Tournament Recap: March
The top three men’s players – Nafiizwan Adnan, Ng Eain Yow and Ivan Yuen qualified to compete in the Canada Cup which is PSA World Tour Silver event from March 3-7 in Toronto. The competition was held immediately after the World Championships in Chicago and the trio extended their stay instead of flying back to Malaysia. All three had a good start with Nafiizwan picking up a 14-12, 11-7, 11-2 win over American Todd Harrity and Ivan taking out Egypt’s Omar Abdel Meguid 11-8, 11-8, 18-16. Eain Yow on the other hand was taken to five games before prevailing 10-12, 11-3, 14-16, 11-4, 11-6 against Pakistan’s Tayyab Aslam.
But none of the three got past the second round, all falling to much higher ranked opponents. Nafiizwan lost 7-11, 11-8, 7-11, 11-13 to England’s Declan James; Eain Yow was beaten 6-11, 8-11, 3-11 by Egypt’s Mohamed Abouelghar and Ivan crashed to a 6-11, 13-15, 9-11 defeat against second seed Marwan El Shorbagy.
Eain Yow was the sole Malaysian competing in the Grasshopper Cup which is a PSA World Tour Gold event in Zurich, Switzerland. The 21-year-old is enjoying a career high ranking of No. 35 in the world and had hoped to make a breakthrough in a higher level tournament.The former world junior champion certainly put up a good display but unfortunately still fell short in the first round. It wasn’t a bad defeat though as he took world No. 20 Declan James of England the full distance before bowing out 11-13, 11-8, 8-11, 11-7, 5-11 after 67 minutes.
Mohd Syafiq Kamal and Addeen Idrakie were the two Malaysians down for the Manitoba Open in Winnipeg, Canada which is a PSA Challenger Tour 20. Both of them however, did not fare too well to say the least. Syafiq, back after a month sidelined by injury, was beaten 3-11, 12-10, 11-13, 11-9, 10-12 in the first round by Pakistan’s Shahjahan Khan. Addeen got past the higher ranked Bernat Jaume of Spain 11-5, 12-10, 11-9 in the first round but was sent packing by Egyptian Omar Abdel Meguid in the following round.
It was a slight reverse in fortunes for Syafiq and Addeen in the Lethbridge Pro-Am, a PSA Challenger Tour 10 a week later although both of them didn’t really play to their best abilities. This time Addeen was sent packing in the opening round, losing 4-11, 9-11, 9-11 to local player Shawn Delierre. Syafiq did better in beating Germany’s Yannik Omlor 12-10, 11-6, 11-7 in the first round. But the left-hander met his match in the quarter-finals, losing to Meguid 5-11, 7-11, 7-11.
Hong Kong Challenge Cup
Four Malaysians – Darren Rahul Pragasam, Ong Sai Hung, Farez Izwan and veteran independent Elvinn Keo competed in the PSA Challenger Tour 5 HK Challenge Cup. However, only Sai Hung and Elvinn lived up to their seedings by reaching the quarter-finals before going down to the top two seeds Wong Chi Him and Henry Leung, both of Hong Kong, respectively. Darren was the biggest letdown as he lost in the second round to Japan’s Naoki Hayashi despite being seeded fifth. Farez was beaten in the first round by Hong Kong’s Matthew Lai.
Black Ball Open
Eight-time world champion Dato’ Nicol David, in her final few tournaments before hanging up her racquet for good in June, was the only Malaysian in action at the Black Ball Open in Egypt. The former world No. 1, who is now down to No. 21 in the world, however did enjoy the best outing in the PSA World Tour Gold event as she was beaten in the first round by India’s Joshna Chinappa.
Three women – Ooi Kah Yan, Aifa Azman and Aika Azman – competed in the PSA Challenger Tour 10 event that was held in Manchester. All three however did not get very far in the competition. Kah Yan downed Switzerland’s Celine Walser 12-10, 11-9, 6-11, 11-9 in the first round but lost 3-11, 5-11, 7-11 to top seed Julianne Courtice of England in the second round. Aifa scored an 11-2, 11-9, 11-2 win over Brazil’s Bruna Petrillo in the first round but lost 5-11, 8-11, 7-11 to Scotland’s Alison Thomson in the next round. Aika on the other hand was beaten 7-11, 6-11, 11-13 by wildcard Elise Lazarus in the first round.
March was a big month for the junior players with two main events – the CIMB National Junior Circuit 1st leg and the MSSM (Malaysian schools) competition taking place.
