FINALS: Elvinn Keo and Lai Wen Li claim maiden Singapore Open titles
Elvinn Keo and Lai Wen Li both justified their favourites label coming into today’s final as they both claimed the 2019 Singapore Squash Open men’s and women’s open titles in contrasting fashion. The victories of the Malaysian duo meant new names go on the roll of honour as neither has won the Singapore Squash Open before.
Elvinn Keo waltzed his way to the title today after beating a third Korean in this tournament. Having had a pretty rough draw to start off with, this win will be especially sweet. This also means that he remains unbeaten for 15 matches in Singapore, having won the last two events here as well.
The 31-year old Elvinn was simply a class above today as he completely demolished a helpless Lee Seung Taek. Save for the middle of the second game, it was all about Elvinn today as he sent Seung Taek onto all for corners of the court, often twisting and turning him, before nailing his signature finishing touches.
As Elvinn said in his post-match interview yesterday, they both have a similar game. It was clearly a wrong game plan for Seung Taek to come in to play his natural game to match Elvinn’s as the quality of their preference to play fast and taking it early was of very different qualities.
“Despite not being seeded highly in the tournament because of my PSA ranking, I am happy I managed to pull this through. I just kept my focus match by match instead of letting that bug me.
“My game plan today was really to not let him get into his rhythm and pull him into my game, which as you see from the score, it worked to my favour very well.
“Of course there was pressure to win, but I think he would have the pressure too, having taken out the top seed. But it’s something that I have gotten used to dealing with having been a professional for so many years. I just had to keep myself focussed and stick to my game plan today”, Elvinn said of his win today.
Despite the one-sided affair, credit must be given to Elvinn as he maintained his focus on the job in hand right to the end. Even in the third game, when he raced to a 6-0 lead, he never took his foot off the pedal and allowed the Korean just 2 points, finishing off the game and match with a forehand cross court drop shot that his opponent never saw coming.
Top seed Lai Wen Li justified her seeding when she took the women’s open title. The Malaysian World No. 75, currently at her highest world ranking, used all her experience to see off the challenge from second seed Jemyca Aribado in four games.
The 19-year old Sabahan did not have the best of starts as she took quite a while to get into the first game. After taking over the early lead at 3-2, she allowed Jemyca a string of 6 points to surge ahead to 8-3 and was never able to come close again in the 9-minute opener.
The momentum took a complete shift in the second though, as Wen Li then went 7 points in a row from 1-2 down to 8-2 for an unassailable lead. She allowed 2 successive points to her Filipino opponent before wrapping up in just 6 minutes.
Wen Li, having achieved perhaps her best career results in her last tournament last month when she made it to the final of the $12k SRFI Indian Tour, must be playing with a lot of confidence these days.
This was evident when it mattered most in the crucial third game, where the winner would get into a psychological advantage of being a game away from the title. Wen Li did just that as she dug deep to save 3 game balls, before taking the game 13-11 in the longest game of the match at 17 minutes, longer than the first two combined.
With the lead in hand, save for the opening point and at 7-8, Wen Li was always ahead and she closed out the match with a 4-point run to claim her first Singapore Squash Open title.
“I’m very happy to win this title. There were a couple of rallies maybe where I didn’t do so well, but I’m happy I managed to come back. This is really a good event for me to win as it’s also a preparation for the SEA Games”, said first-time Singapore Squash Open champion Lai Wen Li.
For Jemyca, her focus now shifts to the SEA Games that will be held in her hometown of Manila where she will lead the Philippines women’s team into competition.
“I did not manage to win today but I think we both played well. It was close and could’ve gone either way. I played my best today, much better than the previous rounds. For now, I’m looking forward to the SEA Games with excitement and I hope something good will happen there”, Jemyca said.
In the men’s master’s finals, second seed Charlie Alexander Thomas emerged from a closely contested match against top seed and recent Malaysian Open Over 55 champion Victor Koh. This is the first loss for Victor in local master’s tournaments since October 2018.
Day FOUR: Keo to face Korean giant-killer as women’s top seeds win through
A mouth-watering final is in store in both the men’s and women’s open of the 2019 Singapore Squash Open in Kallang Squash Centre tomorrow. While the men’s open event has been littered with upsets from the first day, the women’s open final will be contested by the top two seeds.
