Home double for Ng and Arnold
Eain Yow Ng and Rachel Arnold made it a home double as they both beat higher seeds in today’s finals to claim the Malaysian Open titles.
Zheng Guan Kng reports
It was a sensational home double at the Malaysian Open with Ng Eain Yow and Rachel Arnold breaking through for their biggest career wins.
World No. 37 Eain Yow came through in some style as he played some of his best squash to gun down world No. 28 Nicolas Mueller of Switzerland 11-7, 12-14, 11-9, 11-5 at the National Squash Centre, Bukit Jalil on Sunday.
The 21-year-old, who reached the final without dropping a single game, had the crowd on the edge of their seats after he broke away from 6-all to take the first game 11-7.
Second seed Mueller, who has battled through his three previous matches, once again dug in to take the second game 14-12.
Eain Yow however took the crucial big points to edge in the third and that broke Mueller’s fight as the Malaysian swept home to the win after 55 minutes.
The PSA Challenger 30 title is Eain Yow’s biggest to date and it is sweet achievement for the KL lad who finished as runner-up two years ago.
Additionally, he also becomes only the third Malaysian but the first since 2010 to lift the title in front of the home crowd.
“I can’t be any more pleased to win the Malaysian Open. It’s a great feeling to start the season on a win and it’s going to motivate me even more as well,” said Eain Yow who now has four PSA titles to his name.
“It’s always tough against Nicolas. He had three tough matches previously and I thought I may have an edge today. “But he really made it tough in a physical contest. He didn’t give me any chances and I’m happy to have taken my opportunities when it came.
“Of course winning the third was also important. Especially since a player like Nicolas is really hard to stop when he is confident.
“But I’m really pleased to have come through. It played on my mind a bit, knowing that the last home winner was in 2010 and there was a bit of pressure on myself to win. I’m just glad that I had it in myself to take the title,” added Eain Yow who heads to the US Open next.
In the earlier women’s final, world No. 46 Rachel also delivered one of her best performance ever to stun defending champion Low Wee Wee in an all-Malaysian final.
The third seeded Rachel started and finished strongly against second seed Wee Wern in an 11-7, 11-13, 10-12, 11-8, 11-5 win.
After flying out of the blocks to take the first game, the 23-year-old Rachel was unable to capitalise on her chances as former world No. 5 Wee Wern came back strongly to nick the second and third games.
It looked as though the Penangite was on course for yet another home title a few decisions went against and suddenly Rachel was right back in it.
Wee Wern’s confidence was certainly battered early in the deciding rubber after a collision with Rachel left her wobbling.
“I’m very pleased to have grabbed this win. It’s not easy at all as I had to push myself through the whole game and fight for every rally,” said Rachel.
“After dropping the third, I knew I just had to fight hard to stay in it. I told myself to stay in the rallies and increase the pace and eventually it worked out in the end.
“This is such a big win for and it would certainly help my rankings a fair bit. “I’ve been staying around the same rank for quite a while now so this is really the win that I need to give myself a push,” concluded Rachel.
Semis: Home interest very much alive in KL
Zheng Guan Kng reports
Home interest at the Malaysian Open is very much alive after Ng Eain Yow and the pair of Low Wee Wern and Rachel Arnold all powered into the finals.
World No. 46 Rachel was exceptionally impressive as she played some of her best squash to deliver a sensational upset over top seed Rowan Elaraby of Egypt in the semi-finals at the National Squash Centre, Bukit Jalil on Saturday.
The odds were always against the fourth seeded Rachel but she proved doubters wrong with an impressive four game win. The 23-year-old flew off the blocks right from the start and was hitting some outstanding winners as Rowan couldn’t get a footing in the game.
The Egyptian did hung in there as she stepped it up to take the third game 11-9. But there was no stopping Rachel who came back strong in the fourth to power into her first ever PSA Challenger 20 final.
“I thought I would give her a good fight because I played her before. It was close and I knew how she going to play,” said Rachel. “Trying to stay focused is something that I have been working on. I lost it a little in the third but I’m glad that I got it back in the fourth.
“I’m really pleased to get into the final. It’s good to have some consistency in my results as well and this is probably my biggest win to date. Next up would be Wee Wern. We played each other in the final of the National Championships so I’ll have to go back and see what I need to work on.”
