Tournament Recap: June
Asian Junior Individual Championships
It’s been an outstanding outing for the national juniors at the recently concluded Asian Junior Individual Championships as Malaysia regained supremacy in the region.
The Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia sent a huge squad – a total of 31 players, just one short of the max quota of 32 players to compete in the eight categories – 4 each for boys and girls.
And the results were very encouraging as Malaysia claimed five of the eight titles at stake with three more runners-up finishes. On top of that, six more players also finished as semi-finalists, making this one of the nation’s finest showings in recent years.
Here is the breakdown of each age-group and its respective category.
Four boys took part in the Under-13 competition. Unfortunately, all four of them met each other in the second round with Low Wa Sern getting the better of Abdul Fahmi Basir and Wong Lee Hong taking out British Junior Open Under-11 champion M. Nickhileswar.
Wa Sern enjoyed another a fine showing in the quarter-finals as he dispatched of top seed Avalokit Singh of India but came short against Lee Hong in the semi-finals. And Lee Hong would go all the way as he eventually defeated Christopher Buraga of the Philippines for the title.
There were some expectations on British Junior Open Under-13 runner-up Harith Danial but he would come up short against compatriot Shamiel Haeyzad Sharulhisam in the second round. Shamiel was in turn beaten by top seed Mohammad Hamza Khan of Pakistan in the last eight.
Meanwhile second seed Joachim Chuah had a solid tournament, making it through to the final without dropping a single game. He however just fell short against Hamza in the final.
One category which produced a surprising finish. Amir Amirul was the top seed and favourite to do better than a runners-up finish in 2018. But he came up short against the fast improving C. Ameeshenraj in the quarter-finals. British Junior Open Under-15 champion Ameeshenraj who is plunging into the Under-17 category for the first time, almost pulled off another upset in the last four but just narrowly lost out in five games to India’s Neel Joshi.
In the bottom half of the draw, Nathan Kueh enjoyed a superb tournament as he battled
illness and a two-game deficit to beat compatriot Duncan Lee in the semi-finals. The Sarawakian once again showed great fighting spirit in the final as he bounced back from an opening game loss to defeat Neel. It would be the 16-year-old’s biggest career win so far and a very well deserved one.
An underwhelming showing by the boys in this category with Siow Yee Xian and Danial Nurhaqiem both succumbing to pressure in the top half of the draw to the same player – India’s Veer Chotrani. Joint 5th-8th seed Danial lost a close three-setter in the second round while top seed Yee Xian blew a 2-1 advantage to lose in five in the quarter-finals.
Elsewhere, Wee Ming Hock lived up to his seeding by making the second round before losing in five to 3rd-4th seed Tushar Shahani of India. Second seed Darryl Gan was however a disappointment too as he was easily beaten in straight games by unseeded 14-year-old Pakistani Hamza Sharif in the last eight.
A top showing by Anrie Goh in this category. The Kedahan was simply outstanding all week as she first fought back to beat Hong Kong’s Au Ling Yu in the quarter-finals then whipped top seed Anahat Singh in the semi-finals. In the final, she overturned a two-game deficit to beat Hong Kong’s Kwong Ena for the crown.
Its also a good week for the unseeded Doyce Lee as she took out two seeds en route to a semi-final finish. Whitney Wilson and C. Sashmini also put up promising performances although this was not to be their week.
Aira Azman showed that she’s truly a class above in this age-group as she pretty much powered her way to the title. Its her fourth straight Asian Junior crown, having won the Under-13 title in 2016 and 2017 and the Under-15 title in 2018.
The trio of K. Sehveetrraa, Yasshmita Jadishkumar and U. Thanusaa also put up a good showing and fought hard on court before bowing out respectively. A promising performance from the trio indeed.
A week to remember for Yee Xin Ying as she shows that she is finally emerging from the shadows of those before her. The left-hander claimed a big win over fellow Sabahan and second seed Jessica Keng in the semi-finals. Unfortunately, she found top seed Chan Sin Yuk of Hong Kong just too hot to handle in the final.
