Aifa claims sensational win, Saurav overcomes Miguel in veterans’ battle
It was a sensational finish for teenage squash starlet Aifa Azman as she defied the odds to capture the Malaysian Open title.
In what was an extraordinary performance, the 19-year-old Malaysian rose superbly to the challenge as she stunned world world No 8 and top seed Salma Hany of Egypt 12-10, 11-8, 11-4 in the final at the National Squash Centre, Bukit Jalil.
The world No 69 demonstrated a champion’s resolve as she came roaring back from 4-9 down to take the first game 12-10. That gave her a huge confidence boost and she pulled away into a 2-0 lead before sealing the win after 30 minutes with a shout of joy.
The win is Aifa’s 11th PSA Tour title but with the Malaysian Open being a PSA World Tour Bronze event, it is also by far her biggest career win to date. Additionally, she is the first Malaysian since eight-time world champion Nicol David’s triumph at the Ciudad de Floridablanca in Colombia in 2017, to bag a World Tour level crown.
In doing so, she is only the third Malaysian after Nicol and Low Wee Wern to taste success on the World Tour level. What made the achievement even more impressive was the fact that Aifa entered the competition as a wildcard and had already beaten a string of higher ranked players prior to the final.
“In the first game I was 4-9 down and it was really tough as I had to come back and to keep my focus as well,” said Aifa. “But I stuck to my game plan which worked and I did the same in the second and third game too.
“I think I had to change my shots a little because I felt that she was going behind me a lot so I wanted to prevent her from doing that. And this win really feels amazing especially since I was only a wildcard to start.
“But I really trained hard for this tournament and I believe this is really just the first step for me as I want to achieve more in my squash career. Hopefully this win will push me into the top 50 rankings once again and I definitely hope to keep trying to push on higher,” added Aifa.
In a battle two of the oldest competitors in the competition, it was world No 15 Saurav who came away with the 11-7, 11-8, 13-11 win in 55 minutes.
“It was a really hard match today and that was expected considering that it’s Miguel that I’m up against and he’s been in top form this week,” said Saurav. “I saw what he did against Yow and he played a clinical game so I had to be just as good to compete against him.
“I had a plan in place and I was also responding to everything that he was throwing at me. It’s definitely good to get the win today and special has to go to my coach Malcolm Willstrop who passed away this year.
“A lot of the way I play today is because of the work he has done with me and a lot of credit has to go to him.“David (Palmer) has also really helped me a lot in the last two to three years. A lot of my game, both tactically and skills is thanks to him and he’s stuck with me even when I wasn’t producing the results I wanted.
“And this is definitely a good kind of reward to get after putting in the work,” added Saurav.
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SEMIS : Aifa extends fairytale run, Eain Yow crashes out
Malaysian teen sensation Aifa Azman has kept her fairytale run going after storming into the final of the Malaysian Open squash championships. The 19-year-old delivered a rousing performance as she took out world No 19 and fifth seed Danielle Letourneau of Canada 11-4, 11-7, 5-11, 11-3 in the semi-finals at the National Squash Centre, Bukit Jalil.
It was a stunning performance from the world No 69 who came into the match high on confidence after claiming three scalps throughout the week already. The wildcard entrant had a blazing start as she raced into a 2-0 before Letourneau pegged her back by taking the game.
Aifa was however not shaken and she duly refocused and came back firing in the fourth to seal the win after 32 minutes. The win is Aifa’s second scalp over a top 20 player and she also reached her first ever PSA World Tour Bronze event final.
“I’m really at a loss for words to make it into the final,” said a jubilant Aifa. “I told my mom it would be hard for her to come and watch me because she always watches all my finals and this is a Bronze event instead.
“But I’m so glad to reach my biggest final and I’m definitely very much looking forward to it. It’s my first win over a top 20 player this year and this gives me the confidence and motivation to want to push harder.
“Now that I’m in the final, I’m definitely going to go for it since the pressure is not on me anyway,” added Aifa.
