Macau Open : Annie & Diego triumph
Top seeds Annie Au and Dieo Elias are the Champions
Alex Wan reports
The wrath of the weather once again denied tonight’s final matches the prestige of being played at the impressive all-glass court setup at the Tap Seac Square. However, that did not hamper the spirit of all finalists who gave the packed gallery a feast of our lovely sport.
Annie Au of Hong Kong Macau Open debutant Diego Elias both became first-time champions of this prestigious 50k event. The pair both won in similar fashion, with Au halting the giant-killing run of Low Wee Wern and Elias outplaying Omar Mosaad.
The women’s final started the evening for a change, after four straight days of the men opening. Hong Kong’s Annie Au, who has played in the event for many years but never won it before, was up against the Malaysia’s comeback queen Low Wee Wern. The pair, who are quite in the same age bracket, has played each other fifteen times and not including the smaller regional events.
It was fairly equal in the first half of the first game up to 5-5, before Au ran away with six straight points to lead. Au was lethal in the front right corner throughout the entire match, winning six points in the very same spot in the first game alone. Every time the ball was sent there, it would either be a winner or a shot so tight that Low could only force a weak return.
Low got to a good start in the second, opening up a 2-point cushion at 2-0. It was close from then on up to 7-7 before Au broke away to game ball at 10-7. Low fought back and levelled 10-10 to force the tie-breaker and even got ahead to game ball after a no let decision was given against Au, but she couldn’t convert. Once Au was back serving, she made no mistake and took the game 13-11.
If Au was on fire on the front right hand corner in the first game, she was even more so in the second as she won an astonishing nine points there. By the second game, the refereeing decisions were also beginning to be questionable and highly inconsistent, something which lasted the entire match. An exact situation could warrant two very opposite decisions and, in some cases, were critical to the outcome of the game.
Low once again got off to a flying start in the third, racing away to a 3-0 lead. But that quickly turned around as Au then forged ahead 7-4. Low also had on some points looked to limp a little and was less comfortable with her movement. That did not bother Au as she never looked back from the lead and won the game and match after two consecutive no lets were given against Low. The win gives Au her biggest title in her career.
“I’ve been playing this event for many years and in the last few, it’s either the semi-finals or once the final. So to win, it, I feel very happy that I took the opportunities I had this year. It also feels rewarding because I’ve had pretty tough matches in the beginning. It took me a while to get into this tournament, but luckily I managed to settle in the last two matches.
“(Low) Wee Wern has been playing really well this event, so I knew she was going to be a tough customer. I was expecting very tight points and they were. We’ve played each other many times, so we are both familiar with each other’s game. Our standards are also very close so it’s a case of who is more stable on the day,” Au said later when asked about how she felt and if playing Low Wee Wern was a familiar thing.
While Low might be ruing not taking her chances in the second game, she was also very positive on what she has achieved here this week.
“Overall, it’s been a pretty good round for me to have upset three higher seeds. I didn’t expect myself to get to the final. But for today, just a little disappointing and to be honest, the squash just wasn’t as free flow as I would’ve liked it to be. But it happens and I just have to move on from this.
“I don’t think I’ve played four hard matches back to back for a few years. So to actually get back on court today is actually a bonus. To actually know I’m OK physically and the body held up. For that I have to thank my physio who has been working for me for a few years now.”
The men’s final was on paper a cracker in store. But while it failed to live up to its sizzle, there were moments in the match where things were pretty heated up. The start of the first game was rather close, with the Peruvian breaking away to a 2-point lead after slamming a forehand volley cross court into the nick to go 5-3. The next point was a crucial one as a no let given against Mosaad had him a little rattled and it was evident his concentration was off the books as the next five points went by quickly to give Elias the one-game lead.
In the second, the opening rally was perhaps the best of the day. It was long, both players took turns attacking and defending and it ended in Elias’ favour. That rally must’ve zapped quite a bit into Mosaad’s reserves as he quickly went down 1-6. He only managed to break the cycle after two consecutive deft drops to the backhand corner. Mosaad manages another two points in the game, but Elias would eventually be two-up.
Elias was pretty much picking up every shot Mosaad threw at him – whether it was the low, hard Hammer of Thor shot into the back or a soft dying drop to the front, Elias would get to it and eventually, it simply wore Mosaad out.
