Crouin and Subramaniam take Australian Open Titles
Lachlan Johnston reports
Victor Crouin’s unstoppable Australian run continued in Bega, becoming the first Frenchman to win the Australian Open with a 3-0 victory over Mohd Syafiq Kamal in Sunday’s final. The women’s Australian Open title will again return to Malaysia, with 20-year old Sivasangari Subramaniam emulating her countrywoman Low Wee Wern’s 2018 victory, taking four games to overcome Satomi Watanabe.
Top seed Crouin was clinical in his straight games victory over Syafiq, taking only 32 minutes to claim his second consecutive title in Australia. A tight start to the match saw the pair locked together at 6-all in the first game, before Crouin’s relentless length and accurate attacking saw him pull away to take it 11-8.
The Frenchman returned in the second game and continued to apply relentless pressure to his Malaysian opponent, who was attempting to make it third-time lucky after falling at the last hurdle in his two most recent PSA events. However, Crouin simply didn’t give Syafiq a look in, and closed out the second game 11-5.
The third game went the same way as the second, with Crouin racing to a 10-1 lead. With the outcome a foregone conclusion, Syafiq salvaged some consolation points and kept the capacity crowd at Bega Squash Club entertained with some aggressive shot making, though it was never going to be enough. Crouin took the game 11-4, winning his biggest PSA title and extending his unbeaten run to eight matches.
20-year old Crouin has become the talk of the Australian Squash Tour in recent weeks, now adding the prestigious Australian Open title to go with his Victorian Open win last week. After the match, Crouin attributed his recent form to his relaxed mental state. “I’m on vacation right now…I’m just enjoying competing and playing. When I’m on court, I don’t really feel mentally tired.”
Crouin now heads south to Devonport for the Tasmanian Open, where he is again the top seed and favourite to extend his hot streak down under.
The women’s final was a closely contested affair, with 20-year olds Subramaniam and Watanabe having met four times previously in PSA events and on several other occasions throughout their junior career.
Fifth seed Watanabe was seeking to become the first Japanese female to win the Australian Open, and she started the match in impressive fashion, taking it 11-5 with a high-intensity and aggressive game plan. Watanabe couldn’t keep the pace of the match at the same level in the second game, and Subramaniam used her high quality shot placement to move her opponent around the court and work her way back into the contest, winning the game 11-9.
The second seeded Subramaniam took an early lead in the third game and maintained a one to two point advantage throughout, eventually closing it out 11-9 to put herself on the brink of victory. The young Malaysian then surged to an 8-3 lead in the fourth game, before seeing off a fightback from Watanabe to close out the match 11-9.
The women’s final added another chapter in the Subramaniam-Watanabe rivalry, and the newly crowned Australian Open champion said Watanabe always provides a great challenge. ”We’ve played many times before, it’s always close, she’s always aggressive,” said Subramaniam.
There was an Australian flavour to Subramaniam’s victory, with the U.S. college student being coached by Australian legend David Palmer at Cornell University.
The Australian Squash Tour heads to Tasmania next week, where Devonport Squash Centre hosts the Men’s Tasmanian Open.
Semis: Crouin’s Dominant Australian Run Continues
Lachlan Johnston reports
Victor Crouin will shoot for a second successive PSA title in Australia on Sunday afternoon, when he meets Mohd Syafiq Kamal in the men’s final of the Australian Open in Bega. The women’s final will be between Japan’s Satomi Watanabe and Malaysia’s Sivasangari Subramaniam, who ended the run of local hope Christine Nunn.
Crouin, the tournament’s top seed, was made to work hard in his semi final victory against Malaysia’s Addeen Idrakie, needing four games to overcome the third seed in 53 minutes. It was business as usual for Crouin early on, controlling the match to comfortably take the first two games 11-4 and 11-6. Idrakie’s speed and shot making saw him come back to take the third game 11-6, before Crouin regained control of the match to take the fourth game 11-7.