Earlier second seed Wee Wern made it a second straight final in the home event after powering past Hong Kong’s Vanessa Chu. The defending champion started strongly but lost a bit of focus as world No. 49 Vanessa hit back to take the second game.
World No. 34 Wee Wern however kept her cool and stepped up her pace to seal the win in 34 minutes.
“Of course the match was a bit tougher than the score suggested. There were some close rallies and Vanessa did well in the second so I’m really happy to get away with a 3-1 win,” said Wee Wern.
“Ideally I would have loved to win 3-0 but some parts I played well and there were still improvements needed. I’m just glad that there were more ups for me on the day. It’s also nice to make the final again. It’s going to be one more big match and hopefully I’ll play better tomorrow than I did today.”
With the Malaysian women providing a lot of cheer and securing one title, the onus was on Eain Yow to deliver in the men’s competition. And the world No. 37 didn’t disappoint as he delivered a polished performance to beat the high-flying Rui Soares of Portugal in straight games.
The fourth seeded Eain Yow was always on the front foot and didn’t allow world No. 92 Soares any room of opportunities as he claimed the win in convincing fashion.
The straight game wins means Eain Yow has won all his matches in the competition without dropping a game and he is certainly pleased with his efforts.
“It’s definitely good to be back in the final. Two years ago when I made the final here, it was a bit of surprised and I wasn’t so prepared for it,” said Eain Yow. “This time I came in seeded fourth and I’m definitely more prepared and there’s more for me to prove as well.
“Of course expectations on me were higher this time but I think I’ve done well this week and I’m hungry to do well in the final too.”
Eain Yow who will feature in his first ever PSA Challenger 30 final, goes on to meet Swiss second seed Nicolas Mueller for the title. World No. 28 Mueller made the best of his experience as he saw off a strong challenge by Egyptian Youssef Soliman.
Despite playing two five-setters in his earlier matches, Mueller still appeared to have the extra spring and controlled the ball well as he bounced back from dropping the first game.
With some excellent shot-making and retrieval, Mueller also stopped Youssef from taking the crucial third game before holding on to finish the contest in 51 minutes.
“I didn’t have a good start but I managed to come back and put some work in his legs. The first was a tough one and I was also lucky to win the third,” admitted Mueller. “But it’s good to get through into the final in my first tournament of the season. As the second seed I aim to get into the final if not win.
“Now I’m feeling good and strong despite playing two five-setters and another four games today.”
Quarter-Finals : Malaysian trio keep home hopes alive
There will be home interest in both sets of semi-finals in KL after victories from Low Wee Wern, Rachel Arnold and Eain Yow Ng in today’s quarter-finals at the Nationals Squash Centre.
Zheng Guan Kng reports
Ng Eain Yow kept the home hopes alive in the Malaysian Open on a day when the seeded players lived up to their billing in the quarter-finals. The 21-year-old Eain Yow had a lot riding on his shoulders especially with Malaysia not having a men’s winner since 2010.
And the world No. 37 certainly put in the good work as he produced a smart performance in seeing off Pakistan’s Tayyab Aslam 11-9, 12-10, 11-2 at the National Squash Centre, Bukit Jalil on Friday.
The fourth seed looked hesitant on his shots in the early stages and it allowed sixth seed Tayyab to play his way into the contest. Twice however, Eain Yow kept a cool head as he edged out the first two games before stepping it up in the third for an easy 11-2 finish.
“I think I made it tougher for myself today. The last few times I played Tayyab it was always a close 3-2 and I was a bit nervous and cautious at the start,” said Eain Yow. “But once I got into the rhythm, the third was easy. I probably should have started playing like this from the start but I’m still happy to go through in three games.
“Of course it always a physical tussle with Tayyab as well. He’s a smart player who uses his body well and if I put the ball loose in the middle he’s going to shut me off. “So I thought I did well in that aspect, kept my emotions in check at times when there were a lot of contact.”
Eain Yow, who finished runner-up in the 2017 edition, goes on to meet unheralded Rui Soares from Portugal in the semi-finals.
World No. 92 Soares, who already has two upsets to his name in the competition, again produced one of the finest comebacks as he stopped world No. 80 Carlos Cornes of Spain 4-11, 4-11, 11-6, 11-4, 12-10.
This means both Eain Yow and Soares will be battling to reach their first ever PSA Challenger 30 final.
