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Evan Williams, Kaitlyn Watts Win Oliver Sport NZ Squash Classic

Two quality finals finished the NZ Classic at the Hutt City Squash Club as the twice-postponed tournament was completed without a hitch.

Top seed and men’s world No 79 Evan Williams maintained his unbeaten record of over 12 months in domestic squash as he triumphed over second seed Chris van der Salm in a four game battle which could have turned either way.

Williams who was a member of the 2018 Commonwealth Games team and is in the New Zealand men’s team for the world champs next month is the club coach at Hutt City and even at age 32 is arguably the fittest he’s ever been.

His win at the PSA Satellite sanctioned tournament at his home club may not have had the world ranking points of the Auckland Open earlier in the year or other PSA Challengers, however it had a big impact on the left-hander with the work he had put in with training and the fact it would have been the NZ Champs as well.

It meant a lot to Williams and from the start the match was always going to be competitive as strokes and lets littered the first few points as each player tried to put their authority on the final.

Van der Salm now playing out of Whanganui is regarded by Williams as a very clean hitting player who uses his large frame to work the ball around the court well.

The first two game went to 12-10 to Williams with the second especially looking like it would go to van der Salm. However it was the third that the Whanganui player won 11-5, but Williams did what he does best and kept working every point to seal the victory 11-8 in the fourth for the title.

In the women’s final it was 20-year-old Kaitlyn Watts from Manawatu who overcame national champion, Emma Millar in four games in the final 14-12 11-8 8-11 11-9.

It was Watts who showed her intent early on in the match where she threw herself around the court with three full-length dives in one point.

Throughout 2021 the pair who are both currently ranked just outside the top 100 had clashed on four occasions with Watts winning three finals and Millar the other in the quarter-finals at the Auckland Open.

In the final in Wellington Watts took the first game as the momentum swung back and fourth while the second game looked a bit more decisive as Millar played catch up. However the third turned again as Millar came up with a few key winners, including a couple from the back of the court.

As is so often the case neither player has the match under control until the last point was won as Watts took the fourth game in a real battle which was worthy of a final.

In the third and fourth playoffs 18-year-old Jena Gregory (Hawkes Bay) won in fourth games over fellow-teen Diana Galloway (Wellington) and Taupo’s Willz Donnelly also took four games to beat BOP’s Glenn Templeton in the men’s third/fourth match.

Women’s Open Final:
[1] Kaitlyn Watts beat [2] Emma Millar 14-12 11-8 8-11 11-9

Men’s Open Final:
[1] Evan Williams beat [2] Chris van der Salm 12-10 12-10 5-11 11-8

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