Whilst most LDS members were winding down for the festive period, LDS member Natalie Main was heading in a rather different trajectory competing firstly in the US Open, just before Christmas, followed closely by the Scottish Junior Open between Christmas and New Year, then the British Junior Open and bookended by the Scottish U23 Championships.
First up Natalie flew to Philadelphia to make her debut at the US Open accompanied by her sister. The tournament could best be described as mixed as she lost her first match 3-1 against American Sophia Hu. Main was made to regret throwing away a 10-3 lead in the first on the glass show court. The pain of that defeat carried over into her next match as she went down tamely to Canada’s Ashley Hall. A defeat on the next round would have meant an end to the tournament, but she regrouped to see of the US’s Aanvi Anand 3-0, growing in confidence as the match progressed. Next up was another Canadian, Maya Askari and as Main lost the first two games it looked like her tournament was coming to an end, but in a remarkable turnaround she fought back to take the match 13-11 in the 5th. Next up was an Egyptian, Habiba Abdel Mohsen. In squash the Egyptians have a fearsome reputation and Main surprised herself by taking the first, but that was as good as it got as she went down 3-1 to end her American adventure.
After a brief Christmas celebration with the family in Luton, Natalie was Edinburgh bound to compete in the JC Lindsay Scottish Junior Open. First up was Singapore’s Aaliya Abo Al Thinin. Main played some lackluster squash losing the first in a tie break and continued in the second until leading 8-7 a no-let was awarded against her and she woke up to win the next 3 points to take the game and thereafter won the match comfortably. In the next round she faced the experienced Dutch 3rd seed Elfi Markus. Main showed some of the squash she is capable of only losing the 1st in a tie break, but it looked as though that would be the pinnacle as she lost the second, but she saved 3 match balls in the 3rd to take it in a tie break, the 4th she played the best squash since her move to Scotland as she took it 11-1 to the shock of the packed gallery. Unfortunately, she couldn’t recover a bad start in the 5th and lost out in 5. Next up was compatriot Rowan Niven and Niven was just too strong in a closely fought match. Her final match was against Hong Kong’s Zi Fang Lee. Lee took the first 16-14 and carried that momentum into the remainder of the match to win 3-0.
A short New Year celebration in her new home town of Inverness preceded Natalie’s participation in the British Junior Open in Birmingham. The first round saw her lose quite tamely to American Jhansi Bhavsar. In the second round she was reacquainted with Zi Fang Lee and this time fought much better before going down 3-1. Her next two rounds were against English opponents, Charlotte Silwood and Millie Flynn who were despatched with little difficulty. Her final opponent, German, Lea-Iris Murrizi, was an altogether different prospect, being an experienced player on the European circuit. It looked like it was going to be a losing finale for Main as she went down 11-2 in the first, but she recovered impressively to triumph 3-1.
The busy period came to an end in the shape of the Scottish Under 23 Championships, one of the most important selection events ahead of the World Team Championships in Australia this year. Already weary from the intensive schedule the format of having to play 3 matches in one day was always going to be a challenge. Louisa Kaven was first up and Main would kick herself blowing significant leads in the first two before ultimately going down 3-1. Next up was Anna Halliday and the 3-0 triumph for Halliday masked the closeness of the match as Main had game balls in the first two. Finally, for the day Main faced Rowan Niven who had already beaten Kaven and Halliday earlier in the day, so expectations were low and at 6-10 down in the 4th those expectations looked as though they were going to be met, but she had other ideas winning 6 points in a row to take it to a decider. The 5th was nip and tuck, and at 10-9, Niven had yet another match ball, but Main was not to be beaten and again winning a string of points won 12-10 in the 5th.
Now it is a couple of weeks off before the Scottish Junior National event