Team USA’s Marina Stefanoni became the first American to win the British Junior Open since Olivia Blatchford Clyne in 2007, capturing the GU17 title Sunday, January 6, at the University of Birmingham in England.
Stefanoni, the GU17 top seed, opened up her tournament with three decisive three-game victories on her way to the semifinals. In the semis, Stefanoni overcame her biggest hurdle of the tournament, holding off a five-game come-back against Egypt’s [3/4] seed Nour Khaled Aboulmakarim 9-11, 12-10, 11-9, 8-11, 11-6, to reach her second consecutive GU17 final.
After falling short in 2018 GU17 final, Stefanoni resolutely returned to the all-glass court and made history with a four-game victory over Hong Kong’s [3/4] seed Chan Sin Yuk 9-11, 11-9, 11-8, 11-6 in thirty minutes.
Stefanoni becomes just the third American in history to win a British Junior Open title, following the likes of Olivia Blatchford Clyne, who won the GU15 title in 2007, and Michelle Quibell, who also won the GU17 title in 2001. Last month, the sixteen year old from Darien, Connecticut won her second consecutive GU19 U.S. Junior Open title.
“I feel really good,” Stefanoni said. “I’ve played this tournament a bunch of times, been in the finals three times so it’s great to finally clinch the title. This is definitely my biggest title, 100%. It’s the biggest tournament in the world, so it feels great.”
Stefanoni’s title adds to an already successful British Junior Open campaign for Team USA, which produced a record nine quarterfinalists and thirty-three players in the round of sixteen. 2019 marks the fifth year that Team USA has sent a full delegation of players to the BJO.
This year’s British Junior Open was a glorious display of the growth of @USSQUASH! So proud to see so many Americans competing hard and making our country proud. A cherry on top to watch @marina8squash collect a much deserved and about time title! #onwardsandupwards
— Olivia Blatchford Clyne (@LivBlatchClyne) January 6, 2019
The British Junior Open is considered the world age-group championships at all age groups other than U19. The list of past winners includes formidable names such as Nick Matthew, Greg Gaultier, Karim Darwish, Ramy Ashour and Mohamed ElShorbagy on the men’s side, and Nicol David, Nour El Sherbini and Camille Serme on the women’s.