Crouin’s opponent in the final, Malaysia’s Mohd Syafiq Kamal, came through an entertaining battle with Japanese fourth seed Tomotaka Endo. After both players came through lengthy quarter final matches on Friday, neither looked in the mood to be on court any longer than needed in their clash, with both looking to find the crosscourt nick at any opportunity.
The swashbuckling shot making had the Bega crowd well entertained, and the players took turns trading blows. Second seed Syafiq took the first game in quick time, before Endo produced an array of reverse angles to level the match. Syafiq ultimately proved to be more consistent with his shot making, taking the next two games 11-6 and 11-9 to book a spot in the final. The 22-year old will be hoping to go one better than his two most recent PSA tournaments, where he finished runner-up.
In the women’s final, Subramaniam and Watanabe will also be aiming for back-to-back PSA titles, having both won international events in April. In her semi final, Malaysian Subramaniam came out of the blocks quickly against Christine Nunn, playing at a fast pace to take the first game 11-6.
Nunn fought back strongly in the second game, much to the delight of the Bega crowd, taking it 11-9 to level the match. In a see-sawing contest, Subramaniam won the third game in quick time to regain the lead, before Nunn raced to a 6-1 lead in the fourth. Subramaniam again clawed her way back, ultimately winning two crucial points at 9-all to take the match.
Japan’s Watanabe will be gunning for her third PSA title after upsetting top seed Rachel Arnold in their semi final. Having not dropped a game all tournament, Watanabe looked to be in ominous form early on against Arnold, racing to a 2-0 lead against the Malaysian.
A close match between the pair was to be expected given that two of their previous four encounters were decided by 3-2 scorelines, and true to form, Arnold surged back in the third and fourth games to level at 2-all. Watanabe was able to hold her nerve in the fifth game though, and the 20-year old comfortably took the decider 11-5 to move into her sixth PSA final.
Subramaniam holds a strong head-to-head record against Watanabe, having won each of their previous four encounters.
Quarters : Courageous Christine Climbs off the Canvas to keep Aussie hopes alive in Bega
Lachlan Johnston reports
Christine Nunn kept alive chances of a local victory in this year’s Australian Open after producing a stirring comeback in her quarter final win over Hong Kong’s Lee Ka Yi. The seventh seeded Victorian came back from 2-0 down and saved two match balls in the fourth game, before taking the deciding game 11-9 against the fourth seed.
After having several game balls in both the first and second games, Nunn was left ruing missed opportunities as she was faced with the daunting task of coming back from 2-0 down against her higher ranked opponent. The 28-year old was up to the task though, taking the third game 11-5 and holding her nerve late in the final two games to score a memorable victory in front of a packed local crowd at Bega Country Club.
Nunn will face second seed Sivasangari Subramaniam in the semi final on Saturday. The 20-year old Malaysian was impressive in her 3-0 quarter final victory over Egyptian Nadeen Kotb, who was unable to repeat her second round heroics.
The other semi final in the women’s event will be between Malaysia’s Rachel Arnold and Japan’s Satomi Watanabe. Arnold was tested in her clash with Australia’s Jessica Turnbull, needing five games to overcome a 2-1 deficit to reach the semi finals. Watanabe’s path to the last four was more regulation, only needing three games in her victory over third seed Vanessa Chu.
In the men’s event, Dutchman Roshan Bharos gave top seeded Victor Crouin his biggest scare since arriving in Australia. Victorian Open champion Crouin was on a run of five consecutive matches without dropping a game, until Bharos took the first game off the Frenchman in their quarter final. Crouin eventually came through the match in four games to book his place in the semi finals, where he will face Malaysia’s Addeen Idrakie. Idrakie ended the hopes of Japan’s Naoki Hayashi in their quarter final with a clinical 3-0 victory.
Both matches on the other side of the men’s draw were tight contests. Second seed Mohd Syafiq Kamal was down 2-0 against Englishman Connor Sheen, and then saved match balls in the third game before prevailing in five games in just under an hour.
