KUALA LUMPUR – The Malaysian Open is back for another as the Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia (SRAM) is ready to welcome some of the world’s best players once again.
Once the leading squash championship, the tournament was a regular fixture for many top professionals as the women’s competition was also a World Series event until 2014.
Among the top top players who have made their mark in Malaysia includes the homegrown Dato’ Nicol David, with the eight-time world champion winning the home title a record eight times from 2005-2013.
The tournament however took a hiatus after the 2014 edition before it was resumed in 2017.
Now in its third successive year after the reboot, the Malaysian Open is now a PSA Challenger 30 event for the men with a total prize money of US$30,000 and a PSA Challenger 20 for the women with a total purse of US$20,000.
Even though the tournament is no longer a World Tour status, this year’s entries still pack a lot of quality with four men in the world’s top 40 all signed up.
Leading the way will be Hong Kong’s world No. 26 Max Lee, who is the top seed and is certainly very familiar playing in Malaysia.
Behind him will be world No. 28 Nicolas Mueller of Switzerland who was once ranked as high as No. 17 in the world and the third seed will be an exciting Egyptian in 2015 world junior runner-up Youssef Soliman, the world No. 31.
The fourth seed is none other than national No. 1 and world No. 37 Ng Eain Yow, who will be bidding to be the first Malaysian to win the title since Azlan Iskandar in 2010.
Also in the mix will be 2013 world junior champion Karim El Hammamy, whose sister Hania recently clinched the World Junior Championship title here in KL.
Other exciting entrants includes India’s Mahesh Mangaokar, Spanish duo Carlos Ribadas and Edmon Lopez as well as the in-form Hong Kong player Lau Tsz Kwan.
As for the local challenge, Eain Yow will have company in fifth seed Ivan Yuen, Syafiq Kamal, Addeen Idrakie, Ong Sai Hung and Darren Rahul Pragasam.
Eain Yow is certainly the best bet to go all the way as he starts with a first round bye before facing either Addeen or Hong Kong’s Henry Leung in the second round.
He is expected to meet sixth seed Tayyab Aslam of Pakistan in the quarter-finals with a potential semi-final clash against Max, who he beat in the quarter-finals of the Asian Individual Championships in May.
In the women’s event, there are high hopes on world No. 34 Low Wee Wern to produce another superb week of squash to retain her title.
The second seed is fresh from a strong outing at the HKFC International where she finished in the semi-finals.
And she’ll certainly fancy her chances in a relatively easy draw although compatriot and world junior bronze medallist Aifa Azman may prove to be a really tricky opponent in the second round itself.
Besides Wee Wern and Aifa, the other Malaysian women in the mix are third seed Rachel Arnold, Chan Yiwen, Lai Wen Li, Aika Azman and Ooi Kah Yan.
The women’s competition however will also see a host of exciting young Egyptians, led by two-time world junior champion Rowan Elaraby who is the top seed, Hana Ramadan, Farah Momen, Menna Nasser and Menna Hamed.
Meanwhile SRAM director Major (Rtd) Maniam expressed his excitement for this year’s competition.
“I’m really looking forward to one of our players making the final and hopefully winning the title,” said Maniam.
“I think Wee Wern at No. 2, Eain Yow at No. 4 and Ivan at No. 5 all have a chance of creating an upset to get their hands on the coveted trophy.
“I also hope to see all squash enthusiasts and supporters come forward to support the tournament and urge our players on,” added Maniam.
The Malaysian Open will be held at the National Squash Centre, Bukit Jalil from 25-29 September and the public is encouraged to come with no tickets required.