Meanwhile the trio of Jessica, Wong Heng Wai and M. Kiroshanna will not be too happy with their results as they will have felt they could’ve done better.
Chan Yiwen went in with a lot to prove and she certainly did right by justifying her top seeding and becoming only the fourth Malaysian girl to defend the Under-19 title. Her win over Aifa Azman in the final, was the first time in a long while she has gotten the better of the Kedahan.
Aifa meanwhile will be disappointed at failing to take her chances but will surely bounce back for the World Junior Championships. Meanwhile its also a decent showing for Ooi Kah Yan who made the semi-finals and Noor Ainaa Amani Ampandi who finished in the top eight.
A total of 8 Malaysian took part in the Golden Open that was held in Kalgoorlie, Australia. But it wasn’t the best results for everyone with the likes of Ong Sai Hung, Siow Yee Xian and Wee Ming Hock all crashing out in the early rounds.
The trio of Addeen Idrakie, Syafiq Kamal and Darren Rahul Pragasam all made the semifinals with the latter also impressive in defeating fourth seed Bryan Lim. But it will be another disappointment for Addeen as he again lost to Japan’s Ryunosuke Tsukue in the last four.
Second seed and world No. 93 Syafiq made the final but he too was unable to get the better of Tsukue, losing in four games as he missed out on a chance to nail his second title of the year.
Three Malaysians took part in the event in Kalgoorlie with Aika Azman and Lai Wen Li only making the quarter-finals. Chan Yiwen would claim the win over the fourth seeded Wen Li as she gatecrashed the semi-finals. She was however no match for top seed Vanessa Chu of Hong Kong in the last four.
New Zealand International Classic
Wen Li would be the only Malaysian taking part in the New Zealand meet and it proved to be a week to remember for her. Seeded first, the Sabahan took on all comers as she powered into the final where she would face homester Emma Millar for the title. And having came short in a few tournaments earlier this year, the 19-year-old finally came through to win her maiden Professional Squash Association (PSA) Tour title. The win also saw Wen Li named the PSA Player of the Month for June.
Tournament Recap: May
Ng Eain Yow
Its a good month for the new national No. 1. Having usurped Nafiizwan Adnan to be the top ranked Malaysian, the 21-year-old Eain Yow showed that he’s got the game to back that up by reaching his first ever semi-final of the Asian Individual Squash Championships. He even defeated defending champion Max Lee of Hong Kong in some style in the quarter-finals as well. Not a bad way to make an impression although he will be disappointed with his first round defeat at the British Open to Patrick Rooney – a player mhe has always beaten during their junior days.
May saw Nafiizwan bow out from squash finally. The 33-year-old had been mulling his decision for some time and the Asian Individual Squash Championships in front of the home crowd was the stage for him to bid goodbye to the sport. It wasn’t his best performance however as he was blown apart by eventual champion Saurav Ghosal of India in the quarter-finals. But no one is going to fault him for a lack of effort.
Ivan is still trying to find his best form this year and May really wasn’t it. He gave a solid display in the Asian Individuals but just fell short in the quarter-finals to Hong Kong’s Leo Au. He will also be disappointed in a first round defeat at the British Open – losing to Scotland’s Greg Lobban in four games.
Really poor month for the 25-year-old. Addeen did well enough in April but all that good work went to waste as he was unceremoniously stunned by Japan’s Ryunosuke Tsukue in the second round of the Asian Individuals.
Its also nothing much to shout about for Syafiq in May. He got through to the third round of the Asian Individuals but he will be disappointed at himself for not giving Hong Kong’s Yip Tsz Fung a tougher challenge.
Ong Sai Hung
The youngster earned a chance to compete in the Asian Individuals but he was quickly sent packing in his first match – in the second round against Hong Kong’s Max Lee. He did play well in patches and earned some praise from Max for his efforts.
Not in action – Darren Rahul Pragasam, Ryan Pasqual, Siow Yee Xian, Duncan Lee, Farez Izwan, Hafiz Zhafri.
