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Chileshe hopes for fourth time lucky

Temwa Chileshe wants an Auckland Squash Open title after being a finalist on three occasions
Temwa Chileshe (left) runner-up last year at the Auckland Open next to Joseph White (Australia), women's winner Lana Harrison and women's runner up Alex Haysdon (Australia). PHOTO: SQUASH AUCKLAND

International squash returns to Auckland this weekend with the Auckland Open PSA Challenger tournament as New Zealand's best young players try to improve their PSA world rankings.            


The tournament runs from Thursday to Sunday at the North Shore Squash Club, with the women's final at 2pm Sunday, followed by the men's final.                                                          


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Top seed in the men’s draw is Kiwi Temwa Chileshe at No 121, a few places below his high of 105. The 23-year-old competed for New Zealand at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games in 2022.


Chileshe has been a beaten finalist the last three years; 2021 to Evan Williams, 2022 to his brother Lwamba and again 12 months later to Australia's Joseph White.


"Hopefully this is my year," said the 23-year-old from Waikato.


The second seed is Auckland's Anthony Lepper at No 144 who is searching for his first Challenger title, as is Taupo third seed William Donnelly. Left-hander Mason Smales, from the Henderson club, is the fourth seed, ranked No 264.


A total of nine different nations will have players competing in the draws, from Samoa, Malta to Australia, Scotland, England, Korea, Hong Kong, India, and plenty of New Zealanders.


Of the younger Kiwis in the draw, Oliver Dunbar recently won the Australia, Oceania and New Zealand junior titles and has a PSA ranking of 415 at the age of 18. 


Like Dunbar, the Northland duo of Flynn Venmore and Freddie Jameson are also members of the New Zealand junior team to compete at the world championships in the USA later this year.


The women's draw is littered with numerous teens looking to kick-start their pro careers. It is headed by Australian 18-year-old Madison Lyon at No 133, followed by Ella Lash, who won the Oceania and New Zealand junior titles and was a finalist at the Oceania juniors. 


Third seed is Bay of Plenty left-hander Winona-Jo Joyce, ranked at No 205, while improving teens Sophie Hodges (Waikato), Anabel Romero Gemmell (Manawatu) and Mackenzie Tait (Wellington) are also lining up.


Lana Harrison, the winner of the Auckland Championships on three occasions including the last two years, is unseeded and will keep the youngsters in check and will again be a favourite for the title.


More than 160 are players taking part in the numerous graded championships, all at the North Shore Club in Takapuna.


Action on the main courts will be streamed on Squash Auckland's Facebook page.


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