The third was by far the most competitive game. When Elias got to a 6-3 lead, Mosaad found his second wave and fought back to 6-6, before he crashed a very simple shot in the front into the tin. That threw the momentum back to Elias’ favour who raced to 10-7. Mosaad wasn’t done yet and took the next two points with two shots into the nick. Shamefully, the match had to be ended on a no let decision against Mosaad when it was evidently a simple let.
The new Macau Open champion said:
“That wasn’t easy at all today. It might have looked so, but it wasn’t. I played a really good tournament and I’m happy with my performance. I’ve been playing better every day and I knew today was going to be a lot harder playing against a player like Omar.
“I’ve had some good wins here and also this season, so I think I’m going to do well next week in El Gouna. I think it’s going to be a good year in fact. I hope I can keep on doing well. One of my goals is to qualify for the World Series Finals and hopefully finish in the top five (in the world) by end of the year.”
Omar Mosaad, who is clearly a local crowd favourite here, was still pretty pleased with his week here in Macau.
“You know I did my best here. I did not start very well today, especially in the first game. He started to be very confident and played really well. He also had the advantage of playing in this court all week, while I’ve been playing on the other. So today is really my first time on this court and it feels different.
“But overall, I’m happy with how I did here. I won three matches and lost today. Of course, today is also a very valuable lesson to me to develop my skills better and work on my fitness. Right now, I’m just looking forward to my next tournament back home in El Gouna.”
Semis : Low dream run continues
Alex Wan reports
The semi-final matches at the Tap Seac Square had to be cut short after heavy rain interrupted play halfway through the second game of the men’s first semi-final. Then, third seed Omar Mosaad was leading Greg Lobban by a game and 4-2 in the second. After several attempts by the helpers to dry the floor, it became one too many times and match referee Anthony Soh decided that it should be continued back at the Macau Bowling Centre.
Malaysian comeback queen Low Wee Wern’s dream run at her maiden Macau Open continued today as she overcame a first game deficit to beat a third Egyptian in a row. Having taken out second seed Salma Hany in the second round, then Nadine Shahin in the quarters yesterday, Low beat Zeina Mickawy in four games today.
Low, who has mostly been playing in 5k and 10k events since she came back on tour after a 20-month injury layoff to rehabilitate her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), bettered her milestone once again by making the final. The Malaysian had twice changed her flight and will be forced to do so once again tonight.
Despite falling behind after losing out a very close first game that went to the tie-break, Low stuck to her game plan of keeping the ball behind Mickawy, who can be very dangerous with her hard-hitting. Her strategy paid off as Mickawy became more and more impatient and often tried to force a winning shot out of a less-than-ideal situation, that more often went into the tin.
“I think today I played one of my best this week, so far. I was a lot calmer on court. Even though I lost the crucial first game, I was actually quite calm. I was finding my length and the corners pretty well today. It’s a good improvement for me to get better day by day.
“For me to get into the final of a 50k is a great achievement. I’ve had to change my flight a couple of times because I didn’t know if I was up to making this far. Now, I’m slowly getting my confidence back, which is a good start to the year for me,” said Low.
In the other women’s semi-final, Annie Au and Joshna Chinappa, the first and third seeds of the event, played their 20th competitive match, with the first dating back to 2005 at the Asian Junior Championship. With Au holding an 11-8 record from their 19 matches and winning their last two encounters last year, she had to be the favourite today.
Having played back-to-back five setters the last two days, Annie Au was clinical this evening. Perhaps it was also because she is more familiar with Chinappa’s game after all these years. Au was always ahead of the Indian in the first two games and closed them both out effectively.
However, in the third, things became less comfortable. After opening up a 6-2 lead, Au allowed Chinappa to claw back at 6-6 and twice lead 8-7 and 9-8. But she managed to contain that and eventually sneak the third on the tie-break for a straight-games victory.
“I knew it was going to be a hard match today. Joshna and I practice a lot together on tour, so we are very familiar with each other’s game. Moreover, we also play against each other a lot in Asian continent events. So I knew it was a tough one.
“Luckily, I managed to play according to my game plan today – to keep the ball at the back and only bring to the front when the opportunity arises. Today I also feel I have a much better plan setup compared to the previous days. I feel I also moved a lot more effectively today.”