There was no joy for another Malaysian in fifth seed Ivan Yuen after he ran out of steam against second seed Nicolas Mueller with the Swiss ace winning 12-10, 11-6, 8-11, 6-11, 11-8. World No. 28 Mueller, who had saved three game balls to sneak in the first, had looked to be cruising after going 2-0 up.
Ivan however threw everything at him and hit a few amazing winners to level the tie and force a deciding rubber. Unfortunately, it was Mueller who started stronger in the fifth and he duly wrapped it up in 66 minutes.
“It was a very tough game as Ivan is so talented. I was lucky to win the first and I snuck in a 2-0 lead but I knew Ivan was always going to come back firing,” said Mueller. “I didn’t had such a good start in the third and fourth and Ivan was hitting winners from everywhere.
“Maybe I played the big points better, maybe I was a bit hungrier or maybe it was just a bit more luck. But after two five-setters, I’m definitely in the tournament and I’m all warmed up now.”
The 30-year-old goes on to meet Egyptian third seed Youssef Soliman in the semi-finals.
World No. 31 Youssef slogged it out in the day’s longest game, needing a good 75 minutes before seeing off Spain’s Edmon Lopez 11-5, 11-7, 5-11, 9-11, 17-15.
“I was really tested physically and mentally today. At 2-0 up I thought I would be fine for a 3-0 win but I was surprised with the way Edmon came back,” admitted Youssef. “He put up an amazing performance and it was unbelievable the way he adapted. The fifth game was a bit of a drama but I’m proud of myself for coming through.”
In the women’s competition, the Malaysian challenge is very much alive with defending champion Low Wee Wern and third seed Rachel Arnold both making it to the last four.
Second seed Wee Wern overcame a slight drop of focus in taking out Egyptian youngster Menna Hamed 11-5, 11-3, 8-11, 11-3. She will go on to meet fourth seed Vanessa Chu of Hong Kong, who ended the gallant run of 14-year-old teenager Aira Azman in an 11-8, 5-11, 11-9, 11-9 win.
“Menna had a good run on the PSA lately and you can never take an Egyptian for granted as they are always willing to go all out,” said Wee Wern. “I think I was unlucky in the third and I should have closed it out but I started and finished the fourth strongly.
“Overall my game is falling in place better. I’m hitting better and that it turn helps me move better and it’s really about me finding my game when I take on Vanessa.”
World No. 46 Rachel on the other hand enjoyed the fastest game of the day she dispatched compatriot Ooi Kah Yan 11-3, 11-3, 7-11, 11-5.
“I slowed down a bit in the third and she attacked more which caused me to panic a bit but I’m glad to have gotten it back in the fourth,” said Rachel. “It feels good to get some good results because I haven’t been playing all that well recently and it’s definitely nice to be in the semi-finals here in KL.”
Rachel, who will feature in her second PSA Challenger 20 semi-final, goes up against top seed Rowan Elaraby of Egypt for a place in the final.
The two-time world junior champion had another massive scare as she once again went the full distance before beating American Sabrina Sobhy 8-11, 11-7, 9-11, 11-2, 11-4.
“I knew it was tough because I lost to Sabrina two years ago when she wasn’t even training full time yet,” said Rowan.
Aira steals the home show as Iberian trio advance to men’s quarters
Zheng Guan Kng reports
The big guns came out to play but it was teenager Aira Azman who stole the home show on the second day of the Malaysian Open squash championships – while Spain’s Carlos Cornes and Edmon Lopez, plus Portugal’s Rui Soares both scored upset at the top of the men’s draw.Fourteen-year-old Aira, without even a PSA world ranking, was a late entrant to the tournament. But she’s certainly making the most out of it after producing yet another outstanding performance to beat world No. 51 Lee Ka Yi of Hong Kong in the second round at the National Squash Centre, Bukit Jalil on Thursday.
Aira, who turns 15 on Sunday, was really cool and calm beyond her tender years as she bounced back from an opening game loss to complete a 13-15, 11-9, 11-9, 11-9 turnaround against world No. 51 Ka Yi.
It’s her second big upset after she had packed off world No. 71 Tessa ter Sluis of Holland in the first round on Wednesday.
“It’s really an unexpected outcome for me. I wasn’t even supposed to play in this tournament but I got a late call-up,” said Aira who is not even ranked on the PSA Tour.
“Today I was really just trying to play my best against a senior player. I know that if I want to progress then I just have to go all out. I’m really delighted to make it into the quarter-finals. And it’s double the joy since I turn 15 in three more days,” added Aira.
