Day SIX : Malaysia claim team title on final day in Bangkok
The final day of the 6th Southeast Asian Championships 2020 had two ties for the Mixed Team event. One was in the morning and the other to decide the Champion in the evening.
The morning match was a placing match for the third-fourth position between Indonesia and Thailand. Although some of the matches were close yet Indonesia took the first three matches to seal the win over Thailand. The last two matches were withdrawn as it did not alter the final positions of teams.
The evening match between the top two seeds, Malaysia and Philippines, was for all purpose a final to decide the Champion and Runner-up. Four of the matches were repeats of the four semi-final singles matches where the Malaysian players came out top in all four. For the Filipinos this repeat of the semi-final matches gave them the opportunity to redeem themselves and in the process win the coveted ‘SEA Cup’.
In the first match between the No.1 ranked Men players, Robert Garcia of Philippines drew first blood by beating Duncan Lee Yung Yii, the Champion in the Men’s Singles event. Next on the courts were the No.1 ranked Women players. Motivated by Garcia’s win, Jemyca Aribado of Philippines, took the first set. However, the younger and faster Aira Azman, of Malaysia, soon found her rhythm to finish the match in four. The 2nd ranked women players were next on the court.
Malaysia’s Wong Heng Wai carried too much power to win comfortably in three. Next were the No.2 ranked men players, David William Pelino of Philippines and Wee Ming Hock of Malaysia. The first game was closely fought with Wong nudging ahead to win. He went on to take the second easily. In the third the hard running Pelino pushed the game to deuce. Wong needed four championship points to finish the match and for Malaysia to retain the coveted ‘SEA Cup’.
The prize-giving ceremony had all the ‘pomp and fanfare’ usually seen at Major Games. Prizes were presented by the President of Thailand Squash Rackets Association – Mr. Chalitrat Chandarubeksa, the President of Southeast Asian Squash Federation – Mr.Mohamad Azlan Iskandar and some of their Management Committee members.
The six days of Championship rounded up with a Closing Ceremony Dinner. The dinner had a sumptuous food spread which was fit for a king. With ample food and drinks the players, team officials, technical officials and the Organising Committee members had a roaring time of fun, dancing and camaraderie.
There was much praise for Thailand Squash Rackets Association and the Championship Director, Mr. Akarin Hiranpruecks, for staging a truly splendid Championship. There was live streaming of all matches and continuous update of photos on TSRA’s Facebook page. Besides the usual breakfast at the hotel the teams were also given lunch and dinner every day at no extra cost. Players and officials would carry home much sweet memories of this benchmark Championship.
Day FIVE : Team event begins
The event is run on a round-robin format over two days, with morning and evening sessions. Each tie would have 5 matches, three men and two women. The Malaysian team is seeded No.1 with the team from Philippines Seeded No.2. The Malaysians should be strong favorites as in the singles event for men and women it was two all Malaysian affairs.
In the morning session the Malaysians took on Indonesia while Philippines played Thailand. The two ties were played simultaneously on adjacent courts. The Indonesians gave some resistance in their tie but could not stop Malaysia from winning all five matches. Similarly, Philippines had it easy with Thailand and won the tie without dropping any match.
In the evening session the Malaysians played against Thailand while Philippines took on Indonesia. The Malaysians were too strong for the Thais and finished the tie in good time. The Indonesians took the fight to the Filipinos but were still unable to stop the Philippines team from taking all the matches.
The tie tomorrow between Malaysia and Philippines would decide the team champion. The winner would lift the coveted ‘SEA Cup’. It is expected to be a close one especially as the Filipino No.1 man and woman player would be gunning to make amends for their loss to the Malaysians in the semi-finals of the Singles event. There are many but small wagers on the outcome of the tie.
Azman and Lee deliver Malaysian double in Bangkok
Both finals were a Malaysian affair thus ensuring that Malaysia stood on top of the podium in at least two events.
