Sivasangari Subramaniam: Giant Killer – Control the ‘T’ Sports

Control the ‘T’ Sports


If you haven’t heard the name Sivasangari Subramaniam, now is the time to get to know it! Siva has been on my radar for quite a while now as her story is a very interesting and inspiring one.

The Malaysian underdog has just blown up women’s squash after putting on one of the most incredible performances the sport has ever seen to win the 2024 GillenMarkets London Squash Classic.

I watched all of her matches in London; however, by the second round, I knew that it was time to write an article about her for the On The ‘T’ Newsletter.

So, without further ado, this week I’ll be talking a bit about Sivasangari’s story, her performance in London, her style of play, and, my predictions for her future…



Sivasangari Subramaniam: Giant Killer
by Alex Robertson

Siva’s Story (So Far)

Born in Sungai Petani, Malaysia, Sivasangari started playing squash at just 8 years old.

There isn’t a ton of information online about Siva’s younger days, however, it seems as though she grew up loving the sport while getting her education in Malaysia, and then, moved to the US to study at Cornell University (where I believe she is still attending).

Siva joined the PSA Tour at the start of 2014, which is incredibly early, and reached the last eight in most tournaments she entered in her first two years on the tour. After this, she had an awesome string of victories from 2016 onward on the Malaysian Tour, winning the first six events she entered. The story was pretty similar in 2017, too, and this is the year she broke into the world’s top 50.

I don’t know a ton about squash in Malaysia. However, anybody who follows professional squash will know the name Nicol David.

David, who also came from Malaysia, is arguably one of (if not the) best squash players of all time who won eight World Squash Championships (formerly known as the World Open) five British Opens (amongst many other achievements).

I can imagine that, for younger Malaysian players like Siva, Nicol David must be a huge inspiration and driving force behind their success.

Anyway, fast-forward another couple of years to 2019, and Subramaniam was now making it into the later rounds of larger, platinum events, showing clear signs of improvement with every tournament she played in.

Then, of course, COVID struck and the PSA World Tour was cancelled for around 6 months.

Following the resurgence of the Tour, Subramaniam returned to squash and made the last 32 of the CIB Black Ball Open, before also reaching the third round of the El Gouna International. In 2021, Siva made the quarter-finals of the Manchester Open and made it to the second round of a couple more platinum events.

But, in 2022, Siva’s incredible progress was tragically halted due to her being involved in a horrific car crash that left Sivasangari with fractures on her face, and, more frighteningly, a fracture of her C1 vertebra.

This accident forced the Malaysian to miss a number of major squash events, including the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

However, after wearing a neck collar for two months, as well as countless hours of rehabilitation, Siva was back on the road to recovery. Injuries, time off, and recovery are never easy times for professional athletes, however, in incidents as serious as Siva’s car accidents, it must be even more stressful and worrying. Thankfully, Siva was able to get back to full health and was straight back to squash.

Returning in February 2023 at the Squash On Fire Open, it was awesome to see the Malaysian on court yet again. Then, we fast-forward to the GillenMarkets London Squash Classic the other week where Siva took the win…

Hania El Hammamy Sivasangari Subramaniam GS9G4501

Siva’s Phenomenal Performance At The London Classic

I found myself on the absolute edge of my seat during every single match that Siva played in this tournament.

Although she’s now World No.13 (and will most likely be going up another couple of places in next week’s ranking update), she was World No.16 while this tournament was being played, meaning that she was a real underdog going into the event.

Following a bye in her first round, the Malaysian was up against England’s World No.39 Katie Maliff. Being English myself, I must admit I was rooting for Maliff. However, Siva proved to be too strong, winning 2-0 (11-6, 11-7).

Siva’s draw was a pretty tough one as, in her next round, she was facing top seed and World No.1, Nour El Sherbini.

Anybody who’s ever watched El Sherbini, or even heard of her achievements in squash, knows that she is currently in her prime, and, has already sealed herself as one of the best players of all time.


Prior to this match, Subramaniam had never so much as taken a game off of El Sherbini, however, she managed to clinch the first 11-9.

No matter how much El Sherbini attacked (which is something she does very well), Siva would cut off anything and everything that she could to counter-attack and turn the tides of each rally, moving the World No.1 into every corner of the court.