The Kedahan goes on to meet fourth seed Vanessa Chu of Hong Kong in the last eight. World No. 49 Vanessa was convincing in beating Lai Wen Li 11-9, 11-5, 11-7.
There was no joy for sister Aifa however. The 17-year-old saw her 10-match winning streak on the PSA Tour cut short as she lost to compatriot and defending champion Low Wee Wern. Former world No. 5 Wee Wern, who is seeded second, made the best of her experience as she claimed an 11-6, 11-6, 12-10 win.
“I’m pleased with this win because Aifa was coming back very strong in the third so I’m happy to close it out in three,” said Wee Wern. “She’s been in top form and in confidence while I lost a couple of matches here and there so it was really a balance for me to use as much experience I had over her to win.”
The Penangite goes on to meet seventh seed Menna Hamed of Egypt, who edged past Chan Yiwen 14-12, 11-6, 12-10.
“It was quite a big battle. She was up in the first game and I had to stay calm because I know winning the first is always important,” said Menna. “I was better in the second but the third was really too close as she went 10-8 and I’m glad to get through in the end.”
Also through with an upset is world No. 86 Ooi Kah Yan who showed great resolve as she came from two games down to knock out sixth seed Anna Serme of Czech Republic.
The pint-sized Kah Yan saved match balls in the third and fourth games before coolly holding her nerves to seal an 8-11, 10-12, 14-12, 12-10, 12-10 win in 53 minutes.
There was nearly a major upset but two-time world junior champion and top seed Rowan Elaraby of Egypt survived a fierce challenge against compatriot Hana Ramadan for an 8-11, 11-7, 9-11, 11-2, 11-4 win.
In the men’s competition, Spanish pair Edmon Lopez and Carlos Cornes stunned the field to gatecrash into the last eight. World No. 59 Lopez was on song as he defeated eighth seed Karim El Hammamy of Egypt 11-5, 11-9, 5-11, 11-8.
“It’s a good win for me. I played well, played solid against Karim whom I’ve never beaten before so I’m happy with my performance,” said Lopez who meets another Egyptian in third seed Youssef Soliman next.
World No. 80 Cornes on the other hand delivered a huge upset by taking down top seed and world No. 26 Max Lee of Hong Kong 11-3, 8-11, 11-7, 11-9.
The Spaniard goes to meet Portugal’s Rui Soares, who also scored an upset by knocking out seventh seed Mahesh Mangaokar of India 11-13, 11-9, 1-11, 11-5, 11-7.
The Malaysian challenge meanwhile will be carried out by Ng Eain Yow and Ivan Yuen, with the pair both notching convincing victories. Fourth seed Eain Yow was too good for Hong Kong’s Henry Leung as he strolled to an 11-2, 11-5, 11-2 win. Fifth seed Ivan on the other hand was purely business as he dispatched surprise package Ong Sai Hung 11-3, 11-7, 11-2.
Eain Yow goes on to meet Pakistan’s Tayyab Aslam, who knocked out Syafiq Kamal, while Ivan will have a daunting task against second seed Nicolas Mueller of Switzerland.
Malaysians grab lions share of upsets on Day One
Zheng Guan Kng reports
The opening day of the Malaysian Open squash championships saw quite a few upsets as the hosts Malaysia grabbed the lion’s share of the wins.
In the men’s competition, wildcard entrant Ong Sai Hung claimed the biggest win of his career as he put up an excellent showing to beat Wales’ Peter Creed.
Ranked only No. 227 in the world, the 20-year-old Sai Hung played the game of his life as he earned a shocking 11-8, 11-6, 6-11, 11-5 win over world No. 65 Creed. The Kedahan was on the mark from the word go and had Creed scrambling early as he coolly dispatched shots to take a two-game lead.
The nine-time Welsh national champion hung in there by taking the third game but Sai Hung, who has suffered seven early exits this year, was not to be denied as he took the win in 48 minutes.
“I was confident of my chances even though I’ve never played Peter before and he’s the higher ranked player,” said Sai Hung. “This is my biggest win in my career so far and it means a lot to me to come through a hard game.
“I’ve really trained hard to get a breakthrough like this and I’ll definitely give it my best in the next round,” added Sai Hung who meets compatriot and fifth seed Ivan Yuen next.