The women’s final was between Wong Heng Wai and Aira Azman. Both grew up training in the same squash center in Alor Setar, a city located in northern Malaysia. Their rivalry stretched from their early days when they first picked up squash racquets to playing in competitions at state, national and international level events. In the final match, Wong started impressively in the first game to take an early lead. Aira narrowed the lead and took it to deuce. Wong just managed to hold on and took the game on her fifth game point.
It was point-for-point initially in the second game before Aira took three continuous points to close the game. Aira sailed through the third game easily helped by many unforced errors by Wong. The fourth game was another close one which Aira prevailed to close the game and match.
For Aira Azman it was her first international title at a senior championship.
The men’s finalist, Muhammad Hafiz Zhafri Abdul Harif and Duncan Lee Yung Yii, both honed their squash skills as very young juniors at the Bukit Jalil Sports School in Kuala Lumpur. They too have been rivals all through their playing days meeting in many finals. Matches between them were too close to call early. However, this final match was a surprise to those who have followed their rivalry.
The ball was a bit bouncy and this helped Duncan Lee to cover the court and play aggressively against Hafiz a player with deaft touches. Duncan Lee pushed home his advantage and took the match and Championship title in three.
The mixed team event for the SEA Cup starts tomorrow. Malaysia and Philippines are expected to dominant this event and fight out for the title.
Filipino Jumbo double
The day’s morning session was the grand finale of the Jumbo Doubles Championships with matches to decide the men and women champion pair. In the women’s match the 1st seeded Filipino pair of Jemyca Aribado and Yvonne Ayssa Dalida were odds on favorites to win.
They have been a dominant force in Jumbo Doubles within the Southeast Asian region. Their opponents were the 2nd Seeded young Indonesian pair of Nisa Nur Fadillah and Yaisha Putri Yasandi. As expected the Filipinos had the edge over the Indonesians and sailed home in straight games to be crowned champions.
The Philippines men’s pair of Robert Garcia and David William Pelino were Seeded No.1 and like their women counterparts have been a dominant pair in the region. Their opponents the No.2 Seeded Indonesians of Agung Wilant and Satria Laksana were also a pair to be reckoned in the region.
The match was expected to be a close affair in favor of the Filipinos but turned out to be a thriller. In the first game the lead see-sawed between the pairs. The Indonesians finally nudged ahead to take the game. It was a repeat in the second set with the lead changing more frequently. They fought till 14 each giving the Indonesians match point. With no deuce in Jumbo Doubles the next point became very crucial. Both pairs played it safe in a very long rally with the Filipinos finally grabbing a half-chance to take the game. The Indonesians were a spent force in the rubber and the pair from Philippines romped home to capture the title.
Singles semi-final upsets
There were surprises and upsets in the single semi-final matches for both men and women which were played in the evening. The first match of the evening was between Jemyca Aribado of the Philippines and Aira Azman of Malaysia. Jemyca the No.1 woman Seed is a seasoned player and had over the years achieved much both for herself and the Philippines. She was expected to carry the women’s title.
Her opponent the young Aira Azman had made her mark in the junior ranks but had still to significantly make an impact with the seniors. To everyone’s surprise Aira raced to a two game lead before Jemyca crawled back into the game to take the third. Aira put to end any hope of a comeback by Jemyca by winning the fourth game comfortably. In the second semi-finals for women, the 2nd Seed, Heng Wai Wong of Malaysia proved too strong for Yvonne Ayssa Dalida of Philippines by taking the match in straight games.
The first men’s semi-finals was a hard fought five game match. Top Seed, Robert Garcia of the Philippines was stretched the full distance by Malaysia’s young junior player, Duncan Lee Yung Yii. The games changed hands and in the fifth it was a nail-biter to the end. Duncan prevailed and won the match over the older and tiring Garcia.
The second men’s semi-finals was another close match between the 2nd Seed player of Malaysia, Muhammad Hafiz Zhafri, and Philippine’s Reymark Begornia. In a closely fought four game match the younger Hafiz Zhafri was steady on the big points to win the match.
Tomorrow’s finals will be an all Malaysia affair in both the Men and Women events.
