Day ONE : Under way in Wimbledon

The 2024 edition of the Optasia Championships got under way today at The Wimbledon Club, with 16 Round One matches in the Men’s Gold and new Women’s Bronze draws.

There was a trio of upsets as Torrie Malik, Todd Harrity and Akankshe Salunkhe ousted 9/16 seeds, notable comebacks from Harrity and Millie Tomlinson, but no joy for wildcards Jordan Warne and Ally Thomson.

Optasia Championship 2024 : 12-Mar, Day ONE, Round ONE

Evening Shorts

Round One of the Optasia Championships 2024 concluded with another eight matches across two courts in Wimbledon.

England’s Torre Malik safely progressed into round two after dispatching Enora Villard in straight games. World No.60 Malik was sharp and efficient as she clinched a 3-0 win in 32 minutes over the World No.50, with the duo facing each other for the first time on the World Tour. Malik will take on fourth seed Satomi Watanabe in round two on Thursday afternoon.

“In the first game I felt like I was executing the game plan properly,” Malik said. “In the second was good when I stayed focused when I was 6-3 down, so I did well to stay in that. “In the last game, I was 9-4 up and I let her back in. It was a lack of focus, but I’m very happy pulling through that and winning in three.”

In another upset Akanksha Salunkhe overturned a 2-1 deficit to defeat Ainaa Amani 3-2 on Court 4. Amani got off to the best possible start when she wrapped the first game up inside five minutes, before Salunkhe levelled. Amani then got herself back in the driving seat with an 11-6 victory in the third.

However it was World No.71 Salunkhe, who’s ranked 17 places lower than Amani, who pressed on to advance to the next round with 11-8 and 12-10 triumphs in the fourth and fifth games following.

Emilia Soini needed four games to beat tournament wildcard Alison Thomson for a second round berth. Soini looked on course to securing her place in round two in straight games, but Thomson got a foothold back into the contest when she halved the deficit with a victory in the third.

The World No.90 was growing into the match as she started to force errors from Soini’s racket. Having trailed 6-1, Soini pegged it back to 7-7 and had two match balls. Despite both being saved, Soini converted in the tiebreak to prevail.

“It got very close and very tense at the end. I got a bit nervous and tense in the third game and I couldn’t close it out in three,” she said. “Alison definitely stepped it up and was able to find another gear. For me it was balancing between being attacking and being proactive but not attacking too soon. It’s about finding that balance while I’m nervous so it’s a challenge.”

Also on Court 4, Cindy Merlo saw off Saskia Beinhard 3-1 to progress, with second seed Sarah-Jane Perry her opponent in the next round.

Curtis Malik followed his sister Torrie’s success with a comprehensive win against Andrew Douglas. Malik won the last meeting with Douglas at the Nash Cup in 2022, and the Englishman notched a 3-0 win in just under half an hour over the American. The 24-year-old will face defending champion Karim Abdel Gawad in the next round.

Scotland No.2 Rory Stewart overcame Faraz Khan to tee up a second round clash with England No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy on Thursday afternoon. Stewart’s shot selection throughout proved to be problematic for Khan, who had got back on level terms by winning the second 11-4. But Stewart regained his focus in the third and fourth games to press on and secure his place in the second round.

“I’ve played Faraz a few times in some bounce games and every time I’ve played him it’s been enjoyable,” Stewart said. “You can see how fair he plays on court, and I may have taken a couple of strokes at the end but I’m delighted to get through. I wasn’t feeling my best, so to still play well I’m very proud of that and I’m looking forward to playing Mohamed.”

At the end of the day, Dimitri Steinmann got his Optasia Championships campaign off to an excellent start as he dispatched Juan Camilo Vargas in straight games while Karim El Hammamy rounded glass court play with a clinical performance over tournament wildcard Jordan Warne.

El Hammamy, ranked over 400 places higher than Warnes, won 11-7, 11-6, 11-5 in 26 minutes. Warne gave a good account of himself, but the experience of El Hammamy told as he pushed on to advance to round two.

“I watched Jordan a lot over the last two days and prepared myself,” he said. “The tournament wildcard is always excited to play and he’s a very smooth mover on court, I like his steps and how he moves back to the T – he’s very smooth. I was very cautious to start well.”