“Overall, I thought I was calmer today. Maybe the hard matches the last two days helped me get to this state. It’s like I’ve had two tough lessons and I do not want to get that close today,” Au said cheekily when asked if today was her easier game, compared to the score-lines of the previous days.
Over at the men’s, both the semi-final matches were pure entertaining stuff for the crowd. Despite having to move back to the Macau Bowling Centre halfway through the first Mosaad-Lobban match, that did not hamper the spirit of both the crowd and players.
Omar Mosaad has been hitting so cleanly all week and he continued to do so tonight as he halted the giant-killing run of Scotland’s Greg Lobban in four games. After taking the opener on the all-glass court, which Lobban clearly wasn’t as comfortable on, and six points into the next, play was halted and moved.
After the restart, it was Lobban who started off stronger and moved more comfortably. Mosaad seemed distracted and began to question the referee more than his usual self. Perhaps that cost him the third game. But being the professional that he is, he managed to regroup and refocus in the third to get the job done. While there were calls he wasn’t happy about, he seemed to be more accepting and moved on much easily. He was rewarded with the third game and took the lead once again.
In the fourth, it was nearly point-for-point and Lobban had an opportunity to force a fifth when he had game ball at 10-8. He didn’t manage to convert the two game balls and even had a third at 11-10. That too, was saved and it was Mosaad’s turn to have a shot at 12-11. Mosaad had an even bigger chance when Lobban’s return of serve snapped the strings of his racket and he played the entire rally with broken strings that ended with a let. However, that proved useless as Mosaad slotted a forehand volley drop into the nick and raised both his arms in victory and claim his place in his fourth Macau Open final.
“This is a special event for me. I’ve reached the final here for the fourth time today. The change of court halfway back here was a little tricky for me. There was nearly an hour delay before we restarted. I actually started back really well, but then Greg started to play even better. The third was important for me to get the lead again. Then in the fourth, it was pretty much point-for-point.
“I’m going to give my best tomorrow. As I’ve told you before, I take it match by match and I have gotten over three. So tomorrow will be one final match before I head to El Gouna, and I will put in everything I have,” the Hammer of Thor said afterwards.
While Mosaad has plenty of experience here in Macau, his opponent tomorrow will be a first-time finalist here. Top seed Diego Elias edged out defending champion Yip Tsz Fung is a match that truly showcased both their amazing skills. The pair, who both play a very similar game of very calculated lengths and deft drops, entertained the crowd for a full 53 minutes.
After losing out closely 11-9 in the first, Yip had his chance to equal at 10-8 up in the second, but he just couldn’t close it. Given the final result of the match, this might be something that will haunt him for a while. He did manage to come back to take the third, but Elias stamped his mark to close out the fourth and book his place in the final.
“I’m feeling really good and I think I played well. Yip is a really tough player who loves to play the ball to the front. He has very good hands and I had to work a lot today. I had to run a lot more today than the previous days,” the Peruvian Puma said after.
Quarters : Lobban and Low gatecrash the semis as Au survives
Alex Wan reports
Local favourite Annie Au pulled off what might be the greatest escape of her career when she saved four match balls at two games to one down, and come back to win her quarter final match against Canada’s Samantha Cornett.
It must be said that Cornett played remarkably in the first two games and was in total control for most of the rallies. Au is well known for her deadly drops to the front and it was no different today, but each time, Cornett was ready to pounce on them.
Cornett played at a high pace in the opening two games and troubled Au tremendously. But the pace was lessened in the third and that’s when Au was able to be comfortable and deadly. Perhaps it was a plot to conserve energy to inject pace again in the fourth, which she did very well that got her to match ball 10-6. One could say she was a little unfortunate not to be able to convert, but it was also Au’s sheer determination, which was very evident, that rattled Cornett.
With everything to play for in the fifth, both players gave their all and Au was never too far ahead, but enough to eventually won her the match and a place on the glass court in Tap Seac Square tomorrow against Joshna Chinappa.
“That was very exciting. At 6-10 down in the fourth, I was thinking, let’s give it a gamble and one big push. I told myself to let loose and play a little more relaxed, then maybe I can catch up a little and eventually I did, and I’m very happy about it.
