Lwamba Chileshe reaches final of New Zealand Squash Championships

July 02 2023

Lwamba Chileshe put in another impressive performance in the men’s final of the New Zealand Squash Championships staged at the Devoy Squash and Fitness Centre in Tauranga before being denied by top seed and New Zealand No.1 Paul Coll.

Paul Coll played his trademark game to wear down his opponent and force mistakes during long rallies to close-out an 11-2 11-3 11-3 victory.

“I felt like I played really well today and it’s great to get another title,” said the World No.5. “It’s been a really cool week, I love playing at home, I’ve been having a tough year but everyone’s really stuck with me and supported me so it’s great to come back here and see everyone.”

In the women's championship, Joelle King etched her name in the annals of New Zealand Squash Open history, matching the remarkable ten national titles previously achieved by squash icon Dame Susan Devoy back in 1992. The current world number four, King, was not alone in her triumph, as Paul Coll claimed his seventh national title on the final day of the intense competition held at Tauranga's Devoy Squash and Fitness Centre.

Reflecting on her monumental feat, King expressed the sentimental value this tournament holds for her, reminiscing about her days as a ten-year-old spectator. She humbly acknowledged the significance of equalling Devoy's record, emphasizing the sense of pride she felt in this accomplishment.

Dame Susan Devoy, a legend in her own right, extended her heartfelt congratulations to King for becoming only the second New Zealand woman to secure ten national titles. Devoy, gracious in her praise, expressed her anticipation of witnessing King's return next year, hoping she will surpass the record and create a new milestone in the sport.

Despite her remarkable achievement, King encountered a minor setback on the day of the final: she inadvertently forgot her essential squash shoes. Thankfully, her loyal friend and doubles teammate, Amanda Landers-Murphy, came to the rescue. With impressive efficiency, Landers-Murphy located the misplaced shoes at their accommodation and delivered them to King just half an hour before game time. The incident served as a rare occurrence in King's 17-year professional career, and she expressed gratitude towards her doubles partner for her unwavering support.

Once on the court, King demonstrated her exceptional skills and dominance in a resounding victory over Megan Graham in the women's final. As an eight-time Commonwealth Games medalist, King showcased her pedigree by expertly controlling the pace of the match. With a combination of power and precision, she directed the play to secure a comfortable three-game triumph, with scores of 11-5, 11-5, and 11-4.

Martin Dowson, the esteemed Chief Executive of Squash New Zealand Poipātū Aotearoa, extended his sincere appreciation to all those involved in organizing the sensational tournament. Commending the gathering of professionals and the emergence of future squash stars, Dowson acknowledged the event's dual purpose: showcasing the sport's finest talent while providing a valuable developmental platform for aspiring young players. The sense of camaraderie and support within the squash community throughout the three-day competition left an indelible impression, fostering an atmosphere of unity and shared enthusiasm.

With gratitude towards the athletes, coaches, referees, and all those who contributed to the tournament's success, Dowson eagerly anticipated the prospect of reconvening next year to recreate the magic of this exceptional event.

2023 New Zealand Squash Championships, Devoy Squash and Fitness Centre, Tauranga, New Zealand
Men’s Final:
[1] Paul Coll bt [2] Lwamba Chileshe 11-2, 11-3, 11-3

Women’s Final:
[1] Joelle King 3-0 [2] Megan Graham 11-5, 11-5, 11-4

Lwamba Chileshe will face top seed and World No.5 Paul Coll in the final of the New Zealand Squash Championships staged at the Devoy Squash and Fitness Centre in Tauranga.

Lwamba squared off against his brother and fellow UNSQUASHABLE player Temwa in the semi-finals, narrowly edging out his younger sibling 9-11 11-5 11-4 5-11 11-1 to claim his place in the final.

Lwamba expressed his emotions after his semi-final victory: "It was a very emotional game; we know each other's games so well, and there definitely wasn't much in it today. I'm feeling great and really looking forward to the final. I plan to go out there and play the best squash I can."

In the quarter-finals, Lwamba showcased his skills with a fast-paced victory over Gabe Yam, using his volleying abilities to secure an impressive 11-9 11-7 11-8 victory.

The opening day of the championships saw second seed Lwamba Chileshe defeat Apa Fatialofa with an 11-13 8-11 11-13 victory.

Temwa displayed composure in his first match against Matthew Ward, controlling the pace and executing exquisite drop shots enroute to an 11-7 11-8 11-2 win.

2023 New Zealand Squash Championships, Devoy Squash and Fitness Centre, Tauranga, New Zealand
Men’s Semi-Finals:
[1] Paul Coll bt [4] Elijah Thomas 11-4, 11-9, 11-7
[2] Lwamba Chileshe bt [3] Temwa Chileshe 9-11, 11-5, 11-4, 5-11, 11-1

Men’s Quarter-Finals:
[1] Paul Coll bt [8] Mason Smales 11-3, 11-6, 11-2
[4] Elijah Thomas bt [5] Anthony Lepper 11-7, 11-9, 11-8
[3] Temwa Chileshe bt [6] Joel Arscott 11-6, 13-11, 11-6
[2] Lwamba Chileshe 3-0 [10] Gabe Yam 11-9, 11-7, 11-8

Women’s Semi-Finals:
[1] Joelle King bt [5] Winona-Jo Joyce 11-2, 11-3, 11-4
[2] Megan Graham bt [6] Ella Lash 11-1, 11-5, 5-11, 11-5

Women’s Quarter-Finals:
[1] Joelle King bt [9] Anne Leakey 11-1, 11-1, 11-4
[5] Winona-Jo Joyce bt [4] Rebecca Barnett 11-5, 11-4, 11-3
[6] Ella Lash bt [3] Abbie Palmer 11-4, 11-7, 11-7
[2] Megan Graham bt [7] Sophie Hodges 11-1, 11-1, 11-5

Joelle King, Megan Graham, Paul Coll, and Lwamba Chileshe secured their spots in the finals of the New Zealand Squash Championships at the Devoy Squash and Fitness Centre in Tauranga.

