It’s a home double as Malaysia beat the top seeds in the finals in KL …
Malaysia bag the double after taking down top seeds
Malaysia clinched a sensational double at the Asian Team Championships after taking down the top seeds in both the men’s and women’s events.
The Malaysian women were in great form as they reclaimed the Asian Team Championships title from Hong Kong.
Malaysia, who are record nine-time winners of the competition, put the painful memory of failing to reach the final at the 2018 edition well behind them as they clinched a 2-1 win over defending champions Hong Kong at the National Squash Centre, Bukit Jalil.
It was certainly redemption, both for the team and for captain Rachel Arnold in particular. The world No 39 had put in a woeful performance during the semi-finals as she was beaten in straight games by Japan’s Satomi Watanabe.
There was no mistake this time however as Rachel came on court first and clinched an impressive 11-6, 8-11, 11-7, 11-2 over Liu Tsz Ling. Hong Kong however struck back as the experienced Tong Tsz Wing proved too strong for Noor Ainaa Amani Ampandi in an 11-8, 11-6, 6-11, 11-9 win.
Malaysia were however counting on Malaysian Open winner Aifa Azman to deliver. And the Kedahan, fresh from reaching a career high No 36 in the world, was dependable as ever as she delivered a commanding 11-4, 11-3, 11-6 win over world No 40 Ho Tze Lok.
It was an impressive result by the Malaysian women who are missing two of their best players in world No 29 S. Sivasangari and former world No 5 Low Wee Wern who is recovering from a knee surgery earlier this year.
“It’s really nice to have a team meet and do well too because it’s been a while since we played a team event,” said Rachel. “It’s a nice feeling and it’s nice to have team effort and its also a good change of pace compared to individual competition.
“Personally, I was really disappointed with myself after the semi-finals. I tried not to think about it and I’m glad I did much better today. It was really tough coming back on in the first match after a tough defeat but the team really helped me through it.”
Said Aifa, “It was definitely a tough match but Rachel did well and Ainaa also fought hard. Rachel’s win really eased the pressure and I went in there knowing I needed to start strong and I didn’t give Hong Kong any chance to comeback.
“I’m definitely very happy to get the win for the team because I was feeling a little tired after the Malaysian Open and I started the competition not playing as well as I should.”
With the win, the Malaysian women have now won the Asian team meet a record 10 times.
Buoyed by the women’s success, the men’s team stepped up when it really mattered as they fought hard for a 2-1 win over top seeds India.
India were however not going down without a fight and Mahesh Mangaonkar equalised by beating Syafiq Kamal 11-9, 11-7, 11-8. And the 31-year-old Ivan showed just why he’s a dependable anchor for the team as he kept his focus to beat Ramit Tandon 11-8, 8-11, 11-3, 11-1.
“It was never playing in the decider as India are a very experienced team as well,” said Ivan. “Today the team just went in there to play our game and to fight for every point and I definitely played to the best I could.
“I had my injury concerns earlier this year but I am so glad that I have managed to sort that out. I’m just grateful that I have managed to overcome that and come back stronger and everything is definitely going right for us now.”
The win is Malaysia’s fourth men title but their first since 2008.
It is also the first time since 2008 that Malaysia did the double in the Asian team meet.
The final day of Pool matches saw the playoff places decided, with Japan upsetting fourth seeds Pakistan to reach the men’s semis.
Top seeds through to Finals as Malaysia targets a double
Malaysia are on course for the double at the Asian Team Championships after both men’s and women’s teams stormed into the final.
The women’s team were always looking comfortable despite an offday by Rachel Arnold as they blew past Japan 2-1 at the National Squash Centre, Bukit Jalil. Teenager Aifa Azman, who reached a career high No 36 in the world this month, was just a class above as she romped past Risa Sugimoto 11-4, 11-4, 11-5 in a 2-1-3 order of play.