“I was a little eager in the first two games and she played at a very fast pace, so I didn’t get to do much. When she slowed down a little in the third, I was able to play my shots more effectively,” Annie said after her big comeback.
In the earlier tie, India’s third seed Joshna Chinappa had coolly dispatched Egyptian Mayar Hany. The world number 15 played in such a relaxed manner, it almost seems scarily casual. But when the opportunities came for her signature low kills, no ball was spared.
The first was crucial, with Chinappa winning 11-8. She got into even a more relaxed mode in the second, which Hany was clearly uncomfortable with and she eventually gave up towards the last few points after falling behind 1-7. But Hany came in strongly in the third, racing to a 7-3 lead. But Chinappa wasn’t going to play an extra game as she slowly came back to seal the match 11-9.
“I was surprisingly a lot calmer than I thought I’d be and I think that worked for me today. I just felt my length was good but there were some patches I lost a little bit of focus. Mayar is super strong. She’s had great results on the tour, so I’m happy to win in three.
“I was pretty relaxed from the start, but I was also under pressure even though I didn’t show it as much. But it was definitely a lot harder than what you could probably see from the outside. Like the third game, it could’ve easily gone her way and I’m happy to pull that through.”
In the bottom half of the draw, Zeina Mickawy pulled off an upset when she took out Hong Kong’s Joey Chan. The hard-hitting Mickawy took full advantage of Chan’s slow start in the first two games and twice built considerable leads and never looked back.
Chan managed to pull a game back in the third, but was unable to stop Mickawy in the fourth. The win meant a spot in a 50k semis, which is her best result on tour to date, bettering her previous best of a 25k final.
“I’m so happy to have won today. I know Joey is one of the top players and she has so much experience. I tried to push myself as much as I can and I’m glad I did it. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s semi-finals and hopefully it will be a good match. It’s my first semis in a 50k and I look forward to doing even better than that,” an evidently happy Mickawy said.
Malaysia’s Low Wee Wern continued her fine run here in Macau with another Egyptian scalp. This time, Nadine Shahin fell victim to the resurgence of the former world number 5. Like the previous day, the first game was a close and critical one for Low. She managed to squeeze through 11-9 the first and brought the momentum into the second, winning it comfortably 11-4.
Shahin, who plays with an unorthodox topspin like strokes, then turned the tables in the third and was in full control from start to end. She continued her good run in the fourth and quickly raced into a 10-5 lead, which worried the Malaysian camp. But the cool and composed Low slowly inched back and took seven points in a row to clinch her semi-final berth, winning the final point on a no let decision against Shahin, who ran hard into Low, landing both women on the ground.
“I lost to Nadine in World’s last month so I’m very happy to get this win. She did well to come back in the third and the fourth. I didn’t do much wrong really, I kept her in the back but she played a couple of good winners. I’m pleased I contained that and came back to win it in the end. It was big for me mentally to be able to come back from there,” said Low after beating Shahin, who she is drawn to play again in the El Gouna opening round next week.
In the men’s event, second seed Saurav Ghosal was shown the exit by Scotland’s Greg Lobban after the pair had battled it out for 65 minutes. Right from the first game, there were traffic problems, with both players taking turns to clarify with the referee. But the world number 10 managed it better and took the opener 11-6.
Lobban came back to take the next three games, earning himself a first ever scalp of a top ten player and a shot against the Hammer of Thor Omar Mosaad tomorrow.
“I’m extremely happy with the way I played. I’ve played Saurav a couple of times now, maybe 3-4 times this season already and I’ve always been closed but have never crossed the line. So even when I won the third to go 2-1 up, I knew I still had to be on my toes.
“One of the goals I set out with my coaches this year was to beat a top ten player, so I’m happy to tick this one off!” Lobban said later.
Former world number 3 Omar Mosaad produced a masterclass display toy halt the run of Malaysian youngster Ng Eain Yow in the opening match of the day. The hard hitting Egyptian was clinical with his finishes especially on his forehand volleys. Anything within reach between his shoulder and waist was severely punished. There wasn’t much Ng could do today as everything he threw at Mosaad, he threw it back better.
“I felt a little more relaxed and confident today, having played yesterday. The time difference is a factor and I am more aligned today. I feel a lot more prepared today than the previous day. I knew Yow is a good player and I prepared well for it. I’m really happy to have won today.