With nine national titles under her belt, King displayed her dominance in the quarter-finals, overpowering the ninth seed, Anne Leakey, with a commanding 11-1, 11-1, 11-4 victory. Continuing her impressive form, King faced Winona-Jo Joyce in the semi-finals, dictating the game from the centre of the court and cruising to an 11-2, 11-3, 11-4 win.

Joel King will face off against Megan Graham in the women's final, as she aims to equal Dame Susan Devoy's record of 10 national titles. King, currently ranked number four in the world, expressed her excitement about the possibility of achieving this feat: "I haven't really thought about that record to be honest, but it would be a pretty cool thing to do. I'm loving being back home and being back in this environment, so it should be a good match tomorrow."

However, Graham, a two-time national champion and a Glasgow Commonwealth Games athlete, will not make it easy for King. Graham displayed clinical precision in her quarter-final, effortlessly manoeuvring around the court and controlling the tempo of the match to secure an 11-1, 11-1, 11-5 victory over Sophie Hodges. In her semi-final against Ella Lash, Graham faced a tougher challenge, dropping the second game but regaining her composure to secure an 11-1, 5-11, 11-5, 11-5 win.

In the men's championship, Paul Coll showcased his skills in the quarter-finals against eighth seed Mason Smales. Utilising his expertise at the front of the court and intelligently varying the pace of the ball, Coll defeated Smales with ease, securing an 11-3, 11-6, 11-2 victory.

Coll faced a tougher test in the semi-final against Elijah Thomas. While Thomas comfortably won the first game 11-4, he struggled to keep up with Coll's pace and power in the subsequent games, eventually falling 11-9 in the second and 11-7 in the third. Reflecting on Thomas's performance, Coll remarked, "He came over and trained with me in Amsterdam a few years ago. He's definitely taken his game to another level since then, which is awesome to see. He's got a big future ahead of him."

One of the standout quarter-final matches featured fourth seed Elijah Thomas against fifth seed Anthony Lepper. The match was incredibly tight, with numerous rallies lasting over 50 shots. Ultimately, it was Thomas's composure that made the difference, as he claimed an 11-7, 11-9, 11-8 victory. Reflecting on the match, Thomas acknowledged the intensity of the encounter: "We really know each other's games inside and out, so that was always going to be a tight match. Thankfully, I was a little more clinical today to get the win. I'm pretty tired now; he's always on the ball early, which means it's always hard work playing him."

Another notable highlight of the day was the closely contested match between two players set to compete in the upcoming Junior World Championships in Melbourne. Oliver Dunbar and Apa Fatialofa engaged in a fast-paced match for 13th to 16th place. Dunbar claimed the first game, while Fatialofa rallied back to take the second. Ultimately, Dunbar held on for an 11-6, 3-11, 11-8, 11-8 victory.

The opening day of the New Zealand Squash Championships at the Devoy Squash and Fitness Centre in Tauranga witnessed an action-packed showcase of talent, with over 50 matches captivating the audience.

Renowned international player Paul Coll, currently ranked fifth in the world, cruised through his initial matches, securing a place in the quarterfinals. Coll's formidable skills were on full display as he dispatched Flynn Venmore in a commanding 11-1, 11-4, 11-2 victory. His dominance continued in the next round, where he comfortably defeated Keidah Bungard with scores of 11-2, 11-4, 11-3. Coll's next challenge awaits him in the form of Mason Smales in the quarterfinals.

For 17-year-old Venmore, the opportunity to compete against his idol Coll was a momentous occasion. Despite Coll's dominance, Venmore cherished the experience, acknowledging Coll's sportsmanship and willingness to offer advice during the match. Coll, recognizing Venmore's potential, commended the young player's skills and expressed optimism about his future in squash.

In the women's championship, Joelle King, a formidable force with nine national titles to her name, received a first-round bye before facing Maiden-Lee Coe in the round of 16. King displayed her prowess, securing an 11-8, 11-4, 11-6 victory over Coe. Reflecting on the match, King acknowledged the need to shake off any rust and highlighted the skill displayed by her opponent. King's quarterfinal opponent will be the ninth seed, Anne Leaky.

Megan Graham, a two-time national champion who recently returned to competitive squash after starting a family and recovering from an Achilles injury, also advanced to the quarterfinals. Graham's experience and precision were instrumental in her victory over Lily Rae in the round of sixteen, overcoming a 3-11, 5-11 deficit to win 11-9, 5-11, 11-9, 5-11.

The match of the day featured Matthew Ward, seeded 30th, and Paul Moran, seeded 14th, in the 17th-32nd place category. Moran initially dominated, securing the first two games 13-11, 11-6. However, Ward showcased his resilience and fitness by mounting a comeback, clinching the next two games 9-11, 9-11. In the decisive fifth game, Ward's determination prevailed as he emerged victorious with an 11-4 scoreline.

Reflecting on the gruelling match, Ward expressed both physical and mental exhaustion, highlighting the intensity of the battle and his satisfaction with the hard-fought win.