The Hamilton Squash & Tennis Club in New Zealand plays host to this weekend’s Waikato Open, a Challenger 3 level event with both men’s and women’s draws.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, only players currently based in New Zealand were allowed to enter, with the entire 32-strong field (16 in each draw) hail from the host nation.
World No.84 Evan Williams will head up the men’s draw, with the Chileshe brother, Lwamba and Temwa, his nearest challengers. Along with No.4 seed Joel Arscott, all are in good form coming into this event.
Williams won his last outing, at the Henderson Rochelle Hobbs Open, where he defeated Arscott in the final. The Chileshe brothers both made the final of the Morrinsville Open, with older sibling Lwamba coming out on top in that clash.
World No.97 Emma Millar is the top seed in the women’s draw, with World No.114 Abbie Palmer her nearest challenger. 20-year-old Kaitlyn Watts, the World No.234, won the Royal Oak Open last month, and will be a contender once again this week.
We spoke to Watts ahead of this week’s event, and she admitted that she was unsure as to how she would play at the Royal Oak Open, having returned to the Tour after more than 18 months away.
“I wasn’t too sure what to expect from myself as I had been away from squash for over a year, so I didn’t put any pressure on myself and went into the game feeling relaxed mentally but very fired up at the same time,” she explained.
“Emma [Millar] has been on form so I knew it was going to be a tough game, and it sure was. But I had a lot of fight in me that got me through to the end, and [I’m] stoked to get my first PSA Challenger title from it. But really I was just buzzing to be back out there on court, and really enjoying my squash again.
“There’s still so much learning for me to do but I took a lot out of Royal Oak that I’ve been able to work on in my training, and I’m happy with the progress from that. Physically and mentally I’m feeling on form, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it all comes together this weekend and hoping I can execute my game well.”
She was unseeded going into the Royal Oak Open, but after a victory there, and a rise of 123 places in the World Rankings, eyes will be on the 20-year-old this week. However, she is taking it all in her stride.
“I always just take one game at a time and know they’re all going to be tough matches. But if I can perform like I have been recently I know the results will come, and I’m hoping to gain another PSA title at the end of it,” she said.
Watts has been inside the top 100 in the World Rankings before, and with events happening regularly in the country, she is aiming to reach that mark sooner rather than later.
“We are pretty lucky here in New Zealand as we have a lot of PSA tournaments happening. So I’m hoping to make the most them and get my world ranking up into the top 100,” the New Zealander said.
“I will eventually head overseas when it’s possible to compete in bigger tournaments and base myself somewhere for training.”
The event takes place from Friday 30 April to Sunday 2 May at the Hamilton Squash & Tennis Club in New Zealand. Follow the PSA Challenger Tour on Twitter and Facebook for daily updates from the event.
Men’s First Round Draw: Waikato Open
 Evan Williams (NZL) v Gabe Yam (NZL)
Joe Smythe (NZL) v  Sion Wiggin (NZL)
 William Donnely (NZL) v [WC] Matthew Lucente (NZL)
Finn Trimble (NZL) v  Joel Arscott (NZL)
 Temwa Chileshe (NZL) v Mason Smales (NZL)
Benjamina Adams (NZL) v  Zac Millar (NZL)
 Glenn Templeton (NZL) v Michael Shelton Agar (NZL)
Braedyn Henderson (NZL) v  Lwamba Chileshe (NZL)
Women’s First Round Draw: Waikato Open
 Emma Millar (NZL) v Dora Galloway (NZL)
Leah Hodges (NZL) v  Winona-Jo Joyce (NZL)
 Natalie Sales (NZL) v Ashlee Pepper (NZL)
Ashleigh Matthews (NZL) v  Lauren Clarke (NZL)
 Kaitlyn Watts (NZL) v Nadia Hubbard (NZL)
Kayti Carrick (NZL) v  Sophie Hodges (NZL)
 Katie Templeton (NZL) v Tracey Kimble (NZL)
Grace Hymers (NZL) v  Abbie Palmer (NZL)