The Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Open begins on Thursday morning at the North Shore Squash Club, and both Evan Williams and Kaitlyn Watts will be aiming to notch up their fourth titles of the calendar year.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the event has been restricted to only those currently living in Australia and the host nation, New Zealand. 40 players will take part at North Shore Squash Club this week, with a 24-strong field in the men’s draw, while 16 women will do battle for the title. Eight Australians and one South African join an otherwise solely Kiwi field.
The Australian duo of Sarah Cardwell and Jessica Turnbull will head up the women’s draw, with Emma Millar and Abbie Palmer making up the rest of the top four seeds. Kaitlyn Watts, who has won her last three events, will be the No.6 seed for the tournament.
There are three Aussies in the top five seeds in the men’s draw, with Joseph White, Rhys Dowling and Nicholas Calvert making the trip to Auckland for the event. The top seed for the men’s draw will be World No.86 Evan Williams.
The 31-year-old has already claimed victories at the Henderson Rochelle Hobbs Open, Waikato Open and the Panmure Tecnifibre Open, and is aiming for a fourth straight success. We spoke to Williams ahead of another title run.
“Honestly, I think I’m playing very close to the best – if not the best I’ve ever played. We had a longer than expected run in to these tournaments with postponements in early March, which has really helped me tune what I’m trying to work on. I love analysing matches so having time between events means I can work on areas of concern and keep coming back stronger,” he explained.
“Being able to even play considering the current worldwide issue, makes me proud of my country for dealing with this pandemic so incredibly well. Without that, we would have no tournaments. I’m proud of Squash NZ and the clubs for putting these tournaments on for us. Winning titles is a privilege on top of that.”
After those three wins, Williams goes for a fourth in 2021 this week in Auckland, and he is excited about the possibility.
“That is certainly the goal and I feel like if I can continue to play as I am and keep fixing the gaps, then my chances remain high,” he said.
“I know the younger guys are working hard and the chasing pack is very close so it will all come down to who plays their best on the day. Being an older player, I live for these moments and can’t wait to chase another title.
“Being a Challenger 10 event with lots of points up for grabs, this one was certainly a target tournament. [I am] not sure exactly where I will sit next month but it could be a career high [ranking].
“I’ve been coaching full time in Wellington for coming up to two years so no immediate goals. I always strive to play my best, bring my best self to each match and of course, to practice what I preach! Enjoyment is the main goal, success is a bonus.”
Men’s Draw: Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Open
 Evan Williams (NZL)
[WC] Chris van der Salm (NZL) v [9/16] Damon Macmillan (AUS)
[9/16] Glenn Templeton (NZL) v Finn Trimble (NZL)
 Sion Wiggin (NZL)
 Nicholas Calvert (AUS)
[WC] Lance Beddoes (NZL) v [9/16] William Donnelly (NZL)
[9/16] Zac Millar (NZL) v [WC] Matthew Lucente (NZL)
 Lwamba Chileshe (NZL)
 Rhys Dowling (AUS)
Apa Fatialofa Junior (NZL) v [9/16] Tate Zak Norris (RSA)
[9/16] Elijah Thomas (NZL) v Mason Smales (NZL)
 Temwa Chileshe (NZL)
 Joel Arscott (NZL)
Riley-Jack Vette-Blomquist (NZL) v [9/16] Benjamin Ratcliffe (AUS)
[9/16] Leo Fatialofa (NZL) v Joe Smythe (NZL)  Joseph White (AUS)
Women’s Draw: Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Open
 Sarah Cardwell (AUS) v Kayti Carrick (NZL)
[WC] Tyler Duberly (NZL) v  Alex Haydon (AUS)
 Winona-Jo Joyce (NZL) v Lana Harrison (NZL)
Natalie Sayes (NZL) v  Abbie Palmer (NZL)
 Emma Millar (NZL) v [WC] Juee Bhide (NZL)
Grace Hymers (NZL) v  Kaitlyn Watts (NZL)
 Ella Lash (NZL) v [WC] Rebecca Barnett (NZL)
Katie Templeton (NZL) v  Jessica Turnbull (AUS)