“Every year we gain a little more experience in life. Right now, it’s time for me to relax a little and play my game. I try to put 100% into every match I play. It worked the first two matches, so I hope I can continue to do so tomorrow,” said Mosaad.
Hong Kong will be represented by defending champion Yip Tze Fung in the semi-finals tomorrow after he won a long battle against compatriot Leo Au and Max Lee was beaten by top seed Diego Elias.
Expectedly, Yip and Au were both engaged in very long rallies and both showed brilliances in attacking and retrieving. But Yip has a fancier game and today, he made fewer mistakes than usual and was able to finish more clinically.
“I thought I did very well today. I was able to play to my game plan. My shots were also coming in today so that helped with my confidence. Maybe I got a little carried away in the third and was too eager to finish the match off. But I managed to let that go and came back to finish the job,” Yip said of his win.
“I may be the defending champion, but I really do not think much about it. Even if the same people were playing in the same event, the end can be very different. Many of us have similar standards, so any-one can win on their day. I’m just focussing on playing well one match at a time.”
Diego Elias meanwhile, got his first real test today from Max Lee. The Peruvian was in control for most of the rallies, but Lee is also known for his amazing speed and retrieval. The combination of Elias’ control and Lee’s retrievals gave the crowd amazing entertainment.
The pair split the first two games, Elias clinching the first and Lee equalised a close second. In the third, Lee had looked tired, and at certain points, looked like he was about to cramp. But he managed to hold on till the end, but was unable to stop the Peruvian Puma, who ended the match with an unexpected reverse angle that completely flat-footed Lee.
“I think I played a really good match. Max is a really tough opponent – I’ve played him quite a few times so I know how hard he can be. I’m happy to be able to win in four. I didn’t have a match as tough yesterday, but it was good I had that to help me ease into today’s match,” added Elias who also said he is looking forward to the glass court tomorrow.
Barring any weather complications, play will be moved to the all-glass court erected at the Tap Seac Square across the sea on Macau island.
Round Two: Low takes out Hany in style as Ng joins men’s seeds
Alex Wan reports
Malaysia’s Low Wee Wern achieved her biggest win since coming back from a 20-month injury break here today when she ousted world number 14 and tournament second seed Salma Hany in convincing fashion. The 28-year old from Penang won in straight games in just over the half hour mark to book her spot in the last eight tomorrow against another Egyptian Nadine Shahin.
“It’s one of my first good wins ever since I started playing after the injury layoff. I’ve been struggling to find my confidence on court after being out for so long. Even yesterday, I was struggling to find my game. But today against Salma, the first game was very, very important and winning that gave me a lot of confidence and I think that also took some confidence from her. She’s a shot maker and going one-down meant it’s harder to try going for them,” Wee Wern said.
It was tough day for the top seeds In the women’s today, as Annie Au was severely tested by the Japanese youngster Satomi Watanabe. Having split the first four games between them, the experience of Au shone when it matters when she ran away with the fifth game, winning 11 points in a row after dropping the first.
“Maybe I wasn’t as match ready as her. She had a match yesterday and for me, this was my first match. Sometimes, having to play a game extra helps you condition and maybe today was the case for her. Now that I have a long match in the bag, I hope it’ll be a much better game from me tomorrow,” Annie said when asked how she think she fared.
Au’s opponent tomorrow in the last eight is Samantha Cornett, a straight games winner against Hong Kong’s Vanessa Chu. The lanky Canadian nearly blew away a big lead in the second set when she allowed Chu to pull back from 8-4 down to 10-10.
“I felt pretty good today. I feel I could get to the ball quickly, but I let things land a little short in the second, which is where she’s really good,” Cornett said afterwards.
Chu’s counterpart Liu Tsz Ling was also on the losing end as she fell in straight games to Egyptian Mayar Hany. Hany will face third seed Indian Joshna Chinappa tomorrow, after she saw off the challenge of Kiwi Amanda Landers-Murphy.
“Amanda and I train together quite a bit back in Bristol. I know how dangerous she can be on the volleys, so I had to keep that away from her. I’m just glad I got through in three, especially in the first and third, it was close.”
