Hosts Singapore to have largest representation ever in a PSA main draw
By Alex Wan – Squash Mad Asian Bureau Editor
Singapore doubled their representation in the main draw of the Singapore Squash Open 2017 when Benedict Chan and Samuel Kang beat their fellow compatriots. In doing so, history is created as this is the highest ever number of Singaporean players in the main draw of a professional PSA event.
SEA Games gold medallist Benedict Chan was first of them to check in when he battled through four games to beat his younger compatriot, Kojiro Tan, in 41 minutes. His win marks the first time he would be making into the main draw of a PSA event. While it was rather friendly, it surely was also competitive as Chan would confirm later :
“It was friendly in there, but definitely competitive. We play each other at training all the time so we know each other’s game very well. Of course, I’m happy to make the main draw, which is my first. When the draw came out, I knew I’d have a chance. With four of us Singaporeans in the main draw, it’s a good indicator that the sport is heading towards the right direction here.”
Last year’s wild card, Samuel Kang, will make it two consecutive appearances in the main draw tomorrow after taking out Timothy Leong in straight games. The pair, who are playing their first competitive match against each other, gave the crowd a good display with some top level squash. But it was the experience of Kang which played the important points better in each of the games.
Samuel Kang said after, “I think I played much better today than yesterday. I was able to play well throughout the match. It’s the we’re playing (each other competitively) and I am impressed with the way he played. There’s four of us in the main draw now, so it shows the sport is improving in Singapore. At least, we are pushing players in the region definitely. Hopefully, some of us will be able to pull off some upsets tomorrow.”
Qualifying top seed Robert Garcia of the Philippines was pushed to the limits by Malaysian youngster Muhammad Ezzri Nazri in the opening match of the day. The match was filled with drama as both players took turns to cramp in the fourth and fifth game. The lanky Filipino prevailed in the end to book his place into the main draw.
The first three games were extremely close, with both players matching each other point to point and all going to the tie-break. The Malaysian nudged ahead to take the first before Garcia took the next two in identical 12-10 scores. Garcia continued to dominate and was ahead for the first half of the fourth, leading up to 7-5 before the Malaysian won six points in a row to force the fifth, with Garcia cramping in the last point.
While many would have put their money on Nazri at this point, but the Malaysian failed to capitalise on his opponent’s condition and played in a passive manner. Garcia soldiered on and in fact nudged ahead from 3-3 onwards. He dominated the Malaysian and at 8-4, his opponent cramped up and despite the match continuing after that, there was no doubt who would walk out the winner.
In the final match of the day, Malaysian youngster Mohd Farez Izwan turned around the first game deficit to win the following three games convincingly. Scot Graham Melvin started off with a fast pace, striking the ball with might and went ahead 11-6. But the intensity of that game took its toll as his younger opponent stepped up to run away with the next three games comfortably.
Robert Garcia (PHI) bt Muhammad Ezzri Nazri (MAS) 12-14, 12-10, 12-10, 7-11, 11-4 (63m)
plays Valentino Bong
Benedict Chan (SIN) bt Kojiro Tan (SIN) 11-9, 11-9, 9-11, 11-9 (41m)
plays Ramit Tandon
Samuel Kang (SIN) bt Timothy Leong (SIN) 11-7, 11-7, 11-8 (38m)
plays James Huang
Mohd Farez Izwan (MAS) bt Melvin Graham (SCO) 6-11, 11-3, 11-3, 11-5 (31m)
plays Chris Lo
Pictures by Singapore Squash