Underdogs take both titles in Seremban
Alex Wan reports
The Tuanku Muhriz Trophy 2022 will be remembered as an event where seeds tumbled and what a befitting finale it was today when local darling Aira Azman scored her maiden PSA title with a Challenger 10 and India’s Abhay Singh claiming his second title. Both players were involved in mammoth tussles today, with the final games being decided on tie-breaks and equally impressive victory shouts at the end.
Having won the Asian Junior Individual Championships main event, the Girls Under-19, just a week ago, the 17-year old native of Kedah came into the event beaming with confidence. The manner which she manoeuvred through the rounds has been nothing short of impressive.
Her opponent today, Salma Eltayeb is herself a young prodigy known in the squash community. Seeded second here thanks to her top-80 world ranking, it was Salma who drew first blood by taking the opener 11-8. But Aira came back strongly in the next two games to take the lead, before taking the fourth on the first tie-break after saving two game balls.
The win was definitely an emotional one for the Malaysian, as upon victory, she dropped her head to her knees three times. It was a befitting final that pitted two of the sport’s brightest stars. With the World Juniors just weeks away, it won’t be surprising if the pair locked horns again there.
After Aira’s victory, many would have hoped for a Malaysian double at this point. However, that was not meant to be as India’s Abhay Singh wrapped up his week on a high with a five-game victory over second seed Ivan Yuen.
The first game proved crucial and Ivan would be fuming, as he let slip two game balls to allow Abhay to take the lead. He did take the next game with relative ease to even the score, and the following two games were split equally to force the decider.
With the games two each, both the boys gave it their all in the fifth and deciding game. Unsurprisingly, it went to the wire, with the Indian taking it 13-11 after Ivan sent a forehand into the tin. Abhay’s racket went into the air and after the handshake, dropped to his knees in celebration the Asal-way.
Semis : Teenagers to battle for women’s honours while local favourite Ivan Yuen to meet India’s Abhay Singh in the men’s
By Alex Wan
After three consecutive days of upsets, matches finally went to seeding at the Tuanku Muhriz Trophy 2022 at the semi-finals stage. Both the second seeds, the highest left in the draws, won their matches and will now be the favourites for the title.
The women’s event will see two teenagers battling for honours after Aira Azman and Salma Eltayeb won today.
Aira Azman will fight for her second title in a row after she produced a stellar performance to beat fellow Bukit Jalil Sports School-based Malaysian Ainaa Amani in four games. Her win at the Asian Junior Individual Championships must be giving her a whole lot of confidence judging from her performance here.
After splitting a game each, Aira was commanding in the following two games, winning in just over 32-minutes, 11-7, 9-11, 11-6, 11-6. The win puts her in her second PSA final in three months, and she will be hunting for her maiden title after losing out to Japan’s Satomi Watanabe in the QScan Sandgate Open in May. The world number 103 looks certain to break into the top-100 next month regardless of the result tomorrow.
The Cairo-based Egyptian is one of the brightest young talents of the squash dominating nation, having broken into the top-100 before her 16th birthday. Currently ranked 75 in the world, she will be gunning for her second PSA title.
In the men’s event, local favourite Ivan Yuen scored another straight games victory when he sent unseeded Amaad Fareed packing in just under 40-minutes. Ivan, who is known for his shot-making ability, will be seeking his 16th PSA title over 15-years on the tour.
Ivan’s opponent tomorrow will be India’s Abhay Singh, who prevented an all-Malaysian final after he stopped the fine run by the left-handed Malaysian. Abhay, who spent some time in Pontefract training under the late-Malcolm Willstrop, was in command for the entire match and must be thanking top seed Tayyab Aslam for putting all the work into his opponent’s legs the night before.
Having walked out victorious from an 87-minute battle the evening before, Sanjay must’ve felt the effects as he went down tamely against Abhay in just over 30-minutes. The Malaysian will have to wait just a little longer for his maiden PSA final but judging from his performance in the last few days, it shouldn’t be long.