In the lower half of the draw, fourth seed Joey Chan won the all-Hong Kong battle against Tong Tsz-Wing, who did not have many answers to shot making skills of the left hander. Chan faces Egyptian Zeina Mickawy, who ended Rachel Arnold’s Macau campaign in four games.
In the men’s event, last year’s finalists Yip Tsz Fung and Omar Mosaad both won in contrasting fashion. Mosaad, the losing finalist from last year, certainly had the easier time between the two, winning in straight games. But huge credit should be given to his opponent Dimitri Steinmann who pushed the Egyptian into very long rallies in the third game in particular.
“Dimitri played a good long match yesterday against Mazen Gamal. I knew it was going to be a little hurting for his legs today and I knew he was going to start slow. I wanted to do well in the start and he was going to up the tempo in the second or third game. I’m really happy to win in straight games today.”
Defending champion Yip Tsz Fung was severely tested by Pakistani Shahajad Khan. Both players have tremendous racket skills and served the crowd a delight with the many low cross court shots. While there were many moments of brilliance, the match was marred by several interruptions with the referee.
The fourth game was not a pretty one with both players growing more and more frustrated by the inconsistent calls. There were many traffic issues and discussions with the referee. Then at 4-8 down, the cool and composed Yip gathered all his experience to win seven points in a row from 4-8 down to book his berth in the next round and a step closer to retaining his title.
Fellow Hong Kong player Leo Au was also tested by France’s Auguste Dussourd. The Asian Games champion took the entire first game to get used to the playing style of the Frenchman. After dropping the first, he came back strongly to take the next two comfortably. The fourth was close in the first half of the game, but it was Au who walked out victorious to earn a shot against compatriot Yip Tsz Fung.
Max Lee and Ivan Yuen played the match of the day. The pair, who are friends and know each other’s game inside out, both played their best squash and served the crowd a delightful match. Yuen was firing into nicks from all corners while Lee was ever-ready to pick them up. The fourth game in particular, Yuen was super sharp with the angles. It was perhaps because of that, it got to his head a little in the fifth where he rushed to finish off the rallies a little too quickly and was made to pay with the game and match.
“I didn’t set much expectation on myself today. I just wanted to play a good match. Ivan and I have played many times, so I know exactly how he plays and he knows my game well too. But he seriously hit a lot of winners today and I just had to keep everything tight. It was a little more comfortable in the fifth. Maybe he relaxed a little after that ridiculous fourth game.”
2016 World Junior champion Ng Eain Yow won his first competitive match against senior Nafiizwan Adnan after the pair engaged in a 73-minute battle. Expectedly, the match was a long one given that the pair train together daily. After splitting the first four games, Ng ran away with the fifth with Adnan looking a little worn.
While on paper it’s an upset over the seeding, Ng has overtaken Adnan in the latest PSA ranking despite both having dipped a few places.
“I thought I played well when I needed to today and I’m just happy to get the win. At this stage, I am not thinking too much about who I’m playing or who I’m beating. It’s just focussing on playing good squash and getting the result when the matches come. Just focussing more on myself now rather than who my opponent is. But it’s never easy playing a team mate, especially with Nafiizwan, who has been helping us as juniors. But I thought we both went in professionally and played a good game,” Ng said later.
Scotland’s Greg Lobban and top seed Diego Elias both won in straight games.
“I was a little nervous going into the match because Baptiste has won a couple of 10k events recently and I know how that feels. He’s got lots of confidence so I am glad to get through,” Lobban said afterwards, while Elias was happy with his match:
“I’m feeling good and I have been looking forward to start off this tournament. I think I played really well in my first match and I’m really looking forward to the rest of the tournament.”
The last men’s match of the evening was also the longest. The all-Indian battle between Saurav Ghosal and Mahesh Magaonkar lasted a full 77 minutes and it was rather tensed through it all. It was evident both players knew each other’s game well, judging from the times they both guessed right the next shot. It was a shame finish as a shot between the legs from Magaonkar went out of court and he did not hide his frustration as he flung his racket onto the front wall after that.
“First thing, I think Mahesh played very well. You have to give credit where credit is due – he did put up a very, very good performance. I know obviously he was very capable of a performance like that. His ranking certainly does not reflect the quality of squash in him.