Afternoon Shorts

England’s Millie Tomlinson overturned a 2-0 deficit to progress to the second round of the Optasia Championships. The World No.56 trailed to Nardine Garas as the Egyptian stormed into a 2-0 lead, before Tomlinson went on to level the match by taking the next two games.

In the pair’s first-ever meeting on the PSA World Tour, it was Tomlinson who prevailed as she completed a superb comeback to book her place in the next round, taking the fifth 12-10.

“I’m very happy with that, to be honest,” she said. “I’ve had a few tough tournaments and a few little injuries and niggles, so I was due a good win. I was very pleased to come from 2-0 down fighting through that one. “I had Ally Thomson coaching me and she was telling me to be a bit more positive. I was trying to stay motivated mentally and execute that game plan.

On Court 4, England’s Alicia Mead held off her compatriot Asia Harris to win 3-2 for a second round spot. Harris took the opener but Mead was 2-1 up before Harris levelled in the fourth, but it was Mead who managed to book her place in round two as she edged the fifth in a tiebreak with a 12-10 success.

Mead’s fellow countrywoman Katie Malliff will join her in round two after overcoming Marta Dominguez 3-1.Despite drawing first blood, Malliff squandered five game balls as Dominguez surged back. However Malliff was able to seal the tiebreak 13-11.

Dominguez wa s rewarded for a fightback in the first game with an 11-5 victory in the second to level the match, but Malliff responded well, winning 11-8 and 11-2 in the third and fourth games.

“I’m feeling pretty confident. It’s the first time I’ve not felt back pain in a while so I feel like I’m moving well,” Malliff said. “I’ve been doing lots of ghosting so I feel more confident, especially in the front corners. It’s nice to not have to worry about it anymore.

“The glass courts, especially this one, is particularly dead. You have to be a lot sharper and a lot quicker. It’s about keeping your feet moving and making sure you do a proper warm up.”

Chan Sin Yuk cruised into round two after downing Nadia Pfister 3-0 in just 23 minutes.

In the men’s draw, World No.54 Todd Harrity produced one of the biggest shocks of the afternoon session as he also came back from 2-0 down to defeat World No.22 Nicolas Mueller 3-2.

Mueller, boasting a 100 per cent record over Harrity on the PSA World Tour coming into today’s meeting, made a strong start as he went 2-0 up with only 16 minutes played. Harrity reduced the arrears by clinching the third 11-8 before rounding off an impressive comeback to take the fourth and fifth games 11-4.

On the glass court, Raphael Kandra saw off Simon Herbert 3-1 in the first men’s match of the day. Kandra came through a five-game battle with Herbert at the British Open last season, and the German made a bright start with a 2-0 lead before Herbert halved the deficit.

However Kandra was back on top in the fourth, taking a dominant 11-3 victory to set up a second round clash with Mostafa Asal tomorrow.

“I was quite confident in the middle of the first game, but the start of the third game was a bit scrappy from both of us,” he said. “We were trying to hit it short and hit winners too early and the quality wasn’t really there.

“Once I got into the game, I felt quite comfortable until the third game where I let it go, I was a bit too defensive and he started to attack the shots. He flipped it around and I knew I had to come back strong in the fourth. I did it and I’m proud of that.”

Spain’s Iker Pajares will meet Joel Makin in the second round tomorrow evening following his 3-1 victory against England’s George Parker. Pajares nudged ahead with an 11-8 victory in the opening game, before Parker provided the perfect riposte with a dominant 11-1 win in the second.

Nothing much separated them in the third, but ill discipline from the Englishman proved costly when a conduct stroke against Parker at game ball for Pajares saw the Spaniard regain his advantage. In another closely fought battle in the fourth, Pajares did enough to hold off Parker – who saved two match balls – before it was third time lucky for Pajares.

“I’m very happy with my win in four,” he said. “It’s the first or second time I’ve played George [Parker] on the PSA World Tour. I think the last we played was seven or eight years ago, but I tried to play my game and be mentally strong and physically strong.

“George is the kind of player that you need to spend an hour to beat as he’s going to fight for every single ball. I’m very happy to make it in four.”

Elsehwere Leandro Romiglio dispatched and injured Shahjahan Kahn 3-0 inside 18 minutes.