Japan however struck back with Satomi Watanabe running the show to beat Rachel 11-5, 11-2, 11-4. But Malaysia always had it under control and Noor Ainaa Amani Ampandi proved too strong for Rafu Takahashi in an 11-3, 11-2, 11-5 win.
“There was definitely some pressure as the team was counting on me to deliver,” said Ainaa. “But I prepared well and I went out there feeling confident and just played my squash. It’s definitely a good feeling delivering the winning point and it’s also good to live up to the team’s expectations by getting us into the final.”
With the women’s team safely through, the men’s team also stepped up by blanking Japan 2-0 in their semi-final. Ivan Yuen delivered the first point with a convincing 11-3, 11-9, 11-7 win over Tomotaka Endo.
World No 18 Ng Eain Yow then sealed the win with an imperious performance to down Ryosei Kobayashi 11-4, 11-2, 11-1. The dead rubber between Addeen Idrakie and Ryunosuke Tsukue was not played.
“I think my preparation today was really good and both me and Ivan really stepped up because we knew Japan’s No 3 is really strong. We saw him played well to beat Pakistan’s No 3 on Thursday and we didn’t want to take a chance.
“But with that said, I always believed the team was capable to deliver and with less pressure on me, I played some of best squash this week. Our first target was always to reach the final and now I don’t see why we can’t take the title as well.
“Our performance this week has put us in a good position for the final and it’s always nice to finish our matches early to get some extra rest,” added Eain Yow.
The men’s team will take on top seeds India for the title. India stepped it up when it mattered as they outplayed Hong Kong 2-0 in the other semi-final. World No 40 Ramit Tandon gave India the lead by beating world No 62 Henry Leung 4-11, 11-5, 11-8, 11-5.
The in-form world No 15 Saurav Ghosal, still fresh from winning the Malaysian Open last week, then sealed the win by beating Yip Tsz Fung 10-12, 11-6, 11-6, 15-13.
The women’s will see Malaysia take on Hong Kong for the title. Hong Kong showed that they have better depth by edging India 2-1 in the semi-finals.
Ho Tze Lok had given Hong Kong the lead when she came from a game down to beat Sunayna Kuruvilla 9-11, 11-7, 11-4, 11-8. World No 12 Joshna Chinappa however levelled for India by beating Liu Tsz Ling 9-11, 11-5, 11-7, 11-5 in the first string.
In the deciding rubber, the more experienced Tong Tsz Wing was just too good for Urwashi Joshi as she clinched a 12-10, 11-4, 11-6 win.
For the record, Malaysia have not bagged the double at the Asian Teams since the 2006 and 2008 edition where both teams took the title twice in a row.
Top seeds ease through, Japan men gatecrash semis
The Malaysian men and women’s squash team have both cleared their first challenges after checking into the semi-finals of the Asian Team Championships as group winners.
The men’s team, who had passed their biggest test by beating third seeds Hong Kong 2-1 on Wednesday, never wavered in their focus as they completed their Pool B matches by beating Sri Lanka 3-0 at the National Squash Centre, Bukit Jalil. In a 1-2-3 order of play, national No 1 Ng Eain Yow led by example by beating Shamil Wakeel 11-7, 11-7, 11-7 in just 17 minutes.
Ivan Yuen then doubled the lead with an 11-7, 11-9, 11-7 win over Ravindu Laksiri before Syafiq Kamal completed the win by beating Shariff Hakeem 11-3, 11-4, 11-5.
“I think today we were really just trying to recover from our tough match against Hong Kong and we were really looking to keep up our momentum,” said Eain Yow. “I think the team’s performance so far has been good although we were a little nervous initially as we have competed in team events in a long time. But we have gotten better day by day and it’s good to top the group while maintaining our confidence for the semi-finals.”
Malaysia will however have a surprise opponent in the four in the form of Japan. The fifth seeds gatecrashed the semi-finals after stunning fourth seeds and record 15-time champions Pakistan 2-1 in Pool A to finish as group runners-up behind top seeds India.
