Malaysia turn the tables to deny a Hong Kong double
By Kng Zheng Guan and Alex Wan – Squash Mad Asian Correspondents
It’s one apiece for Hong Kong and Malaysian in the team events of the Asian Games after a most dramatic and unexpected finale. The Hong Kong women lived up to their favourites tag as they downed giant-killers India for the second time in as many days at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium on Saturday. But there was no double Hong Kong celebration as their male counterparts came unstuck at the hands of a fired-up Malaysian side in the final.
Hong Kong had already beaten India once, with a 2-1 score line and were eager to douse the hopes of the team that put out defending champions Malaysia in the semi-finals. The first tie saw third string Ho Tze Lok deliver a much improved performance as she avenged her group stage defeat to Sunayna Kuruvilla, coming away with an 11-8, 11-6, 10-12, 11-3 win.
India then looked to world number 16 Joshna Chinappa to rescue a point against world number 11 Annie Au. But Joshna, who had beaten squash’s own Greatest-of-All-Time (GOAT) Nicol David in the semi-finals on Friday, just couldn’t replicate that feat as Annie powered home to an 11-3, 11-9, 11-5 win.
The win gave Hong Kong their first ever team gold and it also doubled their gold medal tally in the tally, after Leo Au had won the men’s individual event last week. The win certainly got Hong Kong’s team manager Rebecca Chiu, herself an individual gold medallist in 2002, beaming on all fronts.
“I think they played very well especially under pressure. I’m very happy for them and they certainly deserved this success,” said Rebecca.
Hong Kong’s dreams of a double celebration were however dashed as a fiery Malaysian side came out of nowhere in producing a stunning 2-1 comeback win. Hong Kong, with three of the world’s top 25, certainly took the early advantage as world number 25 Yip Tsz Fung took out world number Ivan Yuen 11-7, 20-18, 9-11, 11-8.
Ivan’s fighting display however was an indication of what’s to come as first string Nafiizwan Adnan stepped up big time to hand world number 19 Max Lee an 11-9, 11-7, 11-7 thrashing. It was sweet revenge for the world number 40 who was beaten by Max in the semi-finals of the individual event.
That set the stage for youngster Ng Eain Yow and the 20-year-old delivered the performance of his life to turn the tables on individual gold medallist Leo Au 11-7, 11-7, 11-4. It is the world number 44’s biggest career upset and he couldn’t have done it at better time to hand Malaysia their first team gold following silver medal finishes in 2010 and 2014.
“As a team we bonded well. We came into the tournament knowing that we can win and we certainly did it,” said Eain Yow.
“I always believed that Nafiizwan will deliver a point for us and I was really just focused on my own game. But I also did my homework well. I did a lot of video analysis and the fact that I didn’t play in the individual but managed to beat the individual champion, certainly worked out well in the end.”
Malaysian captain Nafiizwan was also in jubilant spirits at finally clinching a gold at the Games.
“I did not want to bow out of my third Asiad without a fight. I was on the losing team twice already so I really gave it everything I had. Of course there was pressure when Ivan lost. But pressure is like a dessert and I love dessert.”
MALAYSIA bt HONG KONG 2-1
Ivan Yuen lost to Yip Tsz-Fung 7-11, 18-20, 11-9, 8-11
Nafiizwan Adnan bt Max Lee 11-9, 11-7, 11-7
Ng Eain Yow bt Leo Au 11-7, 11-7, 11-4
HONG KONG bt INDIA 2-0
Ho Tze Lok bt Sunayna Kuruvilla 11-8, 11-6, 10-12, 11-3
Annie Au bt Joshna Chinappa 11-3, 11-9, 11-5
Pictures by HK Squash, SRAM and MyTeamMas