Clean Sweep For Crossy's Malaysians

Andrew Cross, the former, long time Pontefract player, now Malaysian National coach, brought his usual contingent of players to the Pontefract Junior Open, which leads into the British Junior Open in Sheffield, the most important junior championship in the World after the World Under 19 Championship. Players from America, India and Japan made the tournament truly international, but the Malaysians swept the board winning all eight titles. Eain Yow, the World's leading 17 year old, seeded 2 in The British Under 19 Open, won the Under 19 championship with the minimum of fuss. There was remarkable family match ups when two Malaysian sisters, Aifa and Aira Azman took on two American sisters, Marina and Lucie Stefanoni in the Under 17 and Under 13 events. The Malaysians won both, but the two talented Americans both battled hard in 2-1 defeats. Sam Todd and Ben Sockett produced the match of the championship in the semi final of the Under15's. The improving Sockett prevailed in the fifth and went on to extend Muhammed Hafiz Zafri in the final. Todd played well again to win the 3rd/4th play off in style and he goes to Sheffield, seeded 1 in the Under 13's, England's best hope of a win. Elliot Ridge reached the Under 17 final and played splendidly to win the first game before losing 3-1. Pontefract have 12 players competing in Sheffield, as well as three others who are coached at the club. With over 400 entries from all over the world, the experience will be invaluable. The first World tour event of 2016 is the glamorous and prestigious Tournament of Champions played on the famous Grand Central station in New York. James Willstrop won in 2012 when he beat three Egyptians in a row: Karim Darwish former World no.1, the genius that is Ramy Ashour and the legendary Amr Shabana. He plays Alistair Walker, formerly of Chapel Allerton and now based in America in the first round with a perspective match against German no.1 Simon Rosner in the 2nd round. After his hip operation Willstrop's world ranking dropped to 24, but his exceptional performance in the World Championships in Seattle when he beat World no. I Mohammed El Shorbagy and world no 5 Miguel Rodriguez has seen him rise to 15 in December and to 11 in January. He will have the support of a large band of Pontefract members who head for New York and Grand Central. Another good performance there should see him back in the top ten.