Statistically, Ivan will have the upper hand tomorrow. Apart from being the home favourite, Ivan also boasts a 62% winning percentage in PSA finals, compared to Abhay’s 20%. With this being the last event before the Commonwealth Games for the Malaysian, he will be wanting this title badly to put him in good state of mind in what would very likely be his last Games.
Quarters : Double As Aira and Ainaa continue their run
By Alex Wan
Seeds continue to tumble on day three of the Tuanku Muhriz Trophy 2022. In both the men’s and women’s categories, an unseeded finalist is guaranteed.
Malaysian youngsters Aira Azman and Ainaa Amani are stealing the show here at the Tuanku Muhriz Trophy 2022. The unseeded pair both took out Egyptian opponents to setup a mouth-watering semi-final tie against each other to ensure a local finalist.
Aira, the Asian Junior Individual Under-19 champion, had to play through five games, with three tie-breaks. It was a bruising encounter that took a total of 52 points to settle just the first two games, which went the Malaysian’s way. Aira did drop the next two but managed to come back to win 11-7 on a no let decision to the Egyptian, who reacted by sending her racket sprawling across the floor.
Ainaa, on the other hand, had a slightly easier time. Fresh from being named as the Sportswoman of the Year in the national sports school, the 20-year old took 35-minutes to see off fourth seed Nardine Garas of Egypt in four. Currently ranked a career-high 108, her feat here could see her breaking the top 100 very soon.
In the lower half, the second and third seeded Egyptians will face off for a place in the final after they halted the run of local contenders.
Malak Khafagy, the third seed, ended the run of teenager Yasshmita Jadishkumar in four close games. Having scored upset wins two days in a row, the world number 203 was unable to make it a hattrick against Malak. Malak now plays Salma Eltayeb, who won comfortably in three against another teenage Malaysian, Ying Yee Xin.
In the men’s draw Sanjay Jeeva scored the biggest upset of the day when he took out top seeded Pakistani Tayyab Aslam in five games. In a match lasting close to 90-minutes, the left-handed local came from 1-2 down to outlast Tayyab, who is the only top-50 ranked player here and ranked 200 places above his opponent.
India’s Abhay Singh upset over fourth-seed Mohd Syafiq Kamal also guarantees an unseeded player in the final. After losing the opener 9-11, he took the crucial second game on a tie-break before extending his lead with an easy 11-3. The fourth went to the wire once again, but after an hour on court, it was Abhay who walks out victorious.
In the lower half, Pakistan’s Amaad Fareed is through to the last four after three close-ish games against Egyptian Abdallah Elmasry. He will now play local favourite Ivan Yuen, who surprisingly won in straight games against compatriot Addeen Idrakie.
Day Two : Asian Junior Champion Aira Azman ousts top seed
By Alex Wan
Seeds continue to tumble at the Tuanku Muhriz Trophy 2022, with half the top eight seeds in both the men’s and women’s event missing from the quarter-finals matchups tomorrow.
The biggest casualty of the event is women’s top seed Chan Yiwen. The 2019 World Junior Championships quarter-finalist fell to an in-form Aira Azman in five games in over just half an hour. Fresh from her win at the Asian Junior Championships in Pattaya, Thailand, Aira Azman continued her good run of form to come back from a 1-2 deficit to chalk her big win.
Aira will play fellow unseeded and teenager Egyptian Nour Heikal, who had a much more comfortable match against sixth seeded local Ooi Kah Tan. The 18-year old took just 24 minutes to eliminate her second Malaysian in a row to guarantee an unseeded semi-finalist on Friday.
Twenty year old Ainaa Amani was also in her element today as she eliminated eight seed Malak Kamal of Egypt. The petite 20-year old from Kuala Lumpur plays another Egyptian in the last eight tomorrow – Nardine Garas, the world number 93 who overpowered local Yu Jie.