World No 269 Ryunosuke Tsukue delivered the winning point for Japan by beating world No 113 Amaad Fareed 12-10, 11-7, 11-6 in the deciding rubber.
Japan No 1 Ryosei Kobayashi had earlier given the team the lead by beating Tayyab Aslam 11-6, 10-12, 13-11, 11-3 before Nasir Iqbal levelled by beating Tomotaka Endo 11-9, 11-9, 11-7.
“We definitely did not expect to face Japan in the semi-finals but we know they have the quality and the potential,” said Eain Yow. “They are definitely very dangerous and we have to be at our best and be in the right mindset for it.”
The other semi-final will be between India and Hong Kong. Top seeds India downed Indonesia 3-0 to finish top of Pool A while Hong Kong secured their spot as Pool B runners-up after overcoming a tough Iran 3-0.
In the women’s competition, the Malaysian women oozed class by thumping the Philippines 3-0 to remain unbeaten in Pool B. Aifa Azman, Chan Yiwen and Noor Ainaa Amani Ampandi delivered the points with team captain Rachel Arnold rested.
The women’s team also go on to face Japan in the last four with top seeds Hong Kong taking on India in the other semi-final.
The semi-finals will start from 10am and all matches will be played on the glass court.
Day TWO : the top seeds all won again to secure their semi-final spots
Malaysian men and women team book semis spot after tough challenges
The Malaysian women’s team booked their spot in the semi-finals of the Asian Team Championships after an impressive 2-1 win over India in Pool B. Senior team debutants Aifa Azman and Noor Ainaa Amani Ampandi were the toast of the team as they delivered when it matter at the National Squash Centre, Bukit Jalil .
In a 2-3-1 order of play, 19-year-old Aifa, fresh from winning the Malaysian Open last week, gave the team the perfect start by beating Sunayna Kuruvilla 11-9, 11-4, 11-7. Ainaa, also 19, then rose to the challenge by beating Urwashi Joshi 11-5, 11-9, 11-8 to hand Malaysia an unassailable 2-0 lead.
“I wasn’t at my best but I definitely gave it my best on court and overcame the pressure,” said Ainaa.
“I was definitely a bit relieved to win because Rachel had a 50-50 chance against Joshna and my match turned out to be the match winner. It’s definitely a great experience competing in my first senior team event and there’s definitely a lot more pressure. It’s also tougher compared to junior events because the more experienced players do not give up easily and they fight for every point.”
In the first string tie, world No 43 Rachel Arnold took the fight to world No 12 Joshna Chinappa before falling short in an 11-9, 8-11, 7-11, 11-8, 9-11 defeat after 45 minutes.
“It was a pretty close game and I felt that I was playing catch up the whole time,” admitted Rachel.
“I’m happy with how I’m challenging the top players although I really wanted to get the win. But I think our team is still strong and have a good chance of doing well so we just need to keep playing well and supporting each other.”
Malaysia now have two wins from their group matches and should finish as group winners after they complete their final group match against the Philippines Day Three.
In Pool A, top seeds Hong Kong survived a scare by fourth seeds Japan to take a 2-1 win. Ho Tze Lok got the ball rolling by beating Risa Sugimoto 12-10, 11-3, 11-8 before Tong Tsz Wing sealed the win by beating Akari Midorikawa 11-4, 11-13, 11-3, 11-3. Japan however refused to roll over and Satomi Watanabe put up a stunning display to beating world No 41 Liu Tsz Ling 11-6, 11-8, 6-11, 11-9 in the first string tie.
“It’s been two years since I played in any international tournament and this is really my first proper tournament in a while,” said Watanabe. “I’m really enjoying it, getting to compete again but I also feel relieved because I wasn’t sure if I was doing the right thing.
Hong Kong’s win put them in the lead in Pool A and they finish up against Sri Lanka on Thursday with Japan take on South Korea.
