Gawad and El Tayeb double up in Seremban
Egyptian duo Karim Abdel Gawad and Nour El Tayeb are the 2023 Ace Malaysia Squash Cup champions after they claimed wins over men’s top seed Mostafa Asal and women’s fifth seed Rachel Arnold at the S2 Sports Complex in Seremban.
Gawad won the 27th PSA title of his career – and his second of the season – ousting World #5 Asal 11-8, 12-10, 11-5. Asal enjoyed early leads in each game, but Gawad was able to fight back in all three to clinch the victory, having won the Grasshopper Cup in has last outing.
“I feel great, winning another title back-to-back and having such a good performance makes me very happy,” said Gawad. “The way I perform, the way I move on court, the way I play squash is just very enjoyable for myself right now and hopefully for everyone watching.
“Playing Mostafa is very hard, but I was looking forward to this match. We’ve played twice before, once when he was still coming up as a young player, and the second time was during my injury phase. I wasn’t playing my best squash then, so I was looking forward to this match.”
El Tayeb, the top seed in the women’s tournament, captured the 15th PSA title of her career after she stormed to victory over Arnold in just 19 minutes. Like Gawad, it’s El Tayeb’s second title of the season after her South Western Open win last month.
“I think I’ve been playing well all week, so it’s nice to play well today,” said El Tayeb. “I could tell Rachel wasn’t moving well, maybe she’s struggling from the long week. I’m sorry for her but I’m happy that I won.
“It gives me a lot of confidence in my ability, every opponent was different this week and every match was different. I’m glad I was able to back up match after match.”
Semis : Arnold denies Egyptian clean sweep to reach final
While three home players took to court in the semi-finals in Seremban, Rachel Arnold was the only survivor as she overcame unseeded Egyptian Malak Khagafy in the first semi-final at the S2 Sports Complex. Thereafter it was Egypt all the way as the top seeds dominated.
I can’t believe it,” said Arnold. “I was close to giving up in my first match in the fifth game, so I’m proud to get to the final and I’m pretty happy with how I’ve been playing this week. I’ve got nothing to lose now, so I’m just going to give it my best tomorrow. Everyone here has been great and really supportive. It’s nice to see familiar faces around.”
Nour El Tayeb will appear in her 29th PSA final after she overcame the other Malaysian woman in action – Sivasangari Subramaniam after losing the first game.
“It was a tough game to back up after yesterday’s match,” El Tayeb said. “I am over 30 now and I can feel the recovery is slowing down big time, so it was hard at the beginning of the match. Siva was very smart today and it took me a while to get used to her game, but I’m glad I managed to get into the match quickly and play well towards the end.”
Two former World number ones will go head-to-head in the men’s final, with Karim Abdel Gawad and Mostafa Asal claiming wins against Eain Yow Ng and Ramit Tandon.
“We haven’t played for so long,” said Gawad. “We’ve played twice, once when he was so young and once when I was injured, so I wasn’t playing my best squash. He’s been playing well and he’s near the top of the rankings, I’m looking forward to it and hopefully it will be a good final tomorrow.”
Quarters : Arnold and Tandon cause big upsets in Seremban
Malaysia’s Rachel Arnold and India’s Ramit Tandon caused big upsets against second seed Farida Mohamed and third seed Victor Crouin to book their places in the semi-finals.
“I’m pleased with how I played,” said Arnold . “I was pretty patient with my length and I think that was a good thing. If I keep up my performance to the level I played in the last few days then I should be good in the semis.”
Arnold will be the heavy favourite to reach the title decider when she comes up against unseeded Egyptian Malak Khafagy, who beat compatriot Kenzy Ayman in five games to reach her first PSA Bronze semi-final.
“I’m extremely overwhelmed,” Khafagy said. “It’s a lot to digest right now. It feels great, it’s my first semi-final at such a big event. I didn’t expect anything, I just came here to enjoy my game and to play the semi-finals tomorrow is so exciting. It would mean everything to reach the final. I’ve been working so hard and this is paying off right now. I’m very happy and excited.”