Siva then took the second game 11-9 to win the match, shocking the crowd and, indeed, the entire squash world. This made the Malaysian the first player outside of the top 10 to beat El Sherbini since 2015, which is an awesome stat for both Nour and Siva.

I do think that this best-of-three format changes the style of play quite drastically. It makes both players far more attacking, which is undoubtedly one of Siva’s greatest strengths. This match lasted just 24 minutes despite both games being 11-9.

Following the match, Siva (who is incredibly humble) stated:

“I’m still speechless. That went really quickly, and I don’t know what was happening on the court, beating the World No.1! I respect Sherbini a lot, she’s the best on tour and is really talented. To beat a player like that, I came in with my A Game today.”

Subramaniam’s next match wasn’t going to be a walk in the park either, as she had to play Belgian World No.4, Nele Gilis, and, this time, it was in the best-of-five format.

Following her win over El Sherbini, I think everybody wanted to know what the fuss was about. The crowd seemed to be going wild for Siva, her name was all over social media, and, me and my friends were discussing her a lot in our various squash group chats too.

Right from the first game, it was clear that this match would be very tight. Gilis led up until the latter stages of that first game until Siva scraped it to go 10-9 up and get herself a game ball, however, Gilis then clawed it back and won 12-10.

This is where the fighting spirit of the Malaysian came into play, and she did not disappoint at all.

Siva won the next two games 11-7 and 11-8 in astonishing fashion. Nele didn’t look like she had any answers to the constant barrage of attacks that Subramaniam was firing her way. She wouldn’t let Gilis get into any kind of rhythm by resetting the rally with a high, deep lob every time she was under any sort of pressure. You could literally never tell when an angle or an attack was going to come from Subramaniam. She was cracking perfect two-wall boasts on the volley and hitting hard, low, straight kills into the nick from deep in the back corners. This forced Gilis to have to cover every single corner on every single shot, which takes a huge physical and mental toll on any player.

In the fourth game, the Malaysian came back from a 7-3 deficit to go 10-8 up, however, Gilis put on a masterclass in not letting the pressure get to her and showed why she is the World No.4.

At this point, it seemed as though the pressure might have gotten to Siva, as she made a few crucial mistakes, letting the Belgian back in. Gilis then delivered a flurry of ultra-tight lengths and winners to win 12-10, taking the match to the fifth.

In the fifth and final game, Nele took an 8-5 lead, at which point it was easy to begin to count Siva out, however, in true fighting spirit, the Malaysian came back and grappled a match ball at 10-9. Gilis then hit a backhand volley into the tin, handing Siva another of the biggest wins of her career so far (having lost to Gilis each of the three times they had played in the past).

The critics may have counted Siva out after her win against Nour El Sherbini since it was just a best-of-three, however, that match with Gilis proved to everyone that the Malaysian was capable of holding that standard of play for a full five-game match.

However, now she had made the final, she was up against Hania El Hammamy, the current World No.2 and another one of the world’s most fearsome, competitive, and talented squash players.

After her match with Nele, Siva didn’t look too physically affected; however, there’s no way that a five-setter like that wouldn’t impact her body and mind. So, not only was her final going to be a battle of shots, consistency, and accuracy, but, it was also going to be a mental and physical battle as well.

Since El Hammamy’s semi-final against competitor Nouran Gohar wasn’t as gruelling (it was still 3-1, however, it was over a lot quicker), this is another match where most people would be betting on Hania to take the win.

I had the final playing on my family’s big TV and, since he was now unable to watch ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’ as I’d taken over the TV, my dad (who doesn’t really have much of an interest in squash) was forced to watch the match with me.


In the first game of their final, Sivasangari took it 11-9 and I was already on the edge of my seat. In fact, my dad was too, as I’d told him about Siva’s backstory and her performance in the tournament so far. It was actually pretty funny to see my dad get into the game this fast. Siva had perfectly executed that fast-paced, attacking nature that she used against Gilis, not giving Hania any chance to get into a rhythm.

However, the Egyptian then bounced right back by upping the aggression and offensive shot selection to match (or even supersede Subramaniam), showing everyone why she’s nicknamed ‘The Leopard’ and dominating Siva, who let some unforced errors and poor lengths creep in, 11-5.