[9/16] Lee Seung Taek (Kor) 3-0 [9/16] Reymark Begornia (Phi) 11-5, 11-4 11-7
[5/8] Elvinn Keo (Mas) 3-2 [3/4] Nafiizwan Adnan (Mas) 11-6, 11-4, 7-11, 9-11, 11-8
 Lai Wen Li (Mas) 3-1 [3/4] Aika Azman (Mas) 9-11, 11-8, 11-6, 11-7
 Jemyca Aribado (Phi) 3-1 [3/4] Au Yeong Wai Yhann (Sin) 11-9, 11-2, 8-11, 12-10
1 Elvinn Keo retriving a shot against Nafiizwan Adnan in the men’s semifinals
The popular Elvinn Keo today upset the form books to edge compatriot Nafiizwan Adnan in five games and will take on the giant-killing Korean Lee Seung Taek, who beat fellow joint-ninth seed Reymark Bergonia with relative ease.
Nafiizwan, the Commonwealth Games bronze medallist last year who has since retired from professional squash, showed he was still a force to be reckoned with despite not having been in training as he stretched Elvinn to the wire.
However, will be kicking himself for a slow start once again as he allowed Elvinn to get into a 2-0 lead in two very short games – 5 minutes and 6 minutes. In both games, Elvinn had strung a series of 8 and 6 consecutive points to close out the games.
He fared a lot better in the next two, winning both of them to draw level. But the effort put in the last two games plus the tough game the previous day against Aaron Liang took its toll on the 33-year old, as he lost the final game 11-8.
2 Nafiizwan Adnan said that he enjoyed the game with Elvinn despite the loss
Despite the loss, he took it to his stride and saw the positives of it:
“I had fun today, I enjoyed myself. These days, it’s not so much about winning anymore. I know I’m not in my 100% shape, so I know my limits. I feel good that my presence here has brought people from all walks of life to come watch the game that we love. I am glad I am able to contribute to that”, said Nafiizwan.
Elvinn, meanwhile, is looking forward to his next match against Lee Seung Taek. He feels that they both have a somewhat similar game.
“I think we play a similar game. He’s taking the ball very early, he’s cutting off a lot. He looks pretty fast too and hopefully, I will be able to come up with a game plan tomorrow. It’s going to be a real tough match and I am going to try to keep my head and stay focussed in the game”, Elvinn said when asked to comment on his match tomorrow.
3 Lee Seung Taek had little trouble in his semifinal match against Reymark Begornia
In an earlier match, Lee Seung Taek continued to impress as he took out Filipino Reymark Begornia without much trouble.
Singapore’s interest in the event ended as Au Yeong Wai Yhann was beaten by arch-rival Jemyca Aribado of Philippines. The duo, who was meeting for the third time this year on this court alone, came in with a 1-1 record.
4Jemyca Aribado had a good start in her semifinal match against Au Yeong Wai Yhann
After a very slow start yesterday against the Malaysian junior, Jemyca made sure she did not repeat that today. She came in firing and at one point, held a 4-point cushion at 9-5 in the first game. Despite a comeback from Wai Yhann to draw level at 9-9, she manages to close it out 11-9.
In the second, she came on even stronger, winning 9 straight points to build a mammoth lead and never looked back. She went on to win 11-2 and looked good to wrap it up in the third. But Wai Yhann had other ideas and bounced back to take the third 11-8.
Wai Yhann would be very disappointed not to have stretched this to the wire, as she let slip four game balls from a 10-7 lead in the fourth, and allowed Jemyca to take 5 points in a row for the win.
“My lengths just did not really come in the way I wanted them to. Jemyca was very aggressive from the start and a big congrats to her. But generally, I’m still quite pleased with how I did here. I have been working a lot on my short game with (coach) Timothy, so I have been trying to put them into practice in this tournament”, said Wai Yhann on her overall performance in the tournament.
“We have been playing for many times, so I think we both have an idea of how to play each other. It really just depends on who is more dominant. But today, I think I did well in the deep and wide department”, said Jemyca on her match today.
5Lai Wen Li returns a shot against Aika Azman en route to the finals.
Top seed Lai Wen Li awaits Jemyca, after the Sabah lass came back from a game down to oust Aika Azman. The pair, who often train together back home, naturally are well aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses, which explains the duration of the match of just under an hour.