The other semi-final will see top seed Nour El Tayeb line up against the other remaining Malaysian female, Sivasangari Subramaniam. El Tayeb ousted 16-year-old Amina Orfi, while Subramaniam cruised past Hong Kong’s Ka Yi Lee.
In the men’s event World #43 Tandon reached his biggest PSA semi-final for over four years after he came from behind to inflict a shock defeat on Crouin, his first win over the Frenchman in three attempts,
“I was just trying to play as well as I could, Victor is a solid player and he is one of those players that you really need to dig deep against to beat,” Tandon said. “It’s important to believe in myself and hang in there with the world’s best players. Once I can start doing that I’ll be able to put pressure on them and convert these wins. I’ve been close before, but I haven’t really converted, so I think it’s about keeping the fight going.”
Tandon will take on Mostafa Asal after the top seed beat Indian veteran Saurav Ghosal in straight games, while fourth seed Eain Yow Ng – the last Malaysian standing in the men’s draw – dispatched Frenchman Sebastien Bonmalais.
“I had the upper hand on the backhand side and was putting pressure on him,” said Ng. “Physically not so much, but mentally. I kept him away from the ’T’ and made sure he didn’t get those easy volleys. I think I forced a few errors from his volley and I thought my length was really good today.”
Second seed Karim Abdel Gawad will be Ng’s semi-final opponent after he emerged victorious in an entertaining match with Switzerland’s Dimitri Steinmann.
Round Two : Men’s seeds advance, trio of women’s upsets
The second day of action at the S2 Sports Complex in Seremban saw all eight men’s seeds win through to the quarters, but there was a trio of women’s upsets.
Hong Kong’s Lee Ka Yi Lee sprung the biggest surprise as she upset third seed Aifa Azman, reversing a run of defeats dating back to 2015. Lee next meets another Malaysian in seventh seed Sivasangari Subramaniam, who beat England’s Alicia Mead to book her quarter-final spot.
“I tried to take the ball into the corners when I could. Aifa has such good hands and you can’t give her opportunities,” said Lee. “It was tough for me, so I tried to keep the ball tight to the corners so I could have more chances to go for shots as well. Winning today has a big impact on my confidence. I think tomorrow I will be playing Sivasangari, and I haven’t played her in a long time, so I hope I can have a good match.”
Rachel Arnold is the other Malaysian player left in the women’s draw after she saved four match balls to beat the younger Azman’s sister Aira 15-13 in the fifth, while World #20 Eain Yow Ng is the only home representative left in the men’s draw following his win over Egypt’s Ibrahim Elkabbani.
Egypt’s Kenzy Ayman and Malak Khagafy both upset seeded opponents and will meet for a place in the semis, as will top seed Nour El Tayeb and world junior champion Amina Orfi.
Round One : Home quarter advance
A quartet of local players claimed opening day wins at the Ace Malaysia Cup, with Low Wee Wern, Aira Azman, Addeen Idrakie and Ivan Yuen all securing their second round berths at the S2 Sports Complex in Seremban.
Low, a former World #5, overcame Egypt’s Menna Hamed by to claim her first win at the Malaysia Cup since the 2019 edition when she reached the final.
“I’m pretty happy with the way I played and the way I managed to win it in four because it was getting a bit touch and go at the end,” said Low. “I’ve been through matches like that and ended up on the losing side, so it’s great to get through with a win, particularly playing at home here in Malaysia.
“I threw everything I had at her, all of the experience and the years I’ve had playing on the tour. Sometimes when you want that one point you get so desperate and run out of ideas, so I’m glad I stuck with it and didn’t let it go at the end.”
Day Two will see today’s winners take on the seeded players, where 33-year-old Low will take on second seed Farida Mohamed in w women’s round that will feature five home players with Azman compatriot Rachel Arnold, while in the men’s draw Idrakie and Yuen will join fourth seeded Asian Games champion Eain Yow Ng.