New Zealand Squash Championships: King gunning for Dame Susan Devoy’s Record20 Jul 2023
Joelle King, Megan Graham, Paul Coll and Lwamba Chileshe have booked their spots in the finals of the New Zealand Squash Championships following another day of heated competition at the Devoy Squash and Fitness Centre in Tauranga.
Nine-time national champion King was a cut above in her quarterfinal, outclassing ninth seed Anne Leakey 11-1, 11-1, 11-4. King again showed why she’s ranked number four in the world as she took on Winona-Jo Joyce in her semi-final, King directing play from the middle of the court for a cruisy 11-2, 11-3, 11-4 win.
She’ll now meet Megan Graham in the women’s final at 1pm tomorrow where King will attempt to equal Dame Susan Devoy’s record of 10 national titles.
“I haven’t really thought about that record to be honest but it would be a pretty cool thing to do,” said King.
“I’m loving being back home and being back in this environment so it should be a good match tomorrow.”
But two-time national champion Graham isn’t going to make it easy for her. The Glasgow Commonwealth Games athlete was clinical in her quarterfinal, breezing around the court and controlling the pace of the match to take an 11-1, 11-1, 11-5 victory over Sophie Hodges.
Graham faced more of a battle in her semi, dropping her second game against opponent Ella Lash but regaining her composure as she notched up a 11-1, 5-11, 11-5, 11-5 win.
In the men’s division Paul Coll was too good in his quarterfinal, up against eighth seed Mason Smales. Coll showed his class at the front of the court taking the pace off the ball to beat Smales 11-3, 11-6, 11-2.
However, Coll was made to work in his semifinal against Elijah Thomas. The West Coaster won the first game comfortably 11-4 but Thomas kept up with Coll’s pace and power in the second eventually going down 11-9 with Coll taking the third 11-7.
“He came over and trained with me in Amsterdam a few years ago,” said Coll.
“He’s definitely taken his game to another level since then which is awesome to see so he’s got a big future ahead of him.”
It was a family battle in the other men’s semi final with Lwamba Chileshe taking on younger brother Temwa. It’s often close when the brothers meet and today was no exception, the match going to five games, Lwamba just edging his younger brother 9-11, 11-5, 11-4, 5-11, 11-1.
“It was a very emotional game, we know each others games so well and there definitely wasn’t much in it today,” said Lwamba.
“I’m feeling great and really looking forward to the final, I’m just planning to go out there and play the best squash I can.”
Earlier in the day Lwamba got the better of Gabe Yam in a fast-paced quarterfinal with Chileshe’s volleying up front proving the difference in the 11-9, 11-7, 11-8 win.
One of the matches of the day saw fourth seed Elijah Thomas take on fifth seed Anthony Lepper in a quarterfinal battle. It was an extremely tight match which saw multiple rallies of more than 50 shots. Thomas ultimately the more composed of the pair to take the match in three games 11-7, 11-9, 11-8.
“We really know each other’s games inside and out so that was always going to be a tight match but thankfully I was a little more clinical today to get the win,” said Thomas.
“I’m pretty tired now, he’s always on the ball early which means it’s always hard work playing him.”
Another highlight of the day was a tightly contested match between two of the athletes heading to next month’s Junior World Championships in Melbourne.
Oliver Dunbar and Apa Fatialofa met in a fast paced 13-16th place playoff. Dunbar took the first game with Fatialofa rallying to take the second. Dunbar holding on for a 11-6, 3-11, 11-8, 11-8 win.
“Racketball is a really fast growing sport in New Zealand,” said event organiser Shari Ball.
“It’s really accessible and it’s a great equaliser, anyone can play anyone and we have a huge variety of people playing from across different ages and genders.”
The New Zealand Squash Championships finals will be contested tomorrow (2/7/23) with the women’s final at 1pm and the men’s at 2pm. The full draw and results are available here and the event programme is available here. Athletes will be available for in person and remote media following matches.
The glass court matches will be livestreamed all weekend at this link: New Zealand Squash Championships – Digital Vision Live. Please note, you will need to free subscribe to the Squash NZ TV Channel if you haven’t already.