In the men’s competition, the Malaysian men shrugged off a slight lapse from world No 18 Ng Eain Yow to clinch a 3-0 win over Iran. Syafiq Kamal and Addeen Idrakie had earlier stamped their class to hand Malaysia a solid 2-0 lead. Eain Yow on the other hand, was caught off guard by Alireza Shameli as he dropped the first game before roaring back for a 5-11, 11-3, 11-0, 11-4 win.
“I think my opponent played really well at the start and he definitely caught me off guard,” said Eain Yow. “But this was definitely a good wake up call and I needed tough games like this to get going because I cannot be expecting easy games.”
#In the evening match, Malaysia overcame another strong challenge by Hong Kong to claim a 2-1 win. Malaysia are now almost assured of top spot in Pool B and wrap up their group matches against Sri Lanka.
In Pool A, top seeds India are on course to finish as group winners. They first down Japan 3-0 in the morning session before fighting hard to beat rivals Pakistan 2-1 in the evening match. Ramit Tandon gave India the lead against Pakistan by beating Asim Khan 11-5, 11-9, 14-12.
Pakistan however levelled with Nasir Iqbal playing a superb match to beat Mahesh Mangaonkar 9-11, 13-11, 11-8, 11-7. And with his back against the wall, Saurav Ghosal delivered a gritty performance, coming from two games down to beat Tayyab Aslam 9-11, 7-11, 11-1, 11-7, 11-8 for the winning point.
“It was a difficult game as Pakistan played well. Nasir played well to take it to the rubber and Tayyab made it hard for me as well,” said Saurav. “But as the match went on, my movement and hitting got better and I eventually figured it out although it was hard. It was definitely a bit stressful with team matches especially when you’re down but supposed to win and it was a pretty gutsy performance for the most part.”
Day ONE : the Asian Team Champs got under way in KL, with all the results going the way of the higher seeds.
Day ONE : Malaysian teams off to roaring start, Hong Kong men suffer scare against South Korea
The Malaysian women’s team may be missing one of their best player for the 20th Asian Team Championships but confidence is still running high. National No 1 S. Sivasangari who is based in the United States, is unable to make the squad for the Asian teams as she has examinations to attend to.
But the world No 29, who is currently studying at Cornell University, is not sorely missed, especially with the form of Rachel Arnold and the recently-crowned Malaysian Open winner Aifa Azman. And world No 43 Rachel showed that she too can be counted on to lead after guiding the team into a comfortable 3-0 win over Iran in Pool B at the National Squash Centre, Bukit Jalil.
The 25-year-old oozed confidence as she scored an 11-5, 16-14, 11-2 win over Fereshteh Eghtedari to deliver Malaysia’s second point and also the winning point. Earlier, Noor Ainaa Amani Ampandi, making her senior team debut, overcame a lapse of concentration to beat Sogol Samoudi 11-5, 11-4, 6-11, 11-6.
Chan Yiwen wrapped up the win by beating Ailee Nayeri 11-4, 11-9, 11-5.
“I think the second game was a bit close as she gave it a good fight but I got my focus back to take the win,” said Rachel. “I definitely think we have a good chance to do well in this competition even though we are only the second seeds.
“I was a little disappointed with my Malaysian Open exit last week but that is why I am feeling extra determined this week. Of course there is a little more weight on my shoulders without Sivasangari but I do hope to step up and lead a little and I’m also feeling fresh and ready.”
Rachel certainly needs to be at her very best when Malaysia take on third seeds India in their second group match as she will be up against world No 12 Joshna Chinappa.
In Pool A, top seeds Hong Kong got down to business with a well contested 3-0 win over South Korea.
Fourth seeds Japan also enjoyed a winning start by blanking Sri Lanka 3-0.
Meanwhile in the men’s competition, national No 1 Ng Eain Yow was rested but the team still eased through their first match with a 3-0 win over Singapore. Ivan Yuen, Syafiq Kamal and Addeen Idrakie all delivered comfortably, winning their respective matches in just 20 minutes.