Kamal’s opponent in the semi final is Japan’s Tomotaka Endo, who saw off the challenge of unseeded Egyptian Shady El Sherbiny in a drama-filled four games. It was a case of déjà vu for El Sherbiny, who was again forced to take several blood rule breaks during the match. Endo was not without issues of his own, remarkably breaking strings on three different racquets during the match and eventually finishing the clash with a Japanese team mate’s racquet.
Semi final action commences from 2:00 pm on Saturday at Bega Country Club, with Christine Nunn involved in the opening match against Sivasangari Subramaniam.
Round Two : Nunn and Turnbull flying the home flag in Bega
Lachlan Johnston reports
Victoria’s Christine Nunn and Queensland’s Jessica Turnbull will be the home nation’s sole representatives in the quarter finals of the Australian Open on Friday after both players won their second round encounters on Thursday at Bega Country Club.
A newly crowned World Doubles Champion, Nunn won her clash against countrywoman Selena Shaikh 3-0, while Turnbull required four games to get past Malaysia’s Wen Li Lai.
After receiving a bye in the first round, Turnbull started her match slowly against the Malaysian, losing the first game 11-1. However, she quickly recovered to take the next three games and record a 3-1 victory – the same score line as when the pair met in the 2018 Kalgoorlie Open final where Turnbull scored her maiden PSA title.
There was no such slow start for Nunn in her opening match of the tournament. Holding a strong head-to-head record against Shaikh before the match, Nunn’s 3-0 victory was a repeat of the result the last time the pair played in a PSA event – ironically the second round of last year’s Australian Open.
Turnbull’s quarter final opponent will be the top seeded Malaysian Rachel Arnold, while Nunn comes up against the fourth seeded Lee Ka Yi of Hong Kong.
Elsewhere in the women’s draw, Egypt’s Nadeen Kotb came through one of the matches of the day, staving off a spirited fightback from Australia’s Sarah Cardwell to win 15-13 in the fifth game. Kotb now plays second seeded Malaysian Sivasangari Subramaniam, who was impressive in her victory over Colombia’s Laura Tovar.
The last quarter final will be between Japan’s Satomi Watanabe and Hong Kong’s Vanessa Chu, who both scored comfortable 3-0 victories in the second round.
In the men’s draw, Frenchman Victor Crouin continued his strong recent form, opening his Australian Open account with a 3-0 victory against Canadian Thomas King. The 20-year old Frenchman, who won last week’s Victorian Open without conceding a game all tournament, now plays Dutchman Roshan Bharos, who ended local hopes in the tournament with a 3-0 victory over Nick Calvert.
Australia’s other chances in the second round were Queensland’s Alex Eustace and New South Wales’ Rohan Toole, however both were unsuccessful against higher ranked Japanese opponents. Eustace looked like he was a chance of causing an upset when he took the first game off Naoki Hayashi, however the seventh-seeded Hayashi proved too strong in the next three games to book his quarter final spot against Malaysia’s Addeen Idrakie. Toole was also unsuccessful in his bid to upset fourth-seeded Tomotako Endo, losing 3-0 in a contest which was closer than the scoreboard reflected.
Endo, who won the 2018 Queensland Open, marked a successful return to Australia with the victory, and now plays Egyptian Shady El Sherbiny, who came through a bruising four game encounter with Indian Aadit Zaveri. The unseeded El Sherbiny was twice required to take time off for injury during the match, though the setbacks didn’t prevent him from recording a 3-1 victory.
The last quarter final will be between Malaysia’s Mohd Syafiq Kamal and England’s Connor Sheen. For Englishman Sheen, it will be his second successive match against a Malaysian opponent, after warding off the challenge of Darren Chan in a five set encounter. Syafiq also faced a tough challenge in his second round match, needing four games to see off New Zealand’s Lwamba Chileshe.