“I played pretty scrappy in the first two games. I think I was a little nervous and I found myself whacking the ball all over. But I found my rhythm in the third and fourth and definitely played better.
I hope I will start a lot stronger tomorrow in the final”, Wen Li said.
Day TWO : TOP SEED KANG EJECTED AND BREAKTHROUGH WIN FOR SHERILYN YANG
The 2019 Singapore Squash Open lost its top seed today when top seed and Singapore’s top player Samuel Kang was narrowly beaten by Korea’s Lee Seung Taek in a dramatic five game thriller. Samuel’s shocking exit leaves only Aaron Liang as the sole flag-bearer in the men’s open main event after the youngster came through from two games down against Malaysia’s Andrik Lim.
Samuel Kang, who had set his sights on winning the tournament, was clearly made to pay for his slow start in the opening two games. On both occasions, he allowed Seung Taek to open up healthy leads never once got into the lead himself.
In the opener, Seung Taek opened up 3-point leads at 7-5 and 8-5 before being closed in at 9-9. But two winning rallies gave the Korean the lead. The second game was even worse off from Samuel as he found himself on the back foot and trailed 1-5. Samuel never recovered from the deficit and despite saving four game balls from 5-10, he came just short and Seung Taek took a 2-0 lead after winning 11-9.
It was almost a straight game match after the Korean had match ball at 10-7 in the third game. But with the home crowd behind him, Samuel dug deep and strung five points in a row to force the fourth game – a game he dictated for most parts and duly won much to the crowd’s delight.
However, all the energy spent on the last two games seem to have taken its toll as he never led again in the match. Seung Taek surged ahead to 6-1 and 9-4. There was a second wind from Samuel who fought back to 9-9, but the Korean was not to be denied his major upset. After 71 minutes on court, it was game and match to Lee Seung Taek 11-9, 11-9, 10-12, 8-11, 11-9.
Malaysia’s Farez Izwan, the joint-fifth seed narrowly escaped defeat from the hands of his senior Ng Jo Wen after coming back from 2-1 down to win the last two games 11-5 and 11-7 for a place against Seung Taek.
While Samuel failed in his comeback bid, youngster Aaron Liang prevented another upset of the day when he fought back from two games down against Malaysian teenager Andrik Lim 11-13, 7-11, 11-8, 11-6, 11-3. The joint-eight seed’s win sets him up with the biggest name in the draw, Nafiizwan Adnan.
Nafiizwan, the 2018 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist, took out Thailand’s SEA Games bound Natthakit Jivasuwan 11-6, 11-6, 11-7.
There were no further upsets in the men’s open as all other seeds won in contrasting fashion. Wee Ming Hock came through a tough match in four over Alex Crouch, while Reymark Bergonia halted the giant-killing run of Indonesia’s Satria Bagus Laksana in five.
In the bottom quarter, Elvinn Keo and Robert Garcia will face each other in the last eight in a repeat of the SGSquash Circuit #5 final after both won in straight games. Elvinn easily dispatched Korean Jo Yeonghun while Robert beat compatriot David Pelino.
“I’m not happy to have to play my team mate but there’s nothing we can do – it’s just the luck of the draw. I played well today to win in three and I am looking forward to get into the next round, and possibly the final”, Robert Garcia said.
In the women’s open event, Singapore are guaranteed a semi-finalist after Sherilyn Yang put up an impressive display to upset Thailand’s Anantana Prasertratanakul in straight games – 11-8, 11-5, 11-6. It is a very commendable for Sherilyn, who has taken time-off from work to train for the SEA Games.
“I’m generally satisfied with my game today. I stuck to the game plan and it worked really well for me. Ana is a great player and I lost out in our last meeting. I’m very glad that all the training and help from various coaches the last few months has paid off”, said Sherilyn.
“One thing I would still like to work on is the ability to cut off the ball more. I’ve recently made some minor changes in my technique and I’m seeing major improvements in my game. With a better swing, I hope to be able to step up and take my game to the next level”, Sherilyn added when probed on what she would like to see herself do better.
The win earns her a spot against SEA Games team mate Au Yeong Wai Yhann who easily saw off Nisa Nur Fadillah 11-6, 11-3, 11-2.