Also scoring a big win on the day is world No. 88 Syafiq Kamal who came from behind to beat world No. 67 Dimitri Steinmann of Switzerland 12-10, 3-11, 7-11, 11-4, 11-8.
“I never played Dimitri before so I started off by probing for weaknesses. It worked well at the start but I couldn’t keep up with his pace and lost the second and third,” said Syafiq. “After that (Ng) Eain Yow in my corner told me to just stay in the rallies longer and I knew I had a 50-50 chance when he grew tired.
“It’s a good win for me because I’ve been struggling for results recently so hopefully this is just the confidence booster I need for the rest of the year.”
Syafiq goes on to meet No. 6 seed Tayyab Aslam of Pakistan in the second round.
Another upset saw in-form world No. 87 Lau Tsz Kwan of Hong Kong score an 11-8, 6-11, 11-9, 8-11, 11-9 win over Australian world No. 79 Rex Hedrick.
Portugal’s Rui Soares also did well to upstage Pakistan’s Asim Khan and there were also wins for Hong Kong’s Henry Leung, France’s Baptiste Masotti and Spanish duo Carlos Cornes and Edmon Lopez.
In the women’s competition, wildcards Aifa Azman and Chan Yiwen rose to the occasion as they dispatched higher ranked players to move into the second round.
World No. 122 Aifa, who has hit a purple patch by winning two PSA titles in Australia last month, needed just 19 minutes to beat Switzerland’s world No. 84 Nadia Pfister 11-5, 11-2, 11-3.
The fine win earned the 17-year-old a meeting with second seed and defending champion Low Wee Wern in the second round.
“I played well today and I am so ready to take on Wee Wern. The last time I played her was during the National Championships last year in which I lost 3-2,” said Aifa. “But I’ve been playing well recently and I’m feeling confident in putting up a good game to beat our national champion.”
World No. 119 Yiwen put the disappointment of losing in the semi-finals of the Suqian Classic last week to battle past world No. 74 Sunayna Kuruvilla of India.
“I had a terrible week in China and I only had two days to reset so this win is really a big relief,” said Yiwen who turned 19 today. “Additionally, I really wanted to prove myself that I deserved this wildcard slot. It was a close game but I’m happy to move on to focus on the next match.”
Yiwen will next meet seventh seed Menna Hamed of Egypt for a place in the quarter-finals.
Also surprising the field was 14-year-old Aira Azman who was outstanding in beating world No. 71 Tessa ter Sluis of Holland. The younger sister of Aifa, Aira was a late entry into the competition following a few withdrawals.
But the youngster made the most of her opportunities as she claimed an 11-9, 11-7, 13-15, 11-6 win.
“It feels great to win because I didn’t even know I was going to play in this competition,” beamed Aira. “I’m happy to win in the first round in a senior tournament although I did get lucky in the end.
“I play Hong Kong’s Lee Ka Yi next. I watched videos of her against (Yee) Xin Ying in China last week and I know I have a chance but it won’t be easy.”
Also winning in the first round is India’s Tanvi Khanna, Malaysian Ooi Kah Yan and a pair of Egyptians in Hana Ramadan and Farah Momen.
Malaysian Open under way in KL
The Malaysian Open is back as the Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia (SRAM) is ready to welcome some of the world’s best players once again.
Once the leading squash championship, the tournament was a regular fixture for many top professionals, and the women’s competition was also a World Series event until 2014, with Dato’ Nicol David winning the home title a record eight times from 2005-2013.
The tournament however took a hiatus after the 2014 edition before it was resumed in 2017. Now in its third year after the reboot, the Malaysian Open is a PSA Challenger 30 event for the men PSA Challenger 20 for the women.
Even though the tournament is no longer a World Tour status, this year’s entries still pack a lot of quality with four men in the world’s top 40 signed up.
SRAM director Major (Rtd) Maniam expressed his excitement for this year’s competition:
“I’m really looking forward to one of our players making the final and hopefully winning the title,” said Maniam. “I think Wee Wern at No. 2, Eain Yow at No. 4 and Ivan at No. 5 all have a chance of creating an upset to get their hands on the coveted trophy. I also hope to see all squash enthusiasts and supporters come forward to support the tournament and urge our players on.”
The Malaysian Open will be held at the National Squash Centre, Bukit Jalil from 25-29 September and the public is encouraged to come with no tickets required.