May was also Nicol David’s final ever appearances on the Professional Squash Association (PSA) Tour before she calls it a day in June. The 35-year-old played in two tournaments in England – the Manchester Open and the British Open and it was really more of a jog down memory lane for the eight-time world champion. She lost in the second round in both tournaments but will look back fondly at a 20-year career in which she has won everything that was on offer.
Low Wee Wern
A really good month for Wee Wern as she continues to show her strength on her comeback trail. Having finished runner-up in the Macau Open in April, the Penangite quickly followed up with a semi-final showing at the Asian Individuals. She could have gone one step further if she had more match fitness but that will come in time. The British Open was also a decent outing for Wee Wern as she made the second round before losing to a very strong Joelle King of New Zealand.
A truly disappointing showing from the world No. 47. Rachel was expected to do a lot better in the Asian Individuals but old habits die hard and she blew several match point opportunities before losing to a much lower-ranked Tanvi Khanna of India in the third round. Its back to the drawing board for her.
The US-based Sivasangari showed that she is very much the future of Malaysian squash with yet another strong showing, this time at the Asian Individuals. The Kedahan may not have played much since enrolling at Cornell University in January but she hasn’t lost her touch much. She made it to the semi-finals before bowing out to a very sharp Joshna Chinappa of India.
Lai Wen Li
Had a rare opportunity to compete in the Asian Individuals and she pretty much performed to what was expected, nothing more. Got past a tricky second round match against Risa Sugimoto of Japan but was outclassed by world No. 11 Annie Au of Hong Kong in the next round.
Lived to her seedings by reaching the semi-finals of the Sandgate Open in Queensland, Australia. The 22-year-old was seeded fourth for the tournament and did enough to beat Courtney Mather and Alex Haydon before she was sent packing by top seed Sarah Cardwell of Australia.
May is not Yiwen’s finest moment as she just wasn’t up to the task in the Asian Individuals. Its tough luck getting drawn to play Wee Wern in her first match and she showed that she’s still a long way off in the straight games defeat.
Put up a much better showing compared to April. The 16-year-old made the third round of the Asian Individuals where she lost to fellow Kedahan Sivasangari. Its worth noting that she did well enough to take a game off Sivasangari and its a good progress with the the World Junior Championships in August in mind.
Not in action – Ooi Kah Yan, Noor Ainaa Amani Ampandi, Jessica Keng, Wong Heng Wai, Yee Xin Ying, Angie Ooi.
Tournament Recap: April
Ng Eain Yow
April was a good month for Eain Yow as he achieved a couple of firsts. He overtook Nafiizwan Adnan to be the new national No. 1 for the first time even though both their rankings dropped. But if just claiming the status as the top player in the country wasn’t enough, he did his talking on the court as he reached the quarter-finals of the Macau Open. It is his first PSA World Tour quarter-final showing of that level and even took out Nafiizwan along the way.
The Commonwealth Games bronze medallist is winding down his career and the results certainly seemed that way. He only made the second round in both the tournaments he played in April – the Macau Open and the El Gouna International Open. Fair credit to Nafiizwan though as in both tournaments he went down not without first giving a tough fight.
Ivan is still trying to find his best form this and April certainly wasn’t it. He played in Macau and the El Gouna and in both tournaments he exited in the early rounds. To date he has only won 3 of 8 matches on the PSA Tour this year and there is a lot of work for the 28-year-old to catch up to.
It was a good run for Addeen right till the end of April. Starting from the end of March in which he won the Elanora Open, the 25-year-old has won 10 of 11 matches. He made the semi-finals of the SRAM PSA 1 and came back stronger two weeks later to claim the SRAM PSA 2 title. He’s now back up to No. 88 in the world rankings.
It was a decent run for Syafiq in April. He went on a 7-match winning streak which saw him capture the SRAM PSA 1. But that streak was cut short as he appeared mentally fatigued in the SRAM PSA 2 final defeat to Addeen. Climbed to No. 89 in the world rankings but has fallen below Addeen in the national pecking order.
Darren Rahul Pragasam
The Seremban lad is improving steadily and it can be seen in his results. There is still a lot of work to be done but he can take the positives from a quarter-final and semi-final finish at the SRAM PSA 1 and 2 respectively.