“I’m very pleased with the win as Hollie is a strong opponent and I needed to stick to my game plan,” said Salma. “It’s nice to be in the final here. I remembered I was here eight years ago and I won a 5k event and I had hoped then to be able to play in a final on the Nicol David Arena.
“It definitely means a lot to be in the final this time but I’m taking it as another match and will prepare well for it because I know Aifa has been playing really well.”
“I think Victor has been playing really well this week. He’s found good length on court and he made life difficult for me,” said Saurav. “I had to figure things out along the way and I did that for the most part. Maybe it was a little bit of experience as well as I have been on tour a long time and I have played many matches against the top guys.”
“I wanted to do my best against Yow. He’s a top player and he’s got the crowd behind him as well. It will be tough against Saurav as well because he is a top player who has been consistent for many years. We’re both in our best shape and I’m looking forward to doing well in my first final here,” said Rodriguez.
Quarters : No stopping Aifa as Ng advances too
Teen sensation Aifa Azman kept the home interest going strong after storming into the semi-finals of the Malaysian Open squash championships.
The 19-year-old rose exceptionally to the challenge as she claimed a highly impressive 11-9, 11-9, 11-5 win over Egypt’s Hana Ramadan in the quarter-finals at the National Squash Centre, Bukit Jalil. It is a third Egyptian straight scalp for the world No 69 who had already beaten Mayar Hany and Yathreb Adel.
And the Kedahan is certainly exceeding expectations by reaching her first ever PSA World Tour Bronze event semi-finals.
“I was probably a little nervous in the second round but after beating Yathreb who is the third seed, I was definitely a lot more relaxed today.
“I think I cried a little because I was just happy to be through to my first Bronze event semi-finals.
“Now I’m focused on getting a good recovery session because my plan for the semi-finals is to win as well.”
“I’m playing Danielle in the semi-finals and I don’t know too much about her game. I do know she has improved a lot and has been in the top 20 so I’m going to study her game tonight.”
Hopes of a second Malaysian semi-finalist did not materialise as Rachel Arnold lost a nail-biting five-setter against top seed Salma Hany of Egypt. Rachel had a 2-1 lead but could not capitalise as Salma dug deep for the 11-3, 8-11, 6-11, 11-6, 11-win in 44 minutes.
The Egyptian goes on to meet Canada’s world No 17 Hollie Naughton, who downed Hong Kong’s Ho Tze Lok 11-8, 13-11, 11-13, 11-5, in the semi-finals.
In the men’s event, Ng Eain Yow kept up his impressive record on home ground as he signalled his intent for the title. The home favourite was on fire as he clinched a convincing 11-6, 11-5, 11-5 win over Nicolas Mueller of Switzerland.
“I thought it was a good performance because I played Mueller in the final here two years ago so to win 3-0 today is a really good result for me,” said Eain Yow. “I thought maybe he was not at 100 percent but I kept my focus and my plan was always to keep the intensity high and to keep pushing him around the court.
“I’m definitely feeling very good in this tournament and I’m here to win the tournament so I’m ready to do whatever it takes.”
Eain Yow takes on top seed Miguel Rodriguez. “It will be my third time playing Miguel this year but I’m feeling a lot fresher this time and the home crowd here has also been fantastic,” added Eain Yow.
The top seeded Colombian eased past United States’ Shahjahan Khan 11-1, 11-9, 11-1 to reach the last four.
Round TWO : Aifa and Rachel pull off stunners as seeds fall
It was a day of upsets and the Malaysian crowd had the biggest cheer as both Aifa Azman and Rachel Arnold gatecrashed the quarter-finals of the Malaysian Open squash championships.
Teen sensation Aifa showed she has the mental strength to go far after digging deep to come-from-behind against third seed Yathreb Adel of Egypt for an 11-3, 9-11, 8-11, 11-4, 11-7 win at the National Squash Centre, Bukit Jalil.
The national No 4 had started off firing on all cylinders and looked to be running away with the win after taking the first game 11-3. Third seed Adel however showed her experience to fight back before moving into a 2-1 lead. And when the going got tough, Aifa certainly stood up to be accounted for after showing great resilience for the win in 47 minutes.
