Ong Beng Hee and Delia Arnold are Curry Puff Champions
By Alex Wan – Squash Mad Asian Bureau Editor
If there was one party or event that benefited from the major screw up by Hallmark Events and the postponement of the World Men’s Team’s, it would be the Old Chang Kee Singapore Open, or fondly known as the Curry Puff Open to the locals – see end of article.
The back-to-back “tragedies” meant Ong Beng Hee and Delia Arnold were able to participate in the event, and for a country that is deprived of top level squash, their participation in this non-PSA event is clearly a big welcome. Unsurprisingly, both saw off challenges from their much younger opponents just in time for a nice Christmas bonus.
The “Old Man” is the Force That Awakens
After retiring from the professional tour for a year, Ong Beng Hee became the “force that awakened” here at the Old Chang Kee Singapore Open. The 35 year old former world number 7 retained the title he won a year ago, beating compatriot Valentino Bong, the world number 156, who is nine years his junior, in front of a full house audience at the Kallang Squash Centre where Ong is clearly the crowd favourite.
However, victory did not come easy for the “old man”, as a local press The New Paper dubbed him in their article (http://www.tnp.sg/sports/all-other-sports/old-man-ong-keeps-title-malaysians-rule). Having built a 2-0 lead with some ferocious display of his brilliance, where Bong was often the one chasing shot after shot, Ong was not able to sustain the pace long enough to close out in straight games.
He battled hard in the third, hoping to run away with the title, but Bong was not giving in. His perseverance earned him a close third game and in the fourth, Ong was simply a pale shadow of himself in the first two games.
After a lopsided fourth, Ong came back with a vengeance in the fifth which seem to have surprised his opponent. Having taken a 4-0 lead in the beginning, the gap was never caught up by Bong and the “old man” takes home the US$2100 winner’s cheque, which his wife Winnie cheekily said later, would all go to her labour fund – Winnie and Beng Hee are expecting their second child due in February.
A relieved Ong said later, “I ran out of steam. In the fifth, I just thought to myself there’s nothing to lose and I just pushed myself. Playing on the higher tin (professional circuit tin is 2 inches lower) is also something which I’m not as familiar with. But a year off the tour, my fitness is just not the same now.”
Singapore’s only professional, Vivian Rhamanan was halted in the quarter-finals stage by fellow countryman Samuel Kang, who lost to Ong in the following round. Pang Ka Hoe was the other Singaporean who made it to the quarter-finals, losing out to second seed Elvinn Keo.
Delia Wins the Family Affair
In the women’s final, the Arnolds sisters Delia and Rachel faced each other for a second time in two months. Just a month ago, Delia had beaten Rachel in the quarter-finals of the Malaysian Nationals, where Delia would go on to win.
If one thought this was going to be a friendly affair, things did not seem so in the start as Delia was ruthless in the start and gave Rachel no room, racing to a 6-0 lead with many of them coming from unforced errors off Rachel’s racket. While the younger Rachel manages to find her rhythm in the second half of the game, the gap was too far to close.
In the second game, Delia once again raced to a 3-0 lead. But perhaps a lapse of concentration after that saw Rachel win 8 points in a row. Delia stamped her mark after that and closed out the second game in a single hand of serve.
The third was probably the most entertaining of the games as Delia made Rachel work hard, sending her to all corners of the court. While she tried to chase down everything, it was evident who the better player was. Delia played well and finished off the third 11-2 to dethrone Rachel (who won last year’s event) and win her first ever Singapore Open title.
When asked about the sibling rivalry, Delia said, “It’s quite hard to play my sister because she’s always wanted to beat me. She’s improved a lot since the last time we played. I think it will only get tougher from here onwards. The next time we play, it will definitely be different again,” said Delia who is 10 years senior to Rachel.
Singapore’s only representation in this event, Koh Kar Yan was beaten by Japan’s joint-fifth seed Risa Suimoto in the opening round.
Singapore Has a Home Winner in the Juniors
Sneha Sivakumar lived up to her top billing in the girls’ under-15 category after she avenged her defeat to Lau Tin Yan at the Hong Kong Junior Open earlier in August. Playing in the under-15 category for the last time, Sivakumar did not let the chance slip to go out on a winning note and triumphed 11-9, 11-9, 11-6.
The first two games went on in similar fashion as both players were deadlocked point for point up for the first half, before Sivakumar went ahead with a string of three points to open up a gap. Twice, the Hong Kong junior chased but not fast enough to allow Sivakumar to win both games 11-9.
In the third, a good start from the Singaporean saw her open up a huge 7-1 lead. Two hands of serves later and dropping another five points, Sivakumar is the girl’s under-15 champion.
“I am happy with my win and to avenge my loss in Hong Kong. It was pretty tough in there, and I felt I played better yesterday,” said Sivakumar, who lost in the final of the same category last year.
The Curry Puff Open
The Singapore Open is often referred to as the Curry Puff Open thanks to the title sponsors Old Chang Kee (http://www.oldchangkee.com/) who is currently in its second year of a five year title sponsorship agreement with the Singapore Squash Rackets Association.
While it may not be a PSA event, it has always attracted professional players from neighbouring Malaysia due to the handsome prize money at stake – which would put many PSA events to shame. It is also an Asian Squash Federation Junior Gold Event and this year, it attracted participation from 350 players from 12 countries.
Old Chang Kee is a Singapore home grown brand that is famous for their curry puffs – think Cornish pasty filled with chicken and potato curry. What started from a single stall in 1956, Old Chang Kee now has more than 70 outlets in Singapore alone and sells over 30,000 curry puffs per day.
Results (all Finals):
Ong Beng Hee (MAS) beat Valentino Bong (MAS) 11-3, 11-6, 9-11, 4-11, 11-5
Delia Arnold (MAS) beat Rachel Arnold (MAS) 11-4, 11-8, 11-2
Pictures by Wong Hui Ling and Singapore Squash