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.
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.
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.
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.
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