Scherbakov seeking 'home' advantage at ESF U19 Individuals in Bucharest

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Scherbakov seeking 'home' advantage at ESF U19 Individuals in Bucharest

Ukraine's Dmytro Scherbakov is definitely a name to look out for in the boys' draw at this weekend's ESF European Individual U19 Squash Championships - for a variety of reasons.

The 18-year-old from Kyiv may be in the 33/64 seeding category for the prestigious event at AreoSquash Baneasa in Bucharest, but he was ranked No.1 in Europe before he headed off to Trinity College in Connecticut last summer. His ESF ranking has slipped since he's been in the USA, but his standard of squash certainly has not.

He has spent the last seven months playing in the Trinity team that finished second in the US College Championship, and being coached by Moustafa Hamada, Mohamed ElSherbini and the legendary Paul Assaiante.

This isn't the only factor that will make Scherbakov a dangerous opponent at the European Individuals this weekend - he also has home advantage. He and his family now live in Bucharest and he calls the city "my second home."

Dmytro and his mother Alla, older sister Maria and younger brother Yehor were forced to leave Kyiv after Russia invaded Ukraine two years ago. His father (also called Dmytro) initially had to stay behind, but a back injury meant he was allowed to leave the army and join his family in Romania several months later.

“It was pretty hard," says Dmytro Jr. "But my family and a lot of my friends were supported by the international squash community who offered their help. Coming here without my father was tough because not everyone in my family speaks English. I had to do a lot to support my sister and brother. The first six months were difficult, but then things started getting better.”

Somewhat luckily, the Scherbakov family's first 'home' in Bucharest was a squash club. They were temporarily housed at Infinity Sports Arena which has four squash courts. "I had 24/7 access to the courts and a gym. It was like a dream, but at the same time we were living in a crazy situation," says Dmytro.

In Bucharest, Dmytro became friends with Romanian squash player Dima Dumitru and they trained together regularly. They applied for university scholarships in America - and both succeeded. Dumitru is now at Drexel in Philadelphia. "I feel like I needed this special person pushing me. Our friendship was very important," reflects Dmytro.

At Trinity, Dmytro has benefited hugely from the training facilities and high standard of competition. "Coming from Ukraine, then Romania, I never had players [of the same standard] to train with," he says. "For me, it was all about solo work and ghosting to get my heart rate up.

“But the first time I went to the squash courts at Trinity, I saw people who weren't just hitting the ball well, they were beating me, making me sweat and work hard. I was so excited. As a junior my father sent me to Cairo and Barcelona to train with top players for a few weeks. That was good, but I have been at Trinity for seven months and I really feel the difference. I feel how much it helps me.”

This weekend will be Dmytro's third and final ESF European U19 Individuals appearance. His first was aged 16 in 2022 in Eindhoven - just weeks after the Russian invasion. He hadn't picked up a racket for two weeks, but was allowed a late entry into the tournament. "It was a crazy time but I was very grateful that the tournament director let me play," he says.

Dymtro turns 19 in May, so he will play his last ever junior tournament in his adopted home city. His coach, George Alexandru Constantinescu, is tournament director. Dymtro says: "When he told me the championships would be held here in Bucharest, I laughed. It's a perfect way to end my junior career.

"Spring break was last week so I came home back early from college to adjust to the time difference and prepare. I have the ability to match with anyone but my target is just playing my best squash.

“The seedings situation is pretty weird - whoever gets me in the first round might be a bit upset! But if you come to this tournament you have to expect to play the best players if you want to win, whether that is in the first round or later on. I am ready for anyone and anything - I just want to be on court for as long as I can.”

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