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Emilia Korhonen (Credit: Junnu Lusa)

Cheetham Hill Classic Preview: Korhonen Excited To Be Top Seed

The Arion Homes Cheetham Hill Classic takes place this week, with the Challenger 3 level event being held from Thursday 29 July to Sunday 1 August.

The tournament, which is being played at Cheetham Hill Squash Club, is restricted to only domestic entrants due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

World No.150 Curtis Malik will be the top seed for the men’s draw, with Miles Jenkins as his nearest competitor. Welshman Owain Taylor and Scotsman Fergus Richards will be amongst the top eight seeds, along with the English quartet of James Peach, Ben Smith, Lewis Doughty and Perry Malik.

Another English quartet, in Katie Wells, Polly Clark, Kiera Marshall and Jasmin Kalar, will be aiming for victory in the women’s draw, along with Welshwoman Jia Davies and Portuguese No.1 Sofia Aveiro Pita, with all being seeded.

It is Finland’s World No.154 Emilia Korhonen who will be the top seed for the tournament, though, and we caught up with the Finn ahead of the event.

This will be the first time that Korhonen has been the top seed for an event, and she is excited at the prospect, as well as being happy to be back after the lockdown in the United Kingdom.

“I feel I’m playing well at the moment. I have worked hard and made some improvements in my game during the lockdown period so now I’m just excited to be playing tournaments again,” she admitted.

“Although, from not playing anything for a year and half to having tournaments almost every week it took some time to adjust to all the travelling, mental intensity and fragmented training schedule. I feel like I’m getting a bit more used to it now though and I’m enjoying playing so hopefully that shows on court too.

“As the top seed, I am hoping to make the final and take the title but once the tournament starts, I’ll just take it one match at a time. It’s my first time being top seed for a PSA tournament and for me it only adds excitement if anything.”

Korhonen is one of just three Finnish women on the PSA World Tour, along with World No.50 Emilia Soini and World No.159 Riina Koskinen.

She believes that squash is still yet to take off in her home country, but that the national federation are doing what they can to try and promote the game to youngsters in Finland.

“I feel proud, but at the same time It’s sad we don’t have more female players competing on tour from Finland,” she explained.

“Hopefully that will change at some point. In Finland, squash is still relatively small and we don’t have many players even on club level, but the federation and local clubs are doing a lot of good work encouraging more people, especially juniors, to take up squash.”

Korhonen has previously been as high as World No.111 in the past, and currently sits at World No.154. She is hoping that a strong run in upcoming events in the UK will help her boost her ranking back to where it once was, and hopefully beyond.

“Unfortunately the long break I had from tournaments due to COVID knocked my ranking down quite a bit,” the Finn said.

“It’s amazing we have so many tournaments on in the UK at the moment so hopefully these tournaments will help me get my ranking up again. I also think my squash is improving all the time so I’m hoping I’ll break into the top 100 soon.” 

The event takes place from Thursday 29 July to Sunday 1 August at the Cheetham Hill Squash Club in Manchester, where Emilia Korhonen is the top seed for the women’s tournament. Follow the PSA Challenger Tour on Twitter and Facebook for daily updates from the event.

Action from Cheetham Hill Squash Club will be streamed throughout the week on the PSA Challenger Tour YouTube channel, where you can watch Challenger Tour action, and interviews with rising stars.

Men’s First Round Draw: Arion Homes Cheetham Hill Classic
[1] Curtis Malik (ENG) v Robert Howarth (RSA)
David Haley (WAL) v [6] Lewis Doughty (ENG)
[7] Perry Malik (ENG) v Simon Herbert (ENG)
James Wilkinson (ENG) v [4] James Peach (ENG)
[3] Owain Taylor (WAL) v Nick Ratnarajah (ENG)
Aaron Allpress (ENG) v [5] Ben Smith (ENG)
[8] Fergus Richards (SCO) v [WC] Finally Withington (ENG)
Alasdair Prott (SCO) v [2] Miles Jenkins (ENG)

Women’s First Round Draw: Arion Homes Cheetham Hill Classic
[1] Emilia Korhonen (FIN) v Aisha Forster (ENG)
Rosie Kirsch (ENG) v [8] Saran Nghiem (ENG)
[7] Sofia Aviero Pita (POR) v Emma Bartley (ENG)
Abby Hicks (WAL) v [3] Polly Clark (ENG)
[4] Kiera Marshall (ENG) v Chloe Foster (WAL)
Lucy Beecroft (ENG) v [5] Jasmin Kalar (ENG)
[6] Nia Davies (WAL) v Asia Harris (ENG)
Tashy Baker (ENG) v [2] Katie Wells (ENG)

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