The third game was a real turning point in the match with the Malaysian going 10-7 up. I thought she had it in the bag, however, El Hammamy (who is renowned for her fighting spirit) brought it back to 10-10, then 11-10.

You could hear a pin drop in the crowd between these points.

Siva saved that game ball and then took the third game 13-11, with thunderous applause from the spectators.

Somehow, the fourth game was even tighter than the third, with Hammamy making a few mistakes, which is very uncharacteristic of her game, allowing Siva to go 10-8 up. This is when the Egyptian flipped a switch and began a ruthless stream of attacking gameplay that seemed to take the Malaysian off-guard, allowing Hania to come back, save three championship balls in total, and take the fourth 14-12.

You’d think that Siva would have shown some signs of fatigue by now, however, she was still smiling away in between points, something you quite rarely see on the PSA World Tour, especially at this level and stage in a tournament. Yet again, Subramaniam came out guns-a-blazing against Hammamy to storm a 6-1 lead. She just looked unstoppable, which is insane considering how long (and for how many matches) she’s had to keep up the unbelievable quality she’d been playing with.

Anyway, despite Hania’s best attempts to come back, Siva took that fifth game 11-8 and my dad and I were on our feet in the living room. I don’t think I’ve ever been that engrossed and excited by a squash match (that I wasn’t at in person) in my entire life!

So, in that tournament, Siva (who was World No.16 at the time of play) beat the World No.1, the World No.2, and the World No.4 all in the same event.

It cannot be overstated just how unbelievable that achievement is. It’s not like it’s a one-off big result, it showed sheer hard work, will, and consistency in Siva’s game.

So, I guess the next question is, how did she do it? What weapons does she have under her belt that other players don’t? And, can she keep it up?

Siva’s Style Of Play

Sivasangari Subramaniam is now aged 25, is 160cm tall, and weighs around just 53kg. This is a pretty small build for such a powerful, attacking player, so, it must work in her favour in a few ways…

Her squash resume is also impressive and growing fast, she’s made 18 finals and won 14 titles, and she’s also won 148 of her 230 professional matches (giving her a 64.35% win rate). I touched on it a few times above, but Siva’s style is unbelievably offensive and attacking. She uses deception and space very well, and, judging by how she looked after all of her matches, she has impeccable fitness too.

Let’s delve a little deeper into her strengths as a player…

Relentless Attack

Sivasangari Subramaniam is almost constantly attacking. Now, the top three women’s players in the world (Nour El Sherbini, Hania El Hammamy, and Nouran Gohar) are all exceptional attackers, they hit the ball very hard, take it early, and go for low, mid-court kills very often.

However, I’d put Siva on another level, and, I think that’s what allowed her to overcome three of the five best players in the world. Siva’s attacks also varied a lot with regard to her targets (however, I’ll talk a little more about that in the next strength section), she was superb at mixing up angles and twisting her opponents, adding in that element of deception that made her attacks even more deadly.

Siva could be right in the back corner of the court, and she’d still be able to crack a low, hard, straight kill right into the nick. Any time she was under pressure, she’d reset the ball with a high deep lob and, then just carry on her assault.

There were little instances of rallies where she just chipped straight lengths down the line, every shot had purpose and meaning behind it. Subramaniam was also very proactive on the T, volleying the ball any chance she got, holding and switching the ball every time to force uncomfortable movements from her opponents.

When you’re playing against a player like that, you have to be constantly on your toes and you can pretty much never get into a rhythm. It’s a style you see quite commonly amongst pros, but, very rarely on the level that Siva was doing it.

One of the most effective attacks Siva used often was a low, hard two-wall boast. It forced an awkward movement from her opponent every single time. She also did the same with trickle boasts. The Malaysian is unbelievably effective at using holds and deception to increase the impact of her attacks too. My favourite example is her hold and cross-court drop.

She did this a bunch of times in London and it worked pretty frequently by drawing her opponent in around the left side for the straight drop, then, when she flicked her wrist cross-court at the last second, her opponent had already committed to the straight drop and had to make a big change of direction to try to retrieve it.