It is a superb outcome for the world No 69 who claims her second scalp of the tournament and checks into the quarter-final of a PSA Bronze event for the first time. The Kedahan will certainly fancy her chances when she lines up against Hana Ramadan of Egypt in the last eight.
“I was cruising in the first game but she changed her game plan and suddenly I found myself 2-1 down,” said Aifa. “I knew I had to change my game too because she was taking everything in the middle. I knew I needed to keep the ball at the front and back of the court and I did just that in the fourth and fifth games.
“I’m definitely very happy with my performance as I’ve already beaten two higher ranked players and got into the quarter-finals. Hana will be a tough opponent in the last eight but I’m definitely looking forward to it.”
It was the perfect boost for the world No 43 who certainly enjoys competing in the Malaysian Open, having also won the title in 2019. Rachel now goes on to face top seed Salma Hany of Egypt in the last eight.
There were several other upsets with Egypt’s Hana Ramadan beating Wales’ sixth seed Emily Whitlock 11-7, 11-0, 11-7. Also gatecrashing the last eight was Hong Kong’s Ho Tze Lok, who came from a game down to beat eighth seed Farida Mohamed of Egypt 9-11, 11-9, 11-5, 11-9 and will meet No 4 seed Hollie Naughton of Canada in the quarter-finals.
In the men’s event, national No 1 Eain Yow Ng overcame teammate and national No 2 Ivan Yuen to check into the quarter-finals. Ng, who received a first round bye, did not lose his focus despite dropping a game as he rounded it off for an 11-6, 9-11, 11-6, 11-1 win.
“I started off a little nervous and I was struggling with confidence after a first round exit in my last tournament,” admitted Eain Yow. “But I told myself to stay confident and trust my game plan and it paid off.
“It’s definitely a boost to get past my first match because this was probably the biggest challenge,” added Eain Yow who takes on Switzerland’s Nicolas Mueller in the last eight.
“It was a very tight game and it could have been anybody’s game and the scores reflected that,” said Yip. “But I’m very glad that I came through for the win. It’s also nice to be back in Malaysia because I’ve been coming here since I was a junior and I’m really familiar with this place and it’s nice to be back on the grounds and seeing familiar people.”
The quarter-finals will start from 13.45 and all matches will be played on the glass court.
Day ONE : Teen sensation Aifa storms into second round
Malaysia’s teen sensation Aifa Azman produced a sizzling performance to storm into the second round of the Malaysian Open squash championships. The 19-year-old who has been on form this year, was on song as she took out world No 47 Mayar Hany of Egypt 11-8, 11-3, 11-5 at the National Squash Centre, Bukit Jalil on Tuesday.
It was a superb showing from the world No 69 who dominated proceedings from the start and did not allow Mayar a chance to get back into the game. It also brought Aifa’s impressive win-loss record to 12-1 this year.
“I was a little nervous in the first game because Mayar was indeed the higher ranked player,” said Aifa. “But I knew I needed to get my rhythm back and once I did that, I just maintained the same rhythm and intensity to finish it 3-0.
“It definitely feels awesome to play in a bigger event like this and it’s definitely a very good win for me today. For me the target was always to score upset wins over the higher ranked players and I definitely got the job done for a start. But it’s definitely going to get tougher going forward and I’m definitely very excited for the next round.”
Aifa goes on to meet third seed Yathreb Adel, also of Egypt, for a place in the quarter-finals.
National No 2 Rachel Arnold also progressed after beating Hong Kong’s world No 50 Tong Tsz Wing 11-2, 5-11, 11-9, 11-5. The world No 43 meets Australia’s Donna Lobban in the second round.
Meanwhile there was no joy for Chan Yiwen and Ooi Kah Yan, who both bowed out in the first round. Yiwen found the going tough against Egypt’s Hana Ramadan as she lost 8-11, 3-11, 9-11 while Kah Yan, a late entrant following several withdrawals, lost 9-11, 6-11, 4-11 to Egyptian Menna Hamed.
