North Coast Open : it’s Kobayashi and Azman

North Coast Open 2019 : FINALS
[5] Ryosei Kobayashi (Jpn) 3-1 [3] Addeen Idrakie (Mas)   11-8, 12-10, 4-11, 11-5 (62m)

Aifa Azman (Mas) 3-0 [1] Vanessa Chu (Hkg)                             11-4, 11-7, 11-4 (23m)

Kobayashi & Azman secure World Championship places

Ryosei Kobayashi has taken out the Roberts and Morrow North Coast Open in Coffs Harbour with a skilful performance against Addeen Idrakie in four games. The win earns him a place in the World Championships later this year in Qatar.

The opening game had both players prepared to be patient with length creating plenty of long rallies with the score equal for the majority of the game. However, Kobayashi found the corners better to take a 1- 0 lead. The second game saw Idrakie gain a break and looking to square the score at 1-1 but Ryosie showed some amazing court coverage to create chances to win the closing tie break and find himself two games to nil up.

Idrakie appeared a little leg weary and no doubt was feeling the effects of tough competition leading into the final, and failing to close out the second game placed himself under a lot of pressure. In the third game his reply was textbook length and precision drops, changing the tempo to nullify attacking opportunities by Kobayashi to close out the game with the loss of four points and find himself back in the contest. The fourth game had both players lengthening the rallies with similar motives before Kobayashi gained the break he needed to place all the pressure on Idrakie who errored and Kobayashi claimed victory in 62 minutes for a place in the World Championship in November.

It was an impressive match by both players with the gallery very appreciative of the agility and quality of play produced by both players. After the final Kobayashi stated: ”It feels absolutely amazing! I have never felt this happy in my career as a squash player. Thank you so much Coffs Harbour Squash and all the sponsors for this amazing event.”

Idrakie put in a sterling effort but wasn’t able to win today. He said “Not the result that I want. He played well, credit to him.”

Unseeded Azman from the outset of the women’s final had clear intention of attacking at every opportunity from the front court. As the game progressed she made some great placements which kept Chu on the defensive and was unable to

match the pace Azman was creating. The second and third game proved similar with Chu needing to lift but again, Azman was showing amazing agility and changing direction to close out the game for a two nil lead and take the

match in straight games to be crowned winner of the Roberts & Morrow North Coast Open 2019.

After the match Azman said: ”I’m very happy to win the final match in three and qualify to the World Championships. I’ll be playing with Vanessa again next week in Melbourne. Hopefully I’ll do well for the next tournament.”

Vanessa Chu reflected on her opportunity and said: ”Aifa was on fire today and I was not. I tried my hardest but I couldn’t get stuck into the match. Disappointed to lose 3-0 but I will learn from the next time.”

Day THREE : Quarter & Semis

Women’s Semis

Top seed Vanessa Chu proved to experienced for her younger Malaysian opponent Ooi Kah Yan, but was made to work hard, after dropping the second game in a tie break. Chu regained her composure and tactically moved Ooi Yan to the back court.

After the match Chu was happy to win and stated: “Wasn’t my best game today especially the 2nd game. I hit to much in middle and she was able to get her game going. Tomorrow refocus, on lengthand my game. It will be a tough match but can’t wait.”

In the second semi unseeded Malaysian teenager Aifa Azman continued her run of success with a close but exciting match against the No 3 seed Jessica Turnbull. Aifa attacked from the front and Turnbull responded with great depth volleys and a strong driving game. The ability of

Azman to hold and change direction from the front court kept Turnbull on the defence in the closing stages of each game. Azman said: “Happy to get through in 3 games and it feels good to be back in a final, one year ago was my last. Hope to bring back a title and qualify for World Championships.”

Men’s Semis

The first semi-final between Evan Williams and 5th seed Ryosei Kobayashi saw the top seed struggle against the play of Kobayashi who kept his shots penetrating to the back court. Williams struggled to gain any control of the play and appeared to be a little slower in his movement.

Kobayashi stepped up the pressure to emerge victor in straight games to advance to the final on Sunday.

Kobayashi stated after the game: “I played really well this afternoon especially going deep and low straight x court. I was able to put a lot of pressure on these shots. Hopefully I get to play like this or even better tomorrow in the final !!”

The second semi-final between Mohd Syafiz Kamal and Addeen Idrakie, bot of Malaysia,  opened with players knowing each other’s game. Each game was close with neither player able to dominate and take control, it came down to consistency with Addeen able to win the vital closing stages of each game to record a solid win in three to advance to Sunday’s final.

Addeen said: “Glad I won in 3. Happy with my performance today. And hope to continue play well tomorrow.”

Day Two: Seeds Stumble as women’s event begins

The Women’s First Round provided upsets with the Australia’s Number 2 seed Sarah Cardwell and Number 7 seed Colette Sultana of Malta  bowing out of the North Coast Open World Qualification Tournament in tough encounters.

Scottish player Katriona Allen provided the upset against Sultana in five games. Allen showed plenty of tenacity after dropping the third game in a tie break to produce powerful stokes to the forehand court to wrap up the fourth game to draw level and keep the tempo high in the deciding fifth to win the match.