CIMB NJC 1st leg
In the boys’ Under-19 category, Danial Nurhaqiem made it up for a poor showing at the British Junior Open in January by coming up tops against Duncan Lee. The 17-year-old was on song as he downed Duncan 11-3, 12-10, 11-8 in the final. The Under-17 title went to FT’s Joachim Chuah as he defeated Selangor’s S. Sachin Kumar 11-8, 11-8, 11-7 while Penang’s Kelven Lee Kai Wen, who was only seeded joint fifth-eighth, went all the way to the final before beating Douglas Chee, also of Penang, 12-10, 11-4, 11-9.
There were upsets in the girls’ Under-19 category as Noor Aina Amani Ampandi first defeated top seed Jessica Keng before beating second seed Ooi Kah Yan 11-6, 9-11, 11-7, 7-11, 12-10 for the title. No upsets however in the Under-17 age group as top seed K. Sehveetrraa of Kedah stormed to the title by beating N. Shasmithaa of Selangor 11-7, 9-11, 11-4, 11-6 while Eugenia Sulan David took the Under-15 crown by beating Iris Chieng 11-9, 11-9, 11-9 in an all-Sarawak final.
The MSSM saw the rise of Sabah as Duncan Lee and Jessica Keng put their disappointments at the NJC behind them for a grand double. Duncan proved to be the top in his age-group after putting up a commanding display throughout the tournament before powering past surprise finalist Nathan Kueh of Sarawak 11-6, 11-2, 11-8 in the final. Jessica on the other hand ensured Sabah had a memorable campaign as she fought hard to take the Under-18 title, beating teammate Yee Xin Ying 12-10, 11-6, 9-11, 11-7 in the final.
Tournament Recap: February
The national No. 1 started his year in February by competing in the Pittsburgh Open. He got past Wales’ Peter Creed in the second round before losing in straight games in the quarter-finals to Egypt’s Zahed Salem. After the Pittsburgh meet, Nafiizwan went on to Chicago where he competed in the World Championships. It was however a tough outing for the world No. 36 as he lost in four games to Egypt’s Mohamed Reda.
Ng Eain Yow
The former world junior champion took a long offtime after the Tournament of Champions in January before returning to the United States where he competed in the World Championships. Not the best outing for the youngster as he was soundly beaten by former world No. 8 Fares Dessouky of Egypt in the first round.
The world No. 45 played in two competitions in February and both were in the United States. He first competed in the Pittsburgh Open where he got past Mexico’s Alfredo Avila in five in the first round but then went down in five games to Switzerland’s Nicolas Mueller in the second round. After Pittsburgh, Ivan went on to Chicago but was no match for England’s James Willstrop, losing in straight games in the first round.
Siow Yee Xian
SRAM’s Player of the Month for January kept up his consistent showing in February. Fresh from a British Junior Open semi-final finish, the Melakan just had the edge as he topped the competition to win the Under-19 category at the CIMB Foundation National Junior Championships.
Not in action – Mohd Syafiq Kamal, Darren Rahul Pragasam, Addeen Idrakie.
It’s a big month for the Malaysian legend. The eight-time world champion and former world No. 1 announced her intention to retire just days before the World Championships started. She would have loved a final swansong but unfortunately found France’s world No. 5 Camille Serme just too hot to handle in the third round.
Low Wee Wern
It’s a disappointing month for Wee Wern to say the least. The Penangite would have hoped to at least clear the first round of the World Championships. But despite making the long haul flight, the 28-year-old was completely outgunned by Egyptian Nadine Shahin in the first round.
The 22-year-old had three tournaments in the US. First was the Cleveland Classic where she got past Holland’s Milou van der Heijden in the first round before crashing out against world No. 4 Nour El Tayeb. That was followed by the Cincinnati Cup where she also reached the second round only to lose to Egypt’s Mariam Metwally. Rachel however will be massively disappointed with her showing in the World Championships as she only lasted 21 minutes against Nour in the first round – her second consecutive beating at the hands of the Egyptian.
Lai Wen Li
The Sabahan will be disappointed to have missed out on opportunities to compete at the British Junior Open and the Asian Junior Team Championships. But the 18-year-old put that frustration behind her as she rose to occasion to claim the Under-19 title at the CIMB Foundation National Junior Championships. Not a bad way to mark her final junior event.
Not in action – S. Sivasangari.