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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Malaysians wary of threats despite high seedings in World Juniors

Alex Wan
Alex Wan is an avid squash lover who writes, photographs, plays and coaches when he is not making a living with his Finance degree.

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Malaysian juniors wary of threats despite high seedings in World Juniors
By Alex Wan – Squash Mad Asian Bureau Editor

Ng Eain Yow and Sivasangari Subramaniam will lead the Malaysian challenge at the 2016 World Junior championships in Bielsko Biala, Poland. The pair, fresh from their individual gold medals at the recent Malaysian Games, should be riding on a high with their recent victories.

In the boys, Ng Eain Yow will be Malaysia’s brightest hope. The 18 year old from Kuala Lumpur and triple British Junior Open champion reached the last four in the last edition of the World Juniors and will be seeking to go an extra step or two this time round, where he is the second seed behind Egyptian Saadeldin Abouasih.

Ng Eain Yow (r) with coach Andrew Cross
Ng Eain Yow (r) with coach Andrew Cross

“We have been looking at a few things to try to be in the best shape for this event. We will see how it is when we arrive in Poland. We will just focus on doing the small things well each day,” said coach Andrew Cross when asked about Eain Yow’s preparation for the event.

Andrew was also quick to point out the stiff competition they will be facing in Poland.

“Each match and each day, he will have to find his targets right from the first round. This is the biggest junior event in the world, so it would be rude to underestimate any of his opponents.”

The other Malaysian boys who will be competing are Ong Sai Hung, Mohd Farez Izwan and Marcus Sim, who are all unseeded.

Malaysia’s one and only boy’s World Junior Champion was former world number 7 Ong Beng Hee who won in 1998 and the closest they have come since then was in 2009 when Ivan Yuen lost in the final to current world number 1 Mohamed El Shorbagy in 2009.

In the girls’ event, Sivasangari, the world number 58 in July’s rankings, is seeded joint third. The 17 year old has had a great season, winning a treble of PSA titles on the Malaysian Tour Series between March and April.

She is drawn in the same quarter as Egypt’s Amina Yousry and if all goes to seeding, the pair will set up a rematch of their Bahria Town International encounter, which the Egyptian won 11-8 in the fifth in just under an hour.

Both Sivasangari and Amina has been making rapid progress in the senior tour, with both currently on their career high rankings. The Malaysian had started the year at 88 and jumped 30 places, while Amina had leaped a whopping 125 places from a year ago to her current 42.

The Malaysian, however, was careful not to look too far ahead despite her high seeding:

“The latest redraw is quite tough for me as I will be facing a tricky Egyptian in the early rounds. My main aim is to get through the early rounds first before thinking any further.”

Joining Sivasangari in Poland are Andrea Lee and Zoe Foo, who are seeded joint fifth and joint thirteenth respectively. The pair, together with Sivasangari, were part of the girls’ team who made it to the semi finals in the team event last year. Both played heroes, winning their ties against New Zealand to send the Malaysian girls into the semis before losing out to eventual champions Egypt.

malaysia-2
Andrea Lee (l) and Zoe Foo after the pair won the ladies doubles gold at the Commonwealth Youth Games last year

One of the anticipated matchups would be a potential last-16 clash between Andrea Lee and Japan’s Satomi Watanabe, the joint ninth seed, who is based in Penang, Malaysia. The pair last met in December at the KL Junior Open, where Andrea came back from a 1-2 deficit, then saved four match balls before winning 12-10 in the fifth.

Andrea would be riding on a high after recently winning her maiden PSA title at the Hong Kong Contrex Challenge Cup, where she beat world number 56 Lee Ka Yi in the final. At the Malaysian Games last week, Andrea took the gold medal in the mixed doubles and a few hours later, won her tie in the team event final to finish with two gold medals.

At the last World Junior’s, Andrea also took home the Special Plate, beating New Zealand’s Abbie Palmer in the final.

Andrea said she’ll be looking to make the best out of the redraw, where she was drawn to face top seed Nouran Gohar in the quarters originally.

“I thought luck was not on my side (having drawn to face Nouran), but now I have the chance to avoid the top seed. My target is justifying my seeding, but now I have a better chance to go a step further.”

But she is also wary of the threat from Satomi, saying, “Satomi and I have played many times and it has always been very close and tight. The last match we played at the KL Junior Open in December, it was really intense.”

Andrew Cross, the Malaysian junior coach who has been working with the current batch for many years now, added, “Both Sivasangari and Andrea have been playing well in the last few months. But it is important they use the confidence to their advantage without turning it into over confidence. Sivasangari has a tough opening match after the new redraw, so she will need to be prepared from the very first round.”

Zoe Foo, meanwhile, is seeded to face New Zealand’s joint fifth seed Eleanor Epke in the third round. The lanky lass from Kuala Lumpur had a great run in her last PSA event at the Contrex Challenge Cup, beating her more illustrious compatriot Sivasangari Subramaniam before losing out to Andrea Lee, the eventual winner, in the semis.

The fourth member of the girls team is Aifa Azman, who will be making her World Juniors debut. Aifa had won her second British Junior Open title earlier in the year, bagging the under-15 title.

Team Malaysia (l-r) Mohd Farez Izwan, coach Andrew Cross, Sivasangari Subramaniam, Marcus Sim, Zoe Foo, Ng Eain Yow and Andrea Lee. Missing from photo - Ong Sai Hung and Aifa Azman
Team Malaysia (l-r) Mohd Farez Izwan, coach Andrew Cross, Sivasangari Subramaniam, Marcus Sim, Zoe Foo, Ng Eain Yow and Andrea Lee. Missing from photo – Ong Sai Hung and Aifa Azman

 


Pictures from Squash Mad archives

 

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