It was a very excited Katriona who spoke after the match” A good battle to get all my nerves out. I played Colette in Bendigo and she definitely played a lot better today. Had I been in that situation a few months ago (being 2-1 down) I probably would have lost, so to get the win today means a lot and shows just how much progress I’ve made”

The match between Malaysian junior Aifa Azman and Cardwell was tipped to be a tight contest. Sarah opened with controlled pace to take the first game which seesawed throughout.

However Aifa up the tempo and pushed forward to gain control of the rallies during the second and third games to take a 2-1 lead. Cardwell rallied strongly and look assured to force the game into a deciding fifth game but at 10/3 Aifa reeled off a number of short winners to both sides of the court and control of the centre saw her rake back the deficit to force the fourth game to a tie break which she converted and seal the match and move into the second round against Abbie Palmer NZL.

After the match Aifa stated: “It was a great match. I’m very happy to upset the 2nd seed of the tournament. I was 10-3 down on the 4th set and I’m glad that I manage to refocus and win the game 13-11. My ranking dropped from 62 to 164 in the world so it’s a good start for me to improve my ranking. Looking forward to the next match in the evening.

A disappointed Cardwell reflected on the match: “I always knew it was going to be tough. She was the one that none of the seeded players wanted to get and I got her. It happens, I would rather it didn’t happen at a World Championships Qualifying tournament, but it happens.”

Day Two:

Men’s Quarters : Kamal ends El Sirty run

Mohd Syafiz Kamal was impressive tonight with a controlled array of shots and pace to stifle the attacking flair of Moustafa El Sirty. Kamal took the opening game with El Sirty replying with powerful strokes to take the second game. Kamal changed the pattern in the third and fourth games with a more focused and controlled pace and change of direction to run out winner in four games.

After the match Kamal stated: “First, I thought my game plan works well. Just sometimes I get too excited to play fast and cost me a game. Because he kind of likes the fast pace. Happy to go through. Hopefully can recover for my next match against Nicholas Calvert tomorrow.”

Women’s Quarters : Malaysians shine through

Malaysian stars shone through tonight with, Ooi Kah Yan and surprise packet Aifa Azman advancing to the semi- finals with solid performances.

The top seed Vanessa Chu had too much experience for Katriona Allen  and showed few errors in wrapping up the match in straight games. Fourth seed Ooi Kah Yan also advanced with a controlled slower game against Chloe Mesic. A lapse in concentration saw Mesic recover to win the third game but in the fourth Ooi Yan moved Mesic to the corners wrapping up the game without conceding a point to take the match 3/1.

Ooi stated after the match:  “Played well in the first two games, finding my length and also did a few good drops. Lost a little momentum in the third. But better in the last as my shots went in.”

Azman dominated her match against the number six seed Abbie Palmer with a dominant front court display of placement and winners for a straight games win.

Australian Jessica Turnbull, number 3 seed was made to work hard against Georgia Adderley for a place in the semi-finals. Adderley held a two games to one lead before Turnbull raised the tempo and tightened her game plan, keeping Adderley moving to the corners especially the forehand front court which allowed Turnbull to gain control to take the last two games and match. Turnbull now takes on Azman in the semi finals for a possible finals berth on Sunday.

Turnbull stated after the match: “Pleased to get through a tough one tonight, It was fairly physically in the second but happy that I got my game together in the fourth and fifth. Looking forward to tomorrow’s match.”

Day ONE : Men’s Round One

A great start for the Roberts & Morrow North Coast Open World Qualification Event with the opening match between Aussies Rhys Dowling and wildcard Jacob Ford.

Ford opened with a blistering pace moving his more experience opponent to the corners with wide shots and attacking boasts to take the first and second games to find himself two games up and looking to cause an upset. Dowling had to call on his experience to claim the third game with better length to get back into the match. The fourth and fifth games saw Ford tighten up allowing Dowling to dominate the front court to emerge a relieved winner to advance to the second round.

Asked his thoughts after the match Rhys commented: “Always good to come down to Coffs and play this tournament. Played Jacob tonight and hats off to him, he played very solid.

Good to get the first round nerves out the way and take some momentum into the second round.”

Spectators were treated to another tight contest between Atticus Kelly and Mansoor Zaman with Atticus needing nearly an hour to wear down Mansoor who went for his shots throughout keeping Kelly unsettled to take a two games to one lead. Kelly showed plenty of courage and patience in the fourth to draw level and in the deciding game commenced strongly to establish a break and clinch the match. He advances to the second round where he meets Thomas Calvert Australia.

Atticus commented after the match:  ”Happy to get through the first round. Don’t feel I played my best squash as the match got a bit physical, but I stayed strong and am looking forward to the next round now. I played Tom a couple of weeks back and we had a tough 5 setter so should be another good match!”

Malaysia’s Bryan Lim proved to be in good touch recording a straight games win against Jason Turner. Bryan attacked through the centre and was clinical with his short volleys forcing Jason to retrieve many shots from the front.

Bryan stated after the match: “I played well, Jason is a good player and I tried to step up the tempo and not give him too much opportunity to go for any shots. Looking forward to playing Lwamba, he is improving really fast and see how I go against him. Just want to play good squash.”