Wendover’s Katie Malliff British U23 Women’s Squash Champion

Abhay and Katie with trophies. Image T Malliff.
England’s Katie Malliff and India’s Abhay Singh were crowned British U23 Open champions after recording straight games victories in their respective finals at Roehampton on Sunday.

European Junior Under 19 silver medallist Katie Malliff, seeded second got off to a strong start against 3/4 seed Kiera Marshall, taking a 7-3 lead before closing out the first game with an 11-7 win.

The second game saw Marshall, 18, put more pressure on her 16-year-old opponent and with three game ball points at 10-7, she looked set to level. But Malliff fought back, saving a further four game balls to win the second 20-18.

The third game saw Malliff reassert the control that had seen her take the first game, and with a 5-2 lead early on, the onus was on Marshall – ranked 2nd in England in the Girls Under 19s – to claw herself back into contention. Yet with both players tiring after the lengthy second game, errors began to surface from both, and Malliff managed to maintain her lead to seal a decisive 11-7 victory in the third to capture her maiden British Open U23 title.

In the Men’s final, 21-year-old Abhay Singh lived up to his billing as the number one seed, but was pushed hard by his 16-year-old opponent, Ben Smith, seeded second.

Despite the age gap, Smith had looked set to close out numerous points against Singh in the opening game – but fine margins were to cost him, and Singh took the first game by virtue of an 11-3 victory.

The second game was a more tightly-contested affair and Smith – who won the Czech Junior U19 Open earlier this month – managed to save two game balls at 10-8 to exert more pressure using his attacking volley. But Smith could not convert this pressure into enough points, allowing Singh to win the game 15-13 and race into a 2-0 lead.

As with the women’s final, losing such a tightly-contested second game dealt a blow to Smith – and Singh capitalised as he took a 4-2 and then an 8-5 lead. Smith rallied though, at one point closing the gap to 9-10, but Singh, playing in his first competition in 2020, successfully saw out the game 11-9 to win the title.

British Under 23 Championships 2020 Final: results

Women’s: Katie Malliff bt Kiera Marshall 3-0: 11-7, 20-18, 11-7 (37 mins)

Men’s: Abhay Singh bt Ben Smith 3-0: 11-3, 15-13, 11-9 (37 mins)