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Teen Stefanoni wins first pro title

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Maiden honours: Sixteen-year-old Marina Stefanoni returns a shot during the Bermuda Open final against Anna Kimberley, on her way to a straight games success(Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Marina Stefanoni continued to demonstrate her undoubted potential by winning the Bermuda Open Championships women’s squash title last night.

At just 16 years old, the remarkably talented American played with a maturity that belied her years, to overcome England’s Anna Kimberley in straight games, 11-8, 11-8, 12-10.

Stefanoni, who returns to school next week in Connecticut was delighted to claim her first Professional Squash Association honours, which will see her continue towards her immediate goal of getting into the top 50 in the world rankings.

“It was a great match, the whole tournament was really tough and so I’m delighted to have won it,” said Stefanoni, who took up the sport at the age of nine and went into the final with a world ranking of 71.

“I won 3-0 but all the games were really tight. Anna is a really strong player and I had to fight hard for every point.

“I’ve played in four or five professional tournaments but this is my first title, which is really exciting. When I first became a professional, matches were really tough to just to beat anybody. The seniors are so much faster, fitter, stronger and sharper, it was a real challenge.

“In the future my ultimate goal is to be world No 1. Right now, I have to pick and choose which tournaments I can play in because it can conflict with school. For the immediate future, I think I can get into the top 50, that would a good realistic aim for right now.

“Being here has been amazing, the country is a wonderful, everyone has been really welcoming so I’m delighted to have been able to able to come and play.”

Having prevailed in an epic five-game semi-final battle with top seed Nessrine Arrifin, in which she recovered from two games down and saved four match points, the night before, Kimberley conceded fatigue ultimately played its part in her downfall in the final.

“Having put so much into the semi-final match, I knew it was going to be difficult,” she said.

“It was hard to bring the same levels into the final and I struggled with my energy as the match wore on.

“There was no way she was going to throw points away so it was up to me to beat her and unfortunately I just couldn’t do that.

“She is a very difficult player to gain momentum against, even when I was up she managed to grind me down.

“On the whole it’s been a really positive experience. It’s my first PSA final appearance and just to be there is great.

“I felt great throughout and those ranking points will be a massive boost.”

In the men’s final, Canadian Nick Sachvie clinched his first title in more than a year by beating England’s Jaymie Haycock in straight games, 11-7, 11-6, 11-9.

After enduring a lengthy layoff through injury and consequent slide down the world rankings from a career high 64 to 113, heading into the final, Sachvie was delighted to pick up valuable ranking points and continue his journey back up the standings.

“It’s been a while since I won a title, so it’s great to get my hands on one again,” he said.

“I’ve been battling back from injury for a couple of seasons but my body seems to be firing again.

“As an athlete you rely on your body and when that fails you it’s awful. I had to almost relearn the basics again and I really struggled for a while but things are looking up now.

“Since the new year my body has felt back to where it was before and things have been falling into place.

“I had a great professional invite tournament back home in Toronto last week and that gave me a huge amount of confidence coming here.

“Winning here will definitely help climb up in the rankings and that is the main aim for me at the moment.

“I was so excited to come here and I’ll be leaving even more excited.”

Much like Kimberley, Haycocks had to battle through a five-game semi-final against Jamaican top seed Chris Binnie the night before, and admitted he just had no answers for his opponent’s greater sharpness.

“Yesterday completely took it of me,” said Haycocks. “I tried to give it all I had but unfortunately it just wasn’t enough.

“All credit to Nick because he was really sharp throughout the match. I tried to peg him back when I could but he was just a lot sharper on the night.”

Nick Sachvie battles away en route to victory over Jaymie Haycocks, gifting him his first title in more than a year