Bryant And Abbas Win Cannon Kirk Gillen Markets Irish Squash Open Titles

Jonah Bryant and Nada Abbas claimed the Cannon Kirk Gillen Markets Irish Squash Open titles, winning thrilling finals at Dublin’s Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club. 

18-year-old Bryant was looking to secure a sixth trophy of the season and his third in succession, having won tournaments in both Canada and the US in recent weeks, while Abbas was targeting her fourth career crown. 

Standing in Bryant’s way was 16-year-old Mohamad Zakaria, who had beaten Bryant twice already this season, including in the British Junior Open final, and knocked out No.2 seed George Parker in the semi-finals here. 

Indeed, it was the young Egyptian who made the better start in this final, capitalising on some uncharacteristic unforced errors from Bryant’s racket to take game one 11-8. 

Zakaria then had two game balls in the second at 10-8, but Bryant saved them both, the first after a lengthy rally which saw Zakaria hit the floor, and the second on a perfectly-weighted forehand drive which died in the right-hand corner. 

Another game ball came and went for Zakaria at 11-10, and Bryant only needed one opportunity to get himself on levels terms, smashing a crosscourt forehand out of his opponent’s reach at 12-11 up.

The first two games alone had taken close to 50 minutes, such was the relentless hitting and retrieving of the two young talents, and the third was no different, as the pair went toe-to-toe over another 16 minutes of breathtaking action. 

There was nothing between them at 9-9, but back-to-back strokes given by referee John Mazzarella handed Bryant the game, and the upper hand. 

Coming out to start game four, Bryant’s confidence was sky high, and he was quickly into a 6-0 lead, getting there with a leisure-centre boast that left Zakaria with no chance. 

The young Egyptian showed what a true competitor he is, battling right until the end and perhaps setting a few nerves jangling in the young Englishman’s mind, closing the gap to 9-6. 

But a crips backhand volley down the line got Bryant to the brink of glory with four match balls, and he only needed one, slamming a forehand volley that was too good for Zakaria, securing the biggest prize of his career so far. 

“Obviously it’s my biggest title so far, and I’m extremely happy at the moment,” Bryant said after collecting his silverware. 

“A got a few pretty big scalps this week. Finn Withington in the second round, it was the first time I’d beaten him in a long time, unfortunately Nick Wall injured himself in the quarters, but then I had Dec [James]. 

“Dec beat me twice at the start of the season, Zak [Zakaria] has also beaten me twice this season, so I beat three people who have been beating me, all in a row, so I’m very happy. 

“I’ve been playing good squash, I’ve been training hard, so it’s nice for the results to come in.” 

On today’s win, he added: “I started off pretty poorly, I made five unforced errors for him to get his first five points, so I pretty much handed him the game. 

“But even though I handed him the game, I actually felt quite comfortable in there, and thought… this pace isn’t hurting me, physically I’m fine, I just need to keep my focus, play with a bit of margin. 

“I started finding my targets, made myself tough to win a rally against, and at the start of the fourth I came out really strong and managed to just hold on to the lead, so yeah, I’m very happy. 

“It’s always tough with Zak, you’re never going to go on and beat him 3-0 in 30 minutes, it’s just never going to happen. 

“He’s a very tough competitor, he’s obviously exceptional for his age, and he’s only going to keep improving. He’ll be back in his next tournament and I’m sure he’s going to carry on doing well this season.” 

Bryant’s win followed a thrilling victory for Egypt’s Abbas in the women’s final, as she held off Wales’ Emily Whitlock in a five-game tussle between the top two seeds. 

Abbas had lost her previous two encounters with Whitlock, albeit both more than four years ago, but it was the Egyptian who got her nose in front here, taking game one 11-8 in 11 minutes when a Whitlock forehand found the tin. 

She then had control of game two at 7-4 up, but the Welsh No.2 responded well, clawing her way back to 8-8 with a neat backhand volley drop. 

A pair of near-identical backhand boasts into the tin from Abbas handed Whitlock the game from 9-9, and there was little to split them across the next two games. 

The top seed took the third, drilling a forehand winner down the line to cap a run of four straight points at the end, before Whitlock won the fourth, slamming a hard cross-court forehand beyond the reach of an outstretched Abbas on game ball. 

Tension filled the air inside Dublin’s Lawn Tennis Club as game five started, with every seat taken and some fans even forced to sit on the stairs. 

The first six points were split, 3-3, before a moment of magic from the racket of the Egyptian, who crunched a high cross-court forehand volley into the nick. She let out a huge cry of emotion and even gave a little smile to the crowd, who recognised not only the quality of the shot, but also the magnitude of the moment.

From there, she opened up a four-point gap to lead 7-3, and soon turned that into five championship balls at 10-5, taking the first with a backhand winner cross court to secure her second 20k crown. 

“I’m really, really happy to win the title this week,” she said moments after victory. 

“It’s been a couple of busy weeks for me, so I’m really happy that I was able to focus and perform this week. 

“I haven’t played many tournaments being a top seed, so it’s something kind of new for me. It was a bit of pressure, but I was trying to remind myself to just focus on every match and every game, and take it step-by-step. 

“I was very nervous today. I haven’t played Emily a lot on the PSA [Tour], and I think the last two meetings, she got the better of me, so I was just trying to stay focused and take it point-by-point.” 

Result: Women’s Final 
[1] Nada Abbas (EGY) bt [2] Emily Whitlock (WAL) 3-2: 11-8, 9-11, 11-6, 6-11, 11-5 (62m) 

Result: Men’s Final 
Jonah Bryant (ENG) bt Mohamad Zakaria (EGY) 3-1: 8-11, 13-11, 11-9, 11-6 (75m)