In the lower half, Singapore’s Au Yeong Wai Yhann let her opening game lead slip to lose out to third seeded Egyptian Malak Khafagy. The Egyptian plays Malaysian junior Yasshmita Jadishkumar, who upset fifth seed Lai Wen Li, who ranks more than 100 places above her.
Second seed Salma Eltayeb and fifth seed Ying Yee Xin will square off for a place in the semi-finals as both won comfortably in straight games against their fellow compatriots.
In the men’s event, the battle of Negeri Sembilan went Sanjay Jeeva’s way this time round, as he ousted local favourite Darren Rahul Pragasm in straight games. The win sees him avenge his defeat to Daren at the same venue earlier in the year.
Sanjay will play top seed Pakistani Tayyab Aslam, who was involved in the longest match of the tournament. The world number 49 had to dig deep to overcome Egyptian junior Mohamed Nasser in five games over 75 minutes.
The bottom half of the men’s draw will pit long-time rivals Ivan Yuen and Addeen Idrakie lock horns once again. The pair, who have been team mates in the national set up for many years, both won in four games. Judging from history, they will likely be embroiled in a very long match tomorrow.
Day One : 17-year old Yu Jie leads a string of upsets at Tuanku Muhriz Trophy 2022
By Alex Wan
A string of upsets in the opening round kicked off the Tuanku Muhriz Trophy 2022 at the Royal Seri Menanti Golf and Country Club, located in Kuala Pilah, Negeri Sembilan, approximately 100km away from the Malaysian capital.
Negeri Sembilan local Yu Jie led a string of upsets on the opening day of the. The 17-year old lass took 25 minutes to see off fellow Malaysian Maisara Azlan in straight games to earn a berth against fourth-seeded Egyptian Nadine Garras tomorrow.
Malaysian youngster Yasshmita Jadishkumar also upset the form books when she took out seasoned campaigner Aika Azman in just 17 minutes. The win pits her against fifth-seed Lai Wen Li, who must be affected by the unfortunate accident of one of her closest friend Sivasangari Subramaniam.
Singapore’s Au Yeong Wai Yhann came back from a first game deficit to win in four games against local Shasmithaa Nityanandan. After losing the first easily 11-2, the University of the West of England student had to dig deep to claim her place in the next round against Egypt’s third seed Malak Khafagy.
All other women’s first round matches saw seeded players win 3-0, with the bottom half of the draw guaranteeing host nation Malaysia and Egypt a guaranteed quarter-finalist thanks to all-Malaysian and all-Egyptian matches there tomorrow.
Over at the opposite end, one of the notable clashes in the second round tomorrow include newly crowned Asian Junior GU19 champion Aira Azman, who will play top seeded compatriot Chan Yiwen. The younger of the pair will be looking to ride on her confidence from her regional win just days ago to challenge the top seed.
In the men’s event, Negeri Sembilan locals Sanjay Jeeva and sixth-seed Darren Rahul Pragasm will square off once again tomorrow after the former came through in straight games today. The pair, who last played here in the very same venue, saw Darren come through in four games.
Bristol-based Ameeshenraj Chandaran, the local wild card here, lost out closely in four games to Egyptian Abdelrahman Nassar. He put up a good fight and was close to stretching his opponent to five-games, but lost out the fourth in a tie-breaker.
Left-handed Hafiz Zhafri also lost in four against Egypt’s Amaad Fareed, while Abdallah Elmasry won the all-Egyptian tie against Abdelaziz Hegazy.
In the bottom quarter, two other upsets too place. 19-year old Amir Amirul got the better of experienced fellow Malaysian Elvinn Keo in five games to set up an encounter against Malaysia’s number two Ivan Yuen tomorrow. Having led 1-0 and 2-1, the youngster allowed Elvinn to draw level twice, before securing his place in a tie-breaker in the fifth.
India’s Rahul Baitha completed the upsets of the day with a 3-0 win over another local Wee Ming Hock, and will now face another Malaysian Addeen Idrakie, the fifth seed.