Another major upset saw Hong Kong’s world No 59 Lee Ka Yi topple Egypt’s world No 34 Mariam Metwally 11-7, 7-11, 11-4, 12-10. The 27-year-old meets top seed and world No 8 Salma Hany of Egypt in the second round.
In the men’s event, the Malaysian trio of Syafiq Kamal, Addeen Idrakie and Darren Rahul Pragasam put up a good effort but fell short against higher ranked opponents.
National No 3 Syafiq lost 7-11, 11-6, 9-11, 11-3 to Spain’s Bernat Jaume while Addeen lost 9-11, 9-11, 11-6, 4-11 to Hong Kong’s Yip Tsz Fung. Darren, who is making his Malaysian Open debut, started strongly but faded off as he fell to a 11-9, 3-11, 5-11, 2-11 loss to world No 41 Ramit Tandon of India.
National No 2 Ivan Yuen however came through with a 7-11, 11-5, 11-8, 11-3 win over compatriot Ong Sai Hung and meets national No 1 Ng Eain Yow, who enjoyed a first round bye, in the second round.
The main upset of the opening round was produced by Egypt’s Mazen Gamal with the world No 70 taking out United States’ world No 43 Todd Harrity 4-11, 12-10, 11-8, 11-7.
Excitement ahoy as Malaysian Open gets underway
KUALA LUMPUR – The Malaysian Open squash championships is all set to get underway and there is certainly a sense of excitement for it.
After two years of Covid-19 restrictions which has seen the sports calendar in Malaysia decimated, the Malaysian Open is the first major event that has been given the green light to proceed.
In fact, the Malaysian Open is the first international competition that Malaysia is set to host across all sports.
And squash is certainly the eye of attention to sports enthusiasts especially with spectators allowed back into the arena.
“It has really taken an humongous effort to get this event up and running and we are definitely very thankful to all those who helped get it off,” said Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia (SRAM) director Major (Rtd) S. Maniam.
“From a Malaysian perspective, it would be very exciting to see our players taking on the foreign players on home soil.
“They’ve all trained very hard for this and I’m looking forward to seeing them in action and hopefully they get to progress far in the competition.
“Also, since this is the first major international tournament after two years, we would really encourage everyone to come forward and show their support to the players.”
The Malaysian men’s challenge will be led by national No 1 and 2019 winner Ng Eain Yow.
The 23-year who is currently a career high No 18 in the world, is seeded third and receives a first round.
He will meet either national No 2 and teammate Ivan Yuen or Hong Kong’s Lau Tsz Kwan in the second round.
The other men in the mix are Syafiq Kamal, Addeen Idrakie and Darren Rahul Pragasam.
It will be a real test for the trio as they are all up against higher ranked opponents.
In the women’s competition, Rachel Arnold, Aifa Azman, Chan Yiwen and Ooi Kah Yan are the Malaysian entries.
The Malaysian Open is a PSA World Tour Bronze event and has a US$50,000 (RM209,000) for both the men and women’s event.
The competition will be held at the National Squash Centre, Bukit Jalil and the public are encouraged to attend with no tickets required. However, the public are required to take a RTK test upon entry and that would cost them RM6.
Malaysian Open Returns
The Covid-19 pandemic has been cruel not only to the economic sector but also to sports, with most if not all tournaments being cancelled or rescheduled.
But after a long period of uncertainty, the Malaysian Squash Open is finally back on the calendar after last year’s edition became a casualty of the pandemic due to the many lockdowns and travel restrictions the nation had faced.
The Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia has managed to up the ante of this year’s tournament to a PSA Bronze category with a prize money of USD50,000.00 (RM209,000) each for
both the men and women’s categories.
Once the leading squash championship in Malaysia, the tournament was a regular fixture for many top professionals as the women’s competition was also a World Series event until 2014.
Among the top top players who have made their mark in Malaysia includes the homegrown Dato’ Nicol David, with the eight-time world champion winning the home title a record eight times from
The tournament carries a World Tour Bronze status, and this year’s entries still pack a lot of quality with several players in the world’s top 40 signed up.