“Personally, I don’t think I was hitting the ball badly, but maybe my shot selection wasn’t the best at certain times. That could’ve been slightly better in the first half of the match. But I’m happy with myself for being able to come up with solutions to win today.”
Round One: Women’s seeds through as three men cause upsets
Alex Wan reports
The Macau Squash Open 2019 opened today with a trio of upsets in the men’s event, while the seeds in the women’s all through to the next round. There was also no luck for both the wildcards in the men’s and women’s events, but it was not without any drama.
In the opening match of the afternoon, New Zealand’s Amanda Landers-Murphy survived a tough opener against wild card Chan Sin Yuk of Hong Kong. While her opponent was more than 200 places above her in the world ranking, Chan definitely did not show any nerves. The 2019 British Junior Open runner-up took a commanding two-game lead thanks to strong finishes in both games before Landers-Murphy settled to level at two-a piece.
The decider was a cracker with both players trading turns to take the lead and it was the younger Chan who got to match ball at 10-8 after a stroke was given in her favour. But the Kiwi fought back gallantly to take the next four points to deny the youngster perhaps the biggest win of her career.
“I’m very happy to get the win today. It was a tough match and going down 2-0, I had to dig very deep to sort of come back. She’s a great player, so I’m just happy to get through it,” said the left handed Landers-Murphy.
Macau’s wild card Liu Kwai Chi did not quite have the same luck as she was outplayed by Japanese Satomi Watanabe in straight games in the quickest game of the day.
Hong Kong quartet Vanessa Chu, Tong Tsz-Wing, Ho Tze-Lok and Liu Tsz-Ling all booked their places into the next round in similar fashion, winning in straight games around the half hour mark. Chu beat Indian teenager Sunayna Kuruvilla, Tong beat Egyptian Salma Youssef, Ho took out Aussie Jessica Turnbull, while Liu won the all-Hong Kong battle against Lee Ka Yi.
It was also a good day in the office for the Malaysian camp as both their women were through to the last sixteen. Former world number 5 Low Wee Wern, who is competing here for the first time, was tested extensively in the first two games of the match against Australia’s Sarah Cardwell. After splitting the first two games, Low went into overdrive and powered through the next two games to secure her place against second seed Salma Hany.
Low’s compatriot, Rachel Arnold, meanwhile, gave a no nonsense display as the mercilessly took out England’s Rachael Chadwick for the loss of just 5 points in under 20 minutes.
In the men’s event, the opening match was cut short after 2017 semi-finalist and joint-ninth seed Omar Abdel Meguid retired while trailing 1-2 and 3-6 in the fourth game against Pakistan’s sole representative Shahjahan Khan. The win earned the US-based Khan a crack against defending champion Yip Tsz Fung tomorrow.
In a battle of the youngsters, 2016 World Junior champion Ng Eain Yow overcame a tough customer in France’s Victor Crouin, the 2017 World Junior runner-up. While he may not have played his best squash today, the higher ranked Malaysian won the bigger points and was able to pull through in four competitive games.
“I was a little rushed in the third game and I made many mistakes. Mentally, I’ve also never beaten a French player, so I was definitely a little nervous on court today. But I felt that I got that out of my system in the fourth. It’s always tough to get past the first round and yes, I will be more comfortable going tomorrow,” a relieved Ng said after.
Fellow Malaysia Ivan Yuen also advanced into the next round after winning easily against local wild card Manuel Gassmann in just over 20 minutes. Yuen will next face fellow Malaysian Nafiizwan Adnan, who was a semi-finalist here in 2016.
France also had two men advance today after Auguste Dussourd upset the seeding to take out Welsh veteran Peter Creed in the longest match of the day. He twice had to come back from a game down before winning in 75 minutes. Baptiste Masotti then made it 2-for-2 for France after taking out Hong Kong’s Henry Leung 3-1.
The other upset of the day was from Swiss Dimitri Steinmann, who beat Egyptian Mazen Gamal in a see saw match. After taking the first two games, the Swiss allowed Gamal to make a comeback to draw level on the tie break in the fourth. However, Steinmann wasn’t about to let Gamal spoil his party as he squeezes through the fifth to book his place against Omar Mosaad.
In the top and bottom ends of the draw, Spanish players had contrasting fortunes. At the top, Edmon Lopez was victorious but was made to sweat by wild card Lau Tsz Kwan of Hong Kong for nearly an hour. Lau, winner of the PSA5 HK Challenge Cup last month, battled hard in the first three games, but was a spent force in the fourth.
