sin-yuk of Hong Kong, who was one of two competitors to knock out an Egyptian second seed in four games – in Sin Yuk’s case, Sana Ibrahim: 11-5, 9-11, 14-12, 11-7. Anahat Singh seeded 3/4 from India, emulated the feat in the Girls’ Under 11 event – beating Sohayla Hazem Farouk 11-8, 9-11, 11-7, 11-9.

Ten other runners-up or champions from earlier years have made it through to finals day in six of the categories – including the Girls’ Under 13 event, which pits last year’s Under 11 winner [1] Amina Orfi against the beaten Under 13 finalist of 2018, and fellow Egyptian, [2] Fayrouz Abouelkheir, who today needed four games to dispatch compatriot [3/4] Salma Elsheikh 7-11, 11-5, 11-7, 11-5.

“I had to fight after losing the first,” said Abouelkheir, “so I’m really glad to be back in the final. I’m hoping to go one better this year!”

Meanwhile, Aira Azman, the top seed in the Girls’ Under 15s event earned the opportunity to defend her title, after defeating England’s [5/8] Torrie Malik in straight games 12-10, 12-10, 11-3 and set up a final with the 2016 Under 13 champion, Egyptian [2] Salma El Tayeb.

Azman, from Malaysia acknowledged: “Being the defending champion adds some pressure of course, but it makes you more determined at the same time!”

This sentiment would no doubt strike a chord with the Egyptian [1] Hania El Hammamy, whose appearance in the Girls’ Under 19 final will see her strive for a remarkable fifth British Junior Open title – having previously lifted the Under 19 trophy two years ago, as well as the Under 13, Under 15 and Under 17 events between 2013 and 2016.

England’s representatives are all boys – with Abd-Allah Eissa, Sam Todd and Nick Wall reaching the last two of the Under 13, Under 17 and Under 19s respectively.

Second seed Eissa produced a masterclass to beat French opponent [5/8] Antonin Romieu in straight games: 11-6, 11-3, 11-3. Eissa sets up a final showdown with Malaysian Harith Danial Jefri and will contest the title won last year by Sussex’s Jonah Bryant.

Eissa commented: “It was certainly my best match of the tournament, I was sharper and there was more structure to my game. There’s a bit of pressure, but I’ll be trying my best to keep the title in English hands.”

Yorkshire’s Todd, meanwhile, will face Egyptian top seed Yehia Elnawasany in the Boy’s Under 17 final, as he strives to add a third title to his BJO collection. Todd was made to work for his place in the final by Egyptian [3/4] Karim Abdelim Elbarbary. In what was arguably the match of the day, Todd found himself two-down, before recovering to prevail: 6-11, 7-11, 11-7, 11-4, 11-8.

“I had a slow start and let him get a two-nil lead,” he said, “but came out stronger in the next two games. 

“The adrenaline kicked in in the fifth, and the crowd really got behind me which spurred me on even more.”

In the day’s last tie, [3/4] Wall, also from Yorkshire, was taken to four games in the Boys Under 19s, before triumphing over Siow Yee Xian (5/8) of Malaysia 11-6, 9-11, 11-4, 11-9.  

Wall, who will be looking to follow in the footsteps of fellow Yorkshireman James Willstrop – the last ever Englishman to lift the Drysdale Cup in 2002 – said: “I was happy with my performance and how I kept my head together even when things weren’t going my way, especially in the fourth at 8-4 down.

“This is my first BJO final and it’s something I’ve always set my sights on so it means a great deal to reach it. It will be my last ever match as a junior and I will be putting everything I have into the match.” 

Wall will now face Egyptian top seed and last year’s Under 17 champion, Mostafa Asal, in what will be a repeat of their 2017 BJO showdown in which Wall prevailed.

Dunlop British Junior Open 2019 semi-final results

[1] Amina Orfi (Egy) 3-1 [3/4] Nour Khagafy (Egy)                                  7-11, 11-6, 11-4, 11-5
[2] Fayrouz Abouelkheir (Egy) 3-1 [3/4] Salma Elsheikh (Egy)          7-11, 11-5, 11-7, 11-5

[5/8] Harith Danial Jefri (Mas) 3-0 [3/4] Yuvraj Wadhwani (Ind)             11-3, 11-5, 11-7
[2] Abdallah Eissa (Eng) 3-0 [5/8] Antonin Romieu (Fra)                             11-6, 11-3, 11-3

[1] Aira Azman (Mas) 3-0 [5/8] Torrie Malik (Eng)                                    12-10, 12-10, 11-3
[2] Salma El Tayeb (Egy) 3-1 [3/4] Malaj Khafagy (Egy)                            9-11, 11-7, 11-5, 11-8

[1] Whitney Wilson (Mas) 3-0 [3/4] Shahad Hani (Egy)                                11-7, 11-5, 11-8
[3/4] Anahat Singh (Ind) 3-1 [2] Sohayla Hazem Farouk (Egy)            11-8, 9-11, 11-7, 11-9

[1] Denis Gilevskiy (Irl) 3-2 [5/8] Kareem El Torkey (Egy)          11-5, 7-11, 11-4, 10-12, 11-5
[5/8] Ameeshenraj Chandaran (Mas) 3-2 [5/8] Noor Zaman (Pak)  7-11, 11-8, 11-7, 4-11, 11-6

[1] Nickhileswar Moganasundharam (Mas) 3-1 [3/4] Seif Eldeen Dahshan (Egy)  6-11, 11-8, 11-9, 11-7
[2] Chris Baddour (Egy) 3-0 [3/4] Jayden Oon (Mas)                                11-6, 11-8, 11-4

[1] Marina Stefanoni (Usa) 3-2 [3/4] Nour Khaled Aboulmakarim (Egy)  9-11, 12-10, 11-9, 8-11, 11-6
[3/4] Chan Sin Yuk (Hkg) 3-1 [2] Sana Ibrahim (Egy)                                             11-5, 9-11, 14-12, 11-7

[1] Yahia Elnawasany (Egy) 3-0 [9/16] Haris Qasim (Pak)                                       11-4, 11-2, 11-5
[2] Sam Todd (Eng) 3-2 [3/4] Karim Abdelim Elbarbary (Egy)              6-11, 7-11, 11-7, 11-4, 11-8

[1] Hania El Hammamy (Egy) 3-0 [3/4] Elise Lazarus (Eng)                                       11-9, 11-6, 11-3
[2] Jana Shiha 3-2 [3/4] Farida Mohamed (Egy)                                            11-7, 8-11, 11-4, 3-11, 11-9

[1] Mostafa Asal (Egy) 3-0 [3/4] Omar El Torkey (Egy)                                                       11-5, 11-5, 11-1
[3/4] Nick Wall (Eng) 3-1 [5/8] Siow Yee Xian (Mas)                                                11-6, 9-11, 11-4, 11-9