Others – Ong Sai Hung, Siow Yee Xian, Farez Izwan, Amir Amirul, Duncan Lee, Hafiz Zhafri
Of the lot, Amir was probably the only one with the better showing. He reached the quarter-finals of the SRAM PSA 2 and helped Malaysia win the SEA Cup mixed team gold medal. He will, however, be disappointed at failing to reach the individual final of the SEA Cup. Duncan also had one good showing where he made the top eight of the SRAM PSA 1 while Yee Xian played long and hard matches but ultimately lost in the second rounds of both SRAM PSA 1 and 2. The likes of Farez, Sai Hung and Hafiz still need a lot more work as their results aren’t particularly impressive.
The eight-time world champion is really just enjoying her remaining days on the PSA World Tour before she hangs up her racquet in June. There is no pressure on her, and she is just playing the game she loves. She made the second round of both the DPD Open and the El Gouna International Open and drew more attention with her ability to play stunning winners.
Low Wee Wern
Big month for Wee Wern as she certainly showed that she is not done and dusted yet. The nightmare of being sidelined for nearly two years is now a thing of the past as she made a stunning run to reach the final of the Macau Open. She is now back up to No. 28 in the world and if she keeps this up, it’s not impossible for her to break back into the top 20 or maybe even the top 10.
A rather lacklustre month for Rachel as she showed patches of brilliance but couldn’t back it up with enough consistency. She took the fight to higher ranked players Zeina Mickawy of Egypt and Hollie Naughton of Canada but didn’t have enough to pull off upset wins.
It’s hard to imagine that Sivasangari has only just played two PSA tournaments this year. She’s fallen off the radar a little since enrolling in Cornell University but she’s showed she’s still very much an important piece for the future of Malaysian squash after claiming the St Louis Racquet Club Pro event title. The 20k PSA Challenger Tour event is her biggest title to date and surely there is more to come.
Ooi Kah Yan
Quite a decent month for the Seremban girl. She reached the quarter-finals of the Scottish Open and was runner-up in the SRAM PSA 2. There is a lot that she can still improve on but the signs are good for her so far. The results are also a boost for her ahead of the World Junior Championships in August.
Lai Wen Li
The Sabahan played in her first two PSA events this year – the SRAM PSA 1 and 2 and reached the semi-finals in both events. It’s not bad results but she will be disappointed at herself for failing to take her opportunities, especially in the first event against Chan Yiwen.
It’s an up-and-down month for Yiwen. The 18-year-old showed that she can be very dangerous as she powered home to win the SRAM PSA 1 title for her maiden professional title. But she was brought crashing back down to earth after being drawn with Satomi Watanabe in the SRAM PSA 2 two weeks later.
Noor Ainaa Amani Ampandi
Easily one of the best players in April. Ainaa has shown just how far she has come when she put up a matured display to bag a double at the SEA Cup, winning both the individual and team gold medals. On the PSA tour, she also powered into the final of the SRAM PSA 1 before losing to Yiwen. Her best showing was however reserved for the SRAM PSA 2 as she took out Aifa Azman – a player she has never beaten before – in straight games.
A very disappointing month for the World Junior Championship hopeful. She had a decent showing at the Scottish Open by reaching the second round before losing a tough matchup with Melissa Alves of France. But she was completely off her game in the uncharacteristic defeat to Ainaa. It’s back to the drawing board for the Kedahan.
March’s player of the month can’t be too happy with her April showing. Jessica failed to defend her SEA Cup gold medal. She made the quarter-finals of the SRAM PSA 1 and 2 but lost to both Ainaa and Kah Yan respectively.
Others – Wong Heng Wai, Yee Xin Ying, M. Kiroshanna, Amirah Rusydina Rosli
Of the lot, Sabahan Xin Ying showed really good potential by reaching the quarter-finals of the SRAM PSA 2. The 15-year-old has been rapidly improving and surely there will be more to come. Amirah also did well to reach the semi-finals of the SRAM 1 but was outclassed by Ainaa. Heng Wai and Kiroshanna both had decent runs in the two PSA tournaments but it’s not too impressive
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.