Ivan Yuen bags his first national title and Nicol David makes a winning return
By Alex Wan – Squash Mad Asian Bureau Editor
World number 43 Ivan Yuen bagged his first ever Malaysian national title after a gruelling 97-minute cruncher against the higher ranked and defending champion Nafiizwan Adnan, while eight-time world champion Nicol David made a winning return to the event, beating Rachel Arnold for her fourth national title at the Ohana Malaysian National Squash Championships in Kuala Lumpur.
Ivan avenges last year’s final loss to bag his first
Victory was sweet for Ivan, who avenged his loss to Nafiizwan in the final last year. The pair was playing for the third time in a month, as the pair had met in the Asian Individual Championships in end-April and then again the following week at the Grasshopper Cup qualifiers. The results was split between the pair, with Ivan winning the more recent one.
Both players seem to be playing well coming into the event and it showed in the earlier rounds, where both did not drop a single game en route to the final. Ivan had taken out Sanjay Singh in the quarters and followed up with an impressive 3-0 win over current world junior champion Ng Eain Yow in the last four. Nafiizwan meanwhile, took out former champion Ong Beng Hee and youngster Syafiq Kamal.
Ivan, the 2009 world junior runner-up, did not have it easy as expected, and twice had to come back from a game down. After narrowly losing the first game 10-12, he stormed back convincingly to take the second 11-3.
In the third, it was Nafiizwan who then took more control and won 11-6, and continued on his momentum into the fourth, reaching match ball at 10-8. But a determined Ivan was not done, winning the next 4 points to take the game 12-10 and set up a decider for a befitting finale.
The decider was close, with both players pushing each other to the limits and matching point for point until the end, when Ivan broke away and won by a 2-point margin 11-9, and for his first ever national title.
The 26-year old from Petaling Jaya said later, ““It’s an awesome feeling winning this for the first time. When I was match ball down in the fourth, I just told myself t’s a do or die situation, and did not give up right to the very end.”
“This win will definitely serve as a confidence booster ahead of my next two events in New Zealand and also a booster to play and train harder.”
Nicol David bags her fourth
Interestingly, Nicol David has won less national titles than the world titles. To be exact, she’s just only won half the amount of national titles after seeing off the challenge of Rachel Arnold in the final. Rachel, who just turned 21 a month earlier, failed to make it a hattrick of titles for the Arnold family, after elder sister had won it the last two years.
The former world number 1, proved too much for Rachel to handle as she succumbed in straight games in just over 25 minutes. Rachel, who is known for her deft touches, came in with an attacking game plan and pounced on anything she had an opportunity to. But Nicol, armed with a wealth of experience, was simply too good.
Nicol David later told The Star, “It’s great playing Rachel. She came in with a game plan and was always ready to attack. But I played a good game. I put the pressure on her early and took my chances.”
In the earlier rounds, Nicol had taken out two teenagers, Chan Yi Wen in the last eight and then Andrea Lee in the last four. The 18-year old Andrea Lee had surprised her illustrious compatriot by coming into their semi-final with a one-track mind – to put away everything she had a chance to – and this she did very well as she stole the opening game 11-6. But the effects of the game took its toll as she wilted away in the next three games. But credit to the youngster for her gallant effort.
“I still can’t believe it that I actually took a game off Nicol. I’m just so happy to have done that. I didn’t really have a game plan, except for giving it go and trying out all my shots. It helps that I was playing without any pressure and it’s a great experience playing one of the legends of the game,” an elated Andrea Lee said later.
Rachel, meanwhile, was tested by teenager Ooi Kah Yan in the opening round before beating close friend Teh Min Jie in the semis.
Ivan Yuen bt Nafiizwan Adnan 10-12, 11-3, 6-11, 12-10, 11-9
Nicol David bt Rachel Arnold 11-4, 11-7, 11-5
Nafiizwan Adnan bt Syafiq Kamal 11-3, 11-2, 12-10
Ivan Yuen bt Ng Eain Yow 11-9, 11-8, 11-7
Nicol David bt Andrea Lee 6-11, 11-4, 11-4, 11-4
Rachel Arnold bt Teh Min Jie 11-8, 11-9, 11-4
Pictures by Erika Kong, Bernama