Leading the way for the Men’s will be Colombia’s world No. 12, Miguel Rodriguez, who is the top seed. Seeded second will be world No. 15 and reigning Asian Individual Champion Saurav Ghosal of India and the third seed will be Malaysian No 1 and 2016 World Junior Champion, Ng Eain Yow.
Eain Yow, who is ranked a career high No 18 in the world, will also be looking to win his second Malaysian Open title since his success in the 2019 edition.
Also in the mix will be 2013 world junior champion Karim El Hammamy, whose sister Hania won the World Junior Championship title here in KL in 2019.
Other exciting entrants include world No 17 Youssef Soliman of Egypt, Switzerland’s Nicolas Mueller, France’s Victor Crouin, Hong Kong’s Yip Tsz Fung and Japan’s Ryosei Kobayashi.
From the local front, the like of national No 2 Ivan Yuen, Syafiq Kamal, Addeen Idrakie, and Darren Rahul Pragasam are also in the mix.
In the women’s event, Malaysian No 2 Rachel Arnold winner at the 2019 Malaysian Open and the in-form Aifa Azman will lead the challenge with Chan Yiwen the third Malaysian in the mix.
The women’s competition will also see a host of exciting Egyptian players looking to make their mark, led by world No 8 Salma Hany and world No 14 Nadine Shahin. Other top Egyptians who
will grace the event includes Mariam Metwally, Yathred Adel, Farida Mohamed, Hana Ramadan
and Nada Abbas.
There will also be a host of international players with Australia’s Donna Lobban, Canadian pair Hollie Naughton and Danielle Letourneau, Wales’ Emily Whitlock and Hong Kong’s Ho Tze Lok,
Liu Tsz Ling and Tong Tsz Wing all making a return to Malaysia.
Meanwhile SRAM President Gerard Monteiro 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”.
“I also hope to see all squash enthusiasts and supporters come forward to support the tournament and urge our players on,” added SRAM Director Major (Rtd) Maniam.
The Malaysian Open will be held at the National Squash Centre, Bukit Jalil from 23-27 November and the public is encouraged to come with no tickets required.
Aifa looking to continue impressive run at Malaysian Open
Malaysia’s teen squash star Aifa Azman is looking forward to making her mark at the Malaysian Open from Nov 23-27.
The 19-year-old Aifa will come into the tournament that is held at the National Squash Centre, Bukit Jalil on the back of an impressive run of form this year. The world No 69 won two back-to-back tournaments – the SRAM PSA 5 and 6 in October, taking her tally to a total of 10 PSA titles.
Aifa, who has now won 10 of her 11 matches this year, will certainly look forward to the Malaysian Open with brimming confidence, especially with the tournament being on home ground and with spectators allowed to enter to show their support.
“This is my first 50k event in Malaysia and I’m very excited to go up against the higher seeded players,” said Aifa. “I am definitely looking forward to this experience and I think my performance recently has been pretty good.
“But I am happy that there are a lot of tournaments this year and I’ve been back in training and ready to play.”
Aifa who is unseeded, takes on world No 47 Mayar Hany of Egypt in the first round and a win will see her take on third seed and world No 31 Yathreb Adel.
“I think it’s a good opportunity to be drawn against Mayar in the first round as she can be beaten. And if I win I have a chance to face Yathreb and I’m looking forward to a chance of scoring upsets against the Egyptians,” said Aifa.
“It’s definitely a very good opportunity for me since I’ll be on home ground and I’m used to the court conditions here and there will be supporters so that is an extra boost for me.”
Besides Aifa, the other Malaysian women in the draw are national No 2 Arnold and Chan Yiwen.
Rachel is drawn to meet Hong Kong’s Tong Tsz Wing in the first round while Yiwen is up against Egypt’s Hana Ramadan.
In the men’s competition, the Malaysian representatives are Eain Yow Ng , Ivan Yuen, Syafiq Kamal, Addeen Idrakie and Darren Rahul Pragasam.