March Player of the Month: Jessica Keng
The Sabahan has always been one of the more promising players in the national junior setup. Consistency however has bugged the 16-year-old’s progress as she can blow hot or cold. Still, 2019 has been a good run for Jessica and she stepped up when it mattered to claim a double gold medal haul for Sabah at the MSSM competition and to also earn SRAM’s March Player of the Month award. It has been quite a while since Jessica Keng made headlines by winning the Under-13 title of the British Junior Open in 2015. Since then, Jessica’s progress has somewhat slowed down a little.
But the Sabahan is still a very good player at junior level, evident when she won the SEA Cup individual gold medal in 2018 and made the quarter-finals in the Under-17 category of the British Juniors. She was also the fourth member of the girls’ team that bagged the Asian Junior Team Championships title in January. It is in March however that Jessica really lived up to expectations. Despite reeling from a semi-final defeat in the first leg of the CIMB National Junior Circuit, the 16-year-old bounced back strongly to take the individual gold medal at the MSSM (Malaysian schools) competition by beating fellow Sabahan Yee Xin Ying in the final.
Not satisfied with just that, Jessica then led Sabah to a superb victory in the team event, beating Kedah 2-1 in the final. It is Sabah’s first team triumph and shows just how far the East Malaysian state has come. More importantly, Jessica has also shown that she is maturing well and is able to take on back-to-back competitions in both individual and team events. With some major junior events such as the Asian Junior Championships and the World Junior Championships just a few months away, it is certainly a timely boost for the national squad.
“Winning the MSSM gold medal was very important for me because I felt down after losing out in the NJC,” said Jessica. I trained harder since the NJC loss and I managed to polish up my playing style. I certainly proved myself on court with the MSSM gold. It is also great that we won the team gold because Sabah has never won it before so it’s creating some sort of history as well.”
Jessica’s fine showing certainly merits her taking the March Player of the Month award. She is also the first women’s player to grab the award this year. But Jessica isn’t satisfied just yet and has also set her sights on defending her single crown at the SEA Cup which will be held in Manila, Philippines from April 9-13. SRAM congratulates Jessica on her recent fine form and achievements and hopes she uses this as a stepping stone to keep on producing outstanding results in the coming days.
February Player of the Month: Addeen Idrakie
The diminutive player has been faithful to the national setup for many years now. At 25, Addeen is already in his mid-20s and has mostly endured a career that have plagued by inconsistency and bad luck with injuries. Addeen however put that behind him with a fine performance at the Singapore Squash Circuit to take home SRAM’s February Player of the Month award. It’s certainly frustrating to be a player in Addeen Idrakie’s mould. He’s hardworking, down-to-earth and generally an all-round nice guy on and off the court. However he’s never been blessed with the best physique for squash and he’s always had to work extra hard on court.
Addeen’s best weapons is his speed, which he makes full use of due to his shorter stature. That however doesn’t work well when he’s down injured. Having gone through a couple of unlucky breaks in his career, Addeen is now only ranked No. 98 in the world and has seen younger players surpass him over the years. One would say Addeen has stagnated and isn’t going anywhere in squash. But the Selangor-born doesn’t give up easily. After a fresh start to 2019 where he made the semi-finals of the Hong Kong Challenge Cup in January, the now 25-year-old kept that momentum going by clinching the Singapore Squash Circuit title last month.
The Singapore meet is only a closed satellite event but it meant the world for Addeen, especially for his confidence. He certainly showed plenty of that in beating the home favourite Samuel Kang 11-7, 11-8, 12-10 in the final.With the large budget cuts means Addeen is only given five tournaments a year, the win also serves up a reminder that he is still very much relevant in the national setup. And Addeen is certainly looking to use that as a stepping stone to continue pushing up the rankings this year.
“I’m happy with my performance because I’ve played Samuel twice last year, losing one and winning the other so I know he’s a good player,” admitted Addeen. More importantly though, the tournament in Singapore is to serve as a preparation for my next PSA events. Since I can only go for five tournaments under the budget allocated to me, I have to be smarter and pick tournaments that I can do well in order to gain the rankings points. My next tournaments will be two events in Canada. One is a PSA 20 and another a PSA 10. It’s going to be tough for me but I’m looking to at least make the quarter-finals. Following that I’m heading off to Australia at the end of the month for a PSA 5 event. I’m funding this Australian trip on my own and my target is to win that. It’s going to be a very busy month for me but I’m feeling prepared and confident and hopefully everything turns out well for me this time.”
That’s just the commitment that earned him the Player of the Month for February and it is with good hope that Addeen keeps up his momentum and continue to produce results.
January Player of the Month: Siow Yee Xian
The bespectacled-Melakan enjoyed a exceptional finish to the British Junior Open as he exceeded expectations by reaching the semi-finals. He also helped Malaysia to a joint third placed finish at the Asian Junior Team Championships by winning all his matches and is deservingly SRAM’s January Player of the Month. SIOW Yee Xian would not have looked back fondly at 2018 to say the least. The lanky Melakan blew a chance to win the Under-19 title at the Asian Junior Individual Championships and also could not step up when needed as Malaysia suffered a quarter-final defeat to the Czech Republic at the World Junior Team Championships. But Yee Xian knows just how to put disappointment behind him as he made sure not to have any regrets by delivering sensational performances in both the British Juniors and the Asian Junior Teams.
First, he gave Czech’s Ondrej Vorlicek an 11-9, 11-2, 11-1 thumping in the quarter-finals of the British Juniors to make the semi-finals for the first time ever. It was sweet revenge for Yee Xian who was beaten by Vorlicek in the team meet of the world juniors last year. He then put up feisty challenge to home favourite Nick Wall before losing 6-11, 11-9, 4-11, 9-11 in the semi-finals. Yee Xian was also beaten 8-11, 5-11, 2-11 by Egypt’s Omar El Torkey in the third place playoff. It was nevertheless still a remarkable achievement as no Malaysian boy had made the semi-finals of the Under-19 category since Ng Eain Yow in 2016. Yee Xian then played his part well as he won all the matches he played although Malaysia fell short in their defeat to India in the semi-finals of the Asian Junior Team meet. For Yee Xian however, the run at the British Juniors was the one that mattered most to him and it was a shot of confidence that he could take on the world’s best.
“I’ve never even made the quarter-finals of the British Juniors before this and I’m really happy that I made it until the semi-finals this time,” revealed the world No. 361. “Of course it was a bit disappointing the team didn’t do so well in the Asian meet but its a learning experience as a team. It’s just like my own experience when I lost to Vorlicek at the world junior teams last year. I know the team will learn from this defeat and grow stronger together for the next tournament. As for myself, my next target is to win the Asian Junior Individual and to go on to the World Junior Championships and do well as well. I certainly feel that I have a chance after the British Juniors. I feel that I’ve proven to myself that I can compete among the best and it’s really a shot of self-belief,” added Yee Xian.
The Asian and World Juniors will be Yee Xian’s last junior events as he turns 19 in October so he will surely be looking to cap his junior career on a high. But for he now he will deservingly earn the honour as SRAM’s first recipient of Player of the Month for the month of January.