In the first men’s match the 1st Seeded pair of Robert Garcia and David Pelino of the Philippines were too strong for their opponents from Brunei. In the second men’s match the 2nd Seeded Indonesian of Agung Wilant and Satria Laksana were pushed all the way in the rubber where they prevailed narrowly over the Thai pair of Louis Boonsinsook and Natthakit Jivasuwan. In the ladies match the Indonesian pair of Nisa Nur Fadillah and Yaisha Putri Yasandi had a relatively easy game to go pass their Thai opponents.
The evening matches were all singles quarter-final matches for both men and women. There were no upsets and all four top seeded players in both the men and women draw easily walked into the semi-finals.
The men’s semi-final matches will be an all Philippines and Malaysia affair. The first semi-final match will see the top seed, Robert Garcia, of the Philippines taking on Duncan Lee Yung Yii of Malaysia. In the other semi-finals, the 2nd Seeded Malaysian, Muhammad Hafiz Zhafri, will meet the defending champion, Reymark Begornia of the Philippines.
The women’s semi-final matches like the men’s will be between Philippines and Malaysia players. Top seeded, Jemyca Aribado of the Philippines will take on the Aira Azman of Malaysia. Aira who is still a junior has shown much promise and is capable of causing an upset. In the second semi-finals, the 2nd Seeded Heng Wai Wong of Malaysia, who is also still a junior, will play the more experience Filipino, Yvonne Ayssa Dalida.
Results & Draws :
The morning started with the official Opening Ceremony of the “6th Southeast Asian Squash Championships 2020”. Teams marched into the arena led by a band of bagpipers. A giant LED screen filled the background of the stage. Continuous squash photos, squash montage and a video clip depicting Thailand filled the screen.
The President of Thailand Squash Rackets Association, Mr. Chalitrat Chandarubeksa, delivered his opening address and declared the Championship Open. Team photographs were taken immediately following the Opening Ceremony.
The morning session was all Jumbo Doubles matches. There were two men’s matches and one women’s match. In the first match the No.1 Seeded Philippine pair of Robert Garcia and David Pelino having won the first game comfortably then needed to bring out their best to overcome the Thai pair of Louis Boonsinsook and Natthakit Jivasuwan in the second game.
In the second match the No.2 Seeded pair of Agung Wilant and Satria Laksana of Indonesia had an easier passage beating the pair from Brunei in straight games. In the women’s match the No.1 seeded pair of Jemyca Aribado and Yvonne Ayssa Dalida beat their Thai opponents in straight games.
In the evening session there were only two men’s single matches as all the other players had byes. In the first match, Mohammad Faisal of Indonesia was too strong for his Thai opponent, Waritpol Klinsoontorn, winning in straight games. The second match was between two unseeded players, Alexander Zhi Chuan Yong of Brunei and Abbas Abdullah of Thailand. The Thai emerged winner in straight games.
The annual Southeast Asian Squash Championships (aka SEA Cup Championships) will be held this year at Bangkok, Thailand, from 18 – 23 February 2020.
This 6th edition of the championships would see five of the seven member countries of the Southeast Asian Squash Federation (SEASF) participating. Participating are Brunei, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia and host Thailand. The other two countries – Singapore and Myanmar – are skipping this year’s event.
The venue for the Championships is at the Vajiravudh College where there are four Singles courts and a Jumbo Doubles court.
There will be five events at the Championships : Men’s Singles, Women’s Singles, Men’s Jumbo Doubles, Women’s Jumbo Doubles and Mixed Team – 3 men and 2 women.
The Mixed Team event is the main event at these Championships and teams compete to capture the sought after ’SEA Cup Trophy’. Malaysia are the defending champions and are Seeded 1 to retain the trophy. Philippines (Seeded 2) were the Gold medalist in the Mixed Team event at the recent Southeast Asian Games, held in December 2019, at Manila, Philippines. They would be hoping to upset the Seeding.
Philippines players are Seeded 1 in both the Men and Women’s Singles and also in both the Men and Women Jumbo Doubles. Their challenge in the singles events would come from Malaysia and from Indonesia in the Jumbo Doubles events.