The second seeds then made it two wins out of two by beating South Korea 3-0 in the evening session. Addeen, Eain Yow and Ivan delivered the points with Syafiq rested.
In other Pool B matches, third seeds Hong Kong suffered a scare against South Korea with Henry Leung pushed to the limit by Yoo Jaejin before scraping by with a 12-10, 14-12, 8-11, 9-11, 11-4 win.
The Koreans did strike back with Lee Minwoo beating Lau Tsz Kwan 11-4, 11-6, 11-8. Veteran Max Lee however came to the rescue by beating Woo Changwook 11-6, 14-12, 11-9.
Jolted by the scare, Hong Kong were in control in their second game of the day as they overcame Sri Lanka 3-0.
Elsewhere, men’s top seeds India got straight into the business end by beating Iraq and the Philippines with identical 3-0 scorelines in Pool A. Record 15-time winners Pakistan were also very impressive on the first day by beating the Philippines and Indonesia 3-0 too.
Asian Team meet to get underway with Malaysia hunting success
The 20th Asian Team Squash Championships will finally get underway after being delayed for more than a year.
The Covid-19 pandemic certainly wreaked havoc on the international squash calendar with the Asian teams that was supposed to be held last year forced to be put on hold. The Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia (SRAM) is however relieved and proud to be able to host the team meet that gets underway at the National Squash Centre, Bukit Jalil on Tuesday.
It is the second of SRAM’s triple header, after the Malaysian Open which ended on Saturday, with the Men’s World Team Championships to follow next month. And there will be a sense of excitement for the first international team squash event after a while with 12 men’s teams and eight women’s teams signed up.
While it hasn’t always been smooth sailing in the preparation of the event, SRAM is certainly looking forward to welcoming the teams and to having a successful event.
“It has been really tough trying to put this show together. From getting the government clearance and to ensure teams get their MyTravel pass and visa,” said SRAM director Major (Rtd) S. Maniam.
“And then there were also the quarantine requirements but I believe we have ridden the wave and we’re very happy to receive the support from everyone. “We are also very thankful to all the participating nations who have entered and underwent the difficult situation in getting here.
“We certainly understand that it has not very smooth sailing for the teams but we would like to thank everyone for understanding the situation and being cooperative and we wish all participants a successful and joyable event.”
For the men’s competition, the participating nations are Malaysia, India, Hong Kong, Pakistan, Japan, Iran, the Philippines, South Korea, Iraq, Singapore, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.
India, led by Malaysian Open winner and world No 15 Saurav Ghosal, start as the top seeds and favourites as they seek their maiden Asian team title. Malaysia, who will field world No 18 Ng Eain Yow, Ivan Yuen, Addeen Idrakie and Syafiq are the second seeds while defending champions Hong Kong are third seeds and record 15-time winners Pakistan the fourth seeds.
India are drawn in Pool A together with Pakistan, Japan, the Philippines, Iraq and Indonesia while Pool B will have Malaysia lining up with Hong Kong, Iran, South Korea, Singapore and Sri Lanka.
In the women’s competition, defending champions Hong Kong are the top seeds and are in Pool A with Japan, South Korea and Sri Lanka. Second seeds Malaysia, who are fielding a very young squad, are in Group B with India, Iran and the Philippines.
The Malaysian squad, although young, are led by the in-form pair of Rachel Arnold and Malaysian Open winner Aifa Azman with Chan Yiwen and Noor Ainaa Amani Ampandi making up the rest of the team.
“Malaysia are seeded second for both the men’s and women’s events and our target is to get into the final of both events,” said Maniam. “With the form by the girls, we are certainly hoping to score an upset and hopefully take home the title this time.”
For the record, the Malaysian men’s team have won the title three times, with the last victory coming in 2008. The women’s team on the other hand are record nine-time winners although the last title
was back in 2016.