Even on her serve, Siva was also throwing in crazy attacking shots.

In her match against Gilis (in fact, in nearly all of her other matches), she would regularly go for a hard body serve. For those who don’t know, the body serve is when a player serves hard, low, and loose directly toward their opponent. I’m pretty sure she did this when she had a championship point against El Hammamy at one point.

Even if this serve doesn’t hit their opponent, they’re still forced to scramble out of the way and play a shot from an awkward position. However, you rarely see this serve played on the PSA World Tour, so, it was pretty exciting to see Siva throwing them in!

I mentioned her match with Gilis because she managed to hit Gilis with the ball and claim quite a crucial point because of this effective body serve.

Hitting Into Open Space

Siva’s match against Hania El Hammamy was an absolute testament to her key strength of hitting into open space and moving her opponent from corner to corner to corner. She did it against Nele too.

At times, it seemed like her opponent was running around like a headless chicken, rather than executing the consistent and fluid movements most rallies feature in squash. It’s impressive to do that against some of the best players in the world.

Every single time Siva would attack, her opponent would scramble to get it, scramble to get into position, then try to predict the next shot (which was very hard to do), and then scramble to get that one when they predicted it wrong. Hitting into open space is a skill that is a lot easier said than done, because, to do it, you’ve also got to make the space too.

Subramaniam is an expert at moving her opponents from back to front and side to side until they go deeper and deeper into one corner and have to move even further to get to the next corner. Eventually, retrieval becomes virtually impossible, or, Siva’s opponent will just set her up for an outright winner. It takes a very experienced squash mind to react quickly enough to take balls early, and, play them accurately into the correct corners to put this kind of pressure on your opponent.

Of course, benefits are abundant to this strength. Moving your opponent around this much and this fast can take its toll on them physically, plus, it restricts their ability to play attacking shots of their own and regain control of the rally. On top of that, it generally means that Siva is exceptionally dominant at holding a positive T position.

However, to deploy this strategy of attacking, taking balls early, and hitting into space, you need to be very explosive and fit yourself. Thankfully, this seems to be another one of Siva’s key strengths…


Of course, as I’ve mentioned on many occasions, you need to be very fit to be a professional athlete of any sort, however, in squash, some players stick out above the rest. Paul Coll, Joel Makin, Gina Kennedy, and Nele Gilis are all great examples.

For a player with a smaller build, Siva still moves around the court incredibly explosively and fast, and, she seems to be able to do so without tiring. This is something that wasn’t mentioned particularly often by commentators at the London Classic, however, I couldn’t help but notice that Siva didn’t even look out of breath after any of her matches.

Despite her semi-final and final being monstrous five-setters, she looked pretty unfatigued in her post-match interviews. After her match with Nele, I remember noting to my friend that Siva wasn’t even breathing through her mouth!

There’s no doubt that that semi-final will have taken a physical toll on Siva, and many people (myself included) were expecting her to run out of steam for her final with Hania (who is also very fit, and, had had a relatively straightforward route to the final).

Even the commentators mentioned that they saw signs of fatigue kicking in during the fourth game of Siva’s final. However, she still played out of her skin and fought for every rally, looking relatively fresh at the end of each one. It could be argued that her length accuracy took a slight hit, but, she was still cracking in those hard, low winners like no tomorrow.

Again, in theory, Siva’s aggressive, attacking style of play should mean that she has a good chance of running out of steam during longer matches, but, that didn’t seem to happen at all in London!

Handling High-Pressure Moments

Something that impressed me about Siva’s performance in London was her ability to stay calm under pressure. Siva’s matches against Nele and Hania were a perfect testament to this.

In the first match, Nele won the first game 12-10, then, Siva came back and took a 2-1 lead, which is an awesome feat in and of itself. Then, in the fourth, Siva had several match balls, however, Nele won that fourth to take things to 2-2.

Getting that close to finishing the match against the World No.4 and then having her come back and level things usually means game-over for the underdog as they remain focused on ‘what could have been’, rather than focusing on the next game.

This is usually where the higher seed’s experience and ability to utilize momentum shines. However, in that fifth game, Siva recovered from 8-5 down to win 11-9, without showing any wobbles or weaknesses. She played a similar style on every point without letting the game get to her head. Even when she made a mistake or a decision didn’t go her way, you could see her smiling between those rallies and moving on to the next point.