In another match, Singapore’s top junior Gracia Chua lost out to top seed Lai Wen Li expectedly. But the gutsy youngster was full of excitement at the prospect of the opportunity to play someone of the Malaysian’s calibre.
“I was very excited to have the opportunity to play with Wen Li. She is a top-100 player in the world and her shot placement was very sharp. She also reacted very quickly to my attacking shots and exposed how loose they were. But this opportunity makes me want to train harder on getting my shots tighter and expand my shot variety”, Gracia commented.
Aika Azman and Nazihah Hanis both won comfortably, and with Wen Li’s win, the top half of the draw in the last four will all be Malaysians and thus ensuring them a finalist on Saturday.
In the bottom quarter, second seed Jemyca dropped a game against Malaysia’s Yasshmita Jadishkumar in her 11-7, 9-11, 11-8, 11-5 win. Her compatriot Aysah Dalilda meanwhile, was no match for Amirah Rosli.
Day ONE: CHUA MAN TONG CRASHES OUT ON OPENING DAY OF 2019 SINGAPORE SQUASH OPEN
The 2019 Singapore Squash Open kicked off today at the Kallang Squash Centre with a major upset in the men’s open event. Singapore’s joint-third seed Chua Man Tong was shown the exit by Indonesia’s Satria Bagus Laksana in the second round of 32.
Man Tong, world ranked 244, had received a bye in the opening round while Satria took out Singaporean national junior Josiah Chong in straight games. The result is certainly not good for the confidence of the confidence of the 25-year old SEA Games bound Man Tong, who has now lost in the opening round of his last four PSA Tour events.
Top two seeds of the event, home favourite Samuel Kang and Philippines’ Robert Garcia safely made it through in contrasting fashion. While Samuel had to battle back from a games down against Indonesia’s Agung Wilant, Robert eased past Pakistan’s Muhammad Sami Ullah.
Samuel will be joined by compatriot Aaron Liang in the next round as the joint-ninth seed won comfortably against Australia’s Mike Tench.
World Men’s Team-bound Brandon Tan and Edward Thng, also lost, but in the second round. Brandon failed to capitalise on an opening game lead to fall to Malaysian Mohd Farez Iswan, the world number 290.
Edward Thng, the left-handed promising junior struggled against Thailand’s Chattaporn Juntanayingyong in the opening round, twice having to come back from 0-1 and 1-2 down before strolling through the final two games to set himself up against former world number 26 Nafiizwan Adnan of Malaysia. Nafiizwan, a bronze medallist at the Commonwealth Games last year, was however, a class above and won in three games.
“I think Edward was a big tired from his long match in the morning. I think he is a good player, but doesn’t think through properly and crafts his rallies. He has quick feet and can reach the front pretty quick. I think if he can use this to his advantage a little smarter, he could be more dangerous”, Nafiizwan said of his young opponent today.
As for Edward, it must not have been easy playing someone heads and shoulders over him. Even with the squash aside, it must’ve been an overwhelming experience, but one that he said he enjoyed.
“It was a great experience, especially against someone so skilled and experienced like him. He showed great skill at putting the ball away in the mid court area, and that is something for me to take away. Overall, it was a great experience and I hope to build on it”, said Edward later.
Crowd favourite and winner of the SGSquash Circuit #5 Elvinn Keo also did not have an easy day in the office as he was stretched to four games by Korea’s Hwang Joong Chan. Ranked a lowly 610 in the world, the Korean pulled one game back after being 2-0 down to force Elvinn to up his game and win the fourth.
In other upsets of the day, a pair of joint-ninth seeds were shown the door when Ng Jo Wen edged Malaysian compatriot Hafiz Zhafri in five games, and Singapore-based Alex Crouch ousting Lim Kai Zhen in four.
There were only two women’s open matches today, with one featuring top national junior Gracia Chua. The 14-year old student played well beyond her age as she took out Thailand’s Tuddaw Thamronglarp in straight games.
“I feel I could’ve played a little better as I made a little too many mistakes and my movement felt very stiffed. However, I enjoyed the match and experience very much as it gave me the chance to practice moving my opponents with the boast”, said Gracia when asked how was her experience.
The only other women’s open match saw Malaysian Yasshimita Jadishkumar trounce Thailand’s Phanghatai Phongrattana for the loss of just 10 points.