Rowan Damming became the first-ever Dutch player to win a WSF World Junior Squash Championship as he downed pre-match favourite Finnlay Withington 3-0 to lift the title, while in the women’s draw Amina Orfi became the first-ever player to fight back from two games down in a final as she beat Egyptian compatriot Salma El Tayeb 3-2.
3/4 seed Withington and 5/8 seed Damming had met as recently as the final of the European Junior U19 Championship this April, when Withington came from a game down to win 3-1.
This time, however, Damming had his revenge.
The Dutchman dominated from the beginning, with his excellent movement and solid fundamentals better suited to the sweltering conditions than the more attack-minded Withington.
After winning the first game 11-4, Damming was pushed hard in the second by Withington, who began forcing previously unseen errors from the Dutchman as rallies grew longer.
After taking a 5-2 lead, Damming was reeled in and Withington had a game ball at 10-9. This was saved by the 17-year-old, who tightened his grip on the match with a 12-10 win against the tiring Englishman.
When Damming stretched into a 9-4 lead in the third game, the match appeared all but over, before four unanswered points from Withington brought the 18-year-old to within a point of the Dutchman’s lead.
Damming, however, was able to stay cool and delivered a first World Championship for the Netherlands with an 11-8 victory, sparking wild celebrations from Damming and the Dutch bench, who rushed the court.
Afterwards, Damming said: “It feels amazing. I don’t know what to say. I’m so incredibly happy to get this title. I have no words!”
On what he learned from his last encounter with Withington, he added: ”I watched a lot of his matches and I saw some things that I brought into my game. I played more on my backhand and tried not to make a lot of unforced errors. And I think I didn’t make a lot of unforced errors. That was the difference today.”
That win for Damming officially brought an end to Egypt’s run of 27 consecutive wins across all world championship finals, including men’s, women’s, junior, and teams.
While Egypt have now won 10 consecutive Women’s Championships, few finals have been as intense as the one played out by Orfi, whose remarkable comeback against El Tayeb made her the youngest champion since 13-year-old Nour El Sherbini in 2009.
Orfi made the worst imaginable start to the final as she lost the first game 11-9 and the second 11-1, with the 15-year-old keeping too far back in an attempt to hit with more power.
The Egyptian, though, is no stranger to adversity, with the No.2 seed battling back from two games down to record an unlikely 3-2 victory in her semi-final win over Fayrouz Abouelkheir.
It looked like this might be one match too many, though, for Orfi as El Tayeb pulled away from 2-2 to take a 5-2 lead in game three.
At this point, the younger player appeared to change tactics as she began using her dangerous boasts to put pressure on the 18-year-old.
This was immediately rewarded as the Cairo native took the third game 11-6 and then coasted into a fifth game with an 11-3 win in the fourth.
Both players threw everything at each other in the opening phases of the final game, and with the scores level at 5-5 either player could claim to be in the ascendency.
Orfi, though, belied her inexperience and maintained her now-consistent accuracy to break clear and complete another brilliant comeback with an 11-7 win.
Afterwards, Orfi said: “I feel so happy. I never imagined that I was going to play this year because I didn’t play any under-19 tournaments. So I was playing with new competitors and I didn’t know how they would play. So I was just like ‘I’m just going to give it my all and hopefully I can win.’
“I never like to lose. And I didn’t play my best in the first two games. So I thought ‘I’m 2-0 down. I’m just gonna play my best and give it all because I don’t have any more matches.’
“I want to give this tournament to my mom and my sister in Cairo, because they were watching me live and they were so tense, even though they’re not the ones playing and I obviously want to give it to my dad [her coach]. He helped me a lot during the tournament and in training. And I want to thank my coaches back in Egypt. The national team coaches, also, for helping us get ready for the tournament in the first three days we arrived.”
With no bronze medal playoffs, third place was shared by beaten semi-finalists Hamza Khan of Pakistan and Mohamed Zakaria of Egypt in the men’s draw, and Egyptian duo Fayrouz Abouelkheir and Kenzy Ayman in the women’s draw.
Today also saw the conclusion of the plate matches and place playoffs. Click here for the full results.
With the conclusion of the individual championships, attention now moves to the WSF Men’s World Junior Team Championships, which begin from 10:00 (GMT+2) tomorrow (17 August). You can watch the action live and free on the WSF YouTube channel and other streaming partners.
Results: 2022 WSF Men’s World Junior Championship Final[5/8] Rowan Damming (NED) bt [3/4] Finnlay Withington (ENG) 3-0: 11-4, 12-10, 11-8 (35m)
Results: 2022 WSF Women’s World Junior Championship Final Amina Orfi (EGY) bt [5/8] Salma El Tayeb (EGY) 3-2: 9-11, 1-11, 11-6, 11-3, 11-7 (70m)