It was the same story against El Hammamy (who is renowned for her grit and ability to come back from deficits). Siva took a 2-1 lead, had some match balls in the fourth with Hania then narrowly taking the game, then, Siva came back down from a 6-1 deficit in the fifth and won 11-8.

Despite a somewhat questionable decision in the second or third last point of that match (I believe it should have been a stroke), Siva kept her cool and got herself over the line.

In squash, it’s not uncommon for the underdog to take a game or even two games off of a player of a much higher ranking, but, to close out the entire match is a completely different animal. Siva never seemed to get angry, and, even if she did seem to get a little frustrated, that never seemed to affect her next rally.

Subramaniam still managed to execute her attacking game style and hit cracking winners without looking worried, anxious, or stressed in those high-pressure moments. It was almost like she’d been playing at a top 5 level for a long time, she played as though she’d been in situations like this before, even though she hadn’t.

Of course, the Malaysian will have had many close matches in the past, but, playing against three players in the top five and coming out victorious (despite close scorelines) is a completely different kettle of fish.

Cool, calm, and collected, that’s exactly how I’d describe Siva’s attitude. In fact, her attitude is definitely another of her major strengths…

Incredible Attitude

I’ll just touch on this because I think it kind of complements the previous section. However, it was so refreshing to see Sivasangari smiling so often during her matches. Whether she was up or down in a match, she was often just smiling in between points.

Given that there’s so much riding on every point of these later-stage matches in big tournaments, it’s understandable that players can get stressed, frustrated, worried, and even angry at times. However, it was a real breath of fresh air to see Siva beaming, even when a decision was given against her that she perhaps didn’t agree with, or, even when she made an unforced error at a crucial stage of the match.

I would say that this is a strength when it comes to the mental side of squash too. Of course, it’s great for Siva’s performance in the following rallies if she can keep her head and stay focused on the next point, however, from her opponent’s perspective, this attitude can also be a big weapon.

Imagine if your opponent was match ball up, and you’d just battled your heart out to reach 10-10. You would expect to have done some real damage to your opponent’s mindset and confidence right?

Well, imagine if you then looked over before you served and your opponent was just smiling away. I think this would get in my head a little! But, on top of all of that, it’s just really cool to see a bit more lightheartedness at the top levels of squash. Siva’s attitude on the court is very refreshing, and, she was very humble in all of her post-match interviews too.

She was fully aware of what she had achieved in London and I think that her conduct, attitude, and performance will have made her an inspiration for so many Malaysian players (as well as many other players across the world, myself included).

Predictions For Siva’s Future…

Now, this section is a little difficult to write because, although Sivasangari Subramaniam put on that incredible performance in London, I have to admit that I’ve only ever watched her on a few occasions before that event (perhaps six or seven matches).

I wouldn’t say that I’m a good judge of whether she can play at that standard again, however, the fact that she’s shown that she can do it for three whole matches against three of the best squash players in the world says a heck of a lot. There’s no doubt she’s capable of doing that again, the question is, how consistently can she keep doing it?

Personally, I will be keeping a close eye on her performances for the rest of the season with my fingers crossed that she can move further and further up the rankings and start reaching the latter stages of some of the bigger, platinum events.

Plus, I’m just enthralled by her style, it’s so exciting!

There’s absolutely no doubt that Nour El Sherbini, Nele Gilis, and Hania El Hammamy will be out for revenge, and, I imagine that most other players in the top 10 will have watched Siva’s performance and will be tuning their training to be able to cope with Siva’s ferociously attacking style.

But, if I had to make a prediction, I think Siva has definitely got what it takes to reach the top 5 during next season at the latest. In fact, I would put money on it.

Unfortunately, we only have a handful more events this season for her to climb any higher, however, she’s currently at World No.13, and, that’s before her points go on from London (I think), so I’m hoping that Siva will be in the top 10 as the season closes out. It would be incredible to see the Malaysian get some more titles under her belt before the end of the season too!

So, there you have it, now you know Sivasangari Subramaniam AKA the Giant Killer (nickname coming sooooon please)