At the bottom, India’s Mahesh Magaonkar booked his place against fellow-countryman Saurav Ghosal after a hard fought win over another Spanish, Bernat Jaume.
Debutant Elias and local favourite Au top Macau draws
Alex Wan reports
The annual Macau Squash Open returns onto the PSA calendar once again and will continue to feature equal prize money of US$ 50,000 each for both the men’s and women’s events. The PSA Bronze event will be held over five days from 10 – 14 April 2019.
The first three rounds will take place in the usual Macau Bowling Centre before play is moved onto the all-glass court at the Tap Seac Square in the St. Lazarus Quarter.
The men’s event has attracted a strong field and will feature two world top ten players. The draw will be headed by the “Peruvian Puma” Diego Elias and India’s Saurav Ghosal, who are ranked 9 and 10 in the April rankings. This is the Peruvian’s maiden appearance in Macau while Saurav was a runner-up at his last appearance here in 2017.
Ghosal, who broke into the coveted top ten for the first time this month, is seeded to face hard-hitting third seed Omar Mosaad in the last four. The Egyptian was a finalist last year and was two games up before losing out in five to Hong Kong’s Yip Tsz Fung in the final.
Hong Kong will have the biggest contingent in the men’s event with five entries. Yip is seeded fourth and he will have lovely memories of Macau after winning his biggest ever title here last year. He is drawn to meet compatriot Leo Au in the last eight, while 2016 finalist Max Lee is drawn to meet Elias in the same stage.
Manuel Gassmann will make his second appearance as a local wild card at the event. The 17-year old has been drawn to play Malaysian Ivan Yuen in the opening round. Hong Kong’s Lau Tsz Kwan will fill the second wild card spot and will play Spain’s Edmon Lopez.
An opening round encounter to watch would be the battle between 2017 World Junior runner-up Victor Crouin of France and Ng Eain Yow, the 2016 World Junior champion from Malaysian. The pair, currently ranked 74 and 37 respectively, will battle it out for a slot in the last sixteen against “The Komodo” Nafiizwan Adnan.
The women’s event, while not having any top ten players, is not short of quality entries. Local favourite Annie Au of Hong Kong is the top player in the field. The world number 11 has always been drawing local support and was a finalist in 2016 and semi-finalist in the last two editions.
Second seed Salma Hany of Egypt will be looking to relish her great performance here last year. The 22-year old was a surprise finalist after taking out top seed Camille Serme in the last eight and Hong Kong’s Joey Chan in the semis. Since that breakthrough run, she has had her best results on tour, including a quarter-final showing at a World Series event. In June 2018, she broke into the top 15 and then reached her career-high of 12 in March this year.
However, former world number 5 Low Wee Wern has been drawn to play Hany and could potentially be a party spoiler for the Egyptian. Low will be making her debut in the event and will be looking to further improve her ranking after breaking back into the top 40 in February.
Asian pair Joshna Chinappa of India and Hong Kong’s Joey Chan are third and fourth seeds. Both potentially have tricky Egyptians in their quarter if matches go to seeding in the form of Mayar Hany and Zeina Mickawy.
Local challenge will be spearheaded by Liu Kwai Chi, who will be playing Japanese number one Satomi Watanabe. Hong Kong youngster Chan Sin Yuk has been given the second local wildcard and will face Kiwi Amanda Landers-Murphy.
The 2019 Macau Squash Open is organised by the Macau Squash Association and is jointly supported by Galaxy Entertainment Group Limited, Companhia de Telecomunicações de Macau S.A.R.L., MC Sportswear & Uniform Ltd., Kings Media, Macau Coca-Cola Beverage. Co. Ltd. and Macau Business & Business News Agency.
Entry to the first round up to the quarter-finals at the Macau Bowling Centre is free of charge. Semi-finals and finals tickets at all-glass court on Tap Seac Square will be ticketed. They are free of charge but are limited. Squash fans interested to reserve their tickets may contact the ticketing hotline at +853 2853 0497 or email email@example.com
There will also be a carnival at the venue on 14 April 2019 that is open to the public, where visitors will have a chance to experience playing squash.