The Essex Junior Closed was held at BATTS Harlow on Sunday 5 January 2020. By the Closing Date of 10 December there was a doubt that the event would be held but with twenty late entries accepted the event went ahead with 67 entries. The order of play of the events had to be changed from last year with the increased number of girl entrants. The opening events were the Under 11 Open (Boys and Girls), three less than last year, the Under 18 Restricted Boys (two less than last year) and space to squeeze in the Under 15 Girls event, an event that only attracted one entrant last year. These three events could be played at the same time. Basically Groups of three players with the top two going through to the KO stages. This was the first year for many years to hold every event with enough players entered in each event.
For the Under 11 Open event there were four Groups with five girls (one girl pulled out that morning with a foot injury) and seven boys. Two girls and two boys were selected as seeds. At the Group stage every seed won their Group and only one match went to a fourth game. In the quarter finals No. 3 equal seed Scarlotte Mills (Sou) had won her first two games 13-11, 11-9 but then lost the next three games 2-11, 3-11,4-11 to Luv Goel (Che). The other three seeds won their matches 3-0. In the semi finals Luv lost to the number two seed Evie Knaapen (Sou) 11-6, 3-11, 11-3, 11-6 but in the other semi there was a titanic battle between number three equal seed Shrinand Vijayakrichnan (Sou) and number 1 seed Charles Donald (Che) in a match that literally went to the wire. Charles eventually won 11-3, 6-11, 11-7, 8-11, 15-13. In the final Charles won 11-9, 11-3, 11-8.
The Under 18 Boys Restricted event is for players who have never played for the County. There is no seeding so the Groups are luck of the draw as is the KO stage. There were five Groups as against last year’s seven.
Matches in four of the Groups were all won 3-0 and Group 2 was by far the strongest Group. In the opening match Mario Ioakim (Woodford Wells) just got the better of Noah Sage (Bur) 9, -14, 9 ,8 while in his next match he was on the receiving end, losing 9, 8, -11, -8, 8 to Joshua Bickles (Che). The final Group match between Noah and Joshua was even closer with Joshua winning the final two points to win 5, 8, -12, -9, 10. In the quarter finals two matches went the full distance, Charlie Kauders-Boothby (Sou) overcoming Sudheep Kamma (Che) 5, -7, -5, 8, 6 while clubmates Joshua and Vineeth Kamma met in the bottom half of the draw, Joshua coming back from 2-1 down to win 9, -10, -8, 7, 6. Charlie and Joshua both lost their semi-final matches to the Colchester duo Bright Bedding and Toby McLewin respectively and Toby went on to win the final -9, 5, -8, 8, 7.
In the Under 15 Girls event the two seeds, Mabel Shute (Woodford Wells) and Alesha Ellis-Austin (Che) both won their Group matches comfortably. When the other two players in each Group met both matches went the full distance, Rachana Jatla (Mossford) beat Emilie Guilloux (Che) and Daniya Elfallah (Ilford) beat Evie Knaapen. In the final Mabel beat Alesha 7, 7, 6.
The next events were the Under 13 Boys and Girls events. Only five boys Groups as against eight Groups last year. For the girls nine entrants this year as against only three last year. Maliha Baig had requested to be allowed to play in the boys events for experience and which would enable other girls the opportunity of winning events. The request was granted. Four of the five seeds won their Group, the fifth seed had withdrawn as he was required to play football. Number 2 seed Joseph Buscombe (Sou) was defeated by Rees Christina (Woodford Wells) -9, -8, 3, 5, 5 in the quarter final and then Rees lost to Maliha 6, 4, -12, 8 in the semi-final. In the other semi top seed James Donald (Che) beat Sudheep 8, 9, 8. The final was a thriller with some terrific high speed rallies keeping the spectators aghast. Maliha eventually won -7, 8, -9, 6, 2.
Meanwhile the four seeds in the Under 13 Girls event were winning their Groups at a more leasurely pace and all matches by 3-0 margins. Mabel, Evie and Alesha all won their quarter final matches but Katie Tanner (Sou) lost to Rachana Jatla 3-1. Sister Sarah also lost to Evie 3-1. In the Semi’s Mabel a comfortable 3-0 win over Rachana, but the other Semi went to five games, Evie defeating Alesha -8, 9, 7, -6, 6. Mabel won the final 9, 5, 3.
The event with the largest number of entrants was the Under 15 Boys with nine Groups. Here again seven of the nine seeds winning their Groups with the other two withdrawing to play football. Two matches went to a fourth game and two to a fifth game, seed Tobie Zeffie struggling to beat Rees Christina to win his Group. At the quarter final stage top seed Ralph Pattison (BATTS) beat Joshua Bickles 8, 6, -11, 9, Ben Porter (Che) beat Toby Zeffie 11. 8, 8, James Donald beat Rees Christina 7, 3, 3, and Maliha Baig beat Liam Harris 7, 7, 4.
In the semi-finals Ralph beat Ben 5, 8, 5 and in a repeat of the earlier match Maliha again beat James, this time 10, 8, 7. In the final Maliha took the first game 11-7 but lost the next three games 6, 13, 2, that third game being the match decider.
There were nine girls in the Under 18 event this year, a major improvement on last year’s two entries. Emily Kidd (Sou) won her Group but Annabel Sweeney (Che) lost to Mabel Shute -10, -5, 9, 8, -7 to finish runner up in her Group while Nyree Marsh (Che) was taken the full distance by Melinda Abraham Victor (Che) 8, 7, -7, -7, 4 in the last Group match to win the Group. Having beaten Melinda in the quarter final Annabel beat Emily Kidd 6, 6, 9 in the semi to get to the final and meet Nyree who had beaten Mabel 12, 6, 12 in their semi. In the final Nyree won 4, -8, 3, 5.
In the Under 18 Girls Restricted there were two Groups and Annabel had to withdraw from the event. Melinda defeated Joanna Gaudini (Sou) 7, 9, 12 to meet Nyree in the final. No marathon this time with Nyree winning 2, 11, 10.
The final event of the day was the Under 18 Boys Singles. Same number of Groups as last year. Ray Yan had to withdraw two days before with illness and the remaining seeds all won their Groups. In the quarter finals number one seed Jaden Aulakh (Fusion) beat Toby Zeffie 9, 10, 11, Jesse Bath (Wanstead) beat Ralph Pattison 9, -5, 10, -8, 9 for a very narrow win, Daniel Zeffie (Sou) beat Toby McLewin (Col) -4, 13, -5, 7, 8 and Daniel Young (Cla) beat Joshua Bickles 6, 1, 6. In the semi finals Jaden beat Jesse -7, 9, 9, 3, and Daniel Zeffie beat Daniel Young 6, -8, 8, -10, 8. Jaden won the final 8, 7, 3 over Daniel Zeffie.
Under 18 Girls Restricted winner Nyree Marsh (left) and runner-up Melinda Abraham Victor (right) with coach Lee Mchugh
Under 11 Open Event winner and runner up Charles Donald and Evie Knaapen
Arthur C. Clark
Essex Junior Match Secretary and Tournament Organiser.