Japanese teenager wins her maiden PSA title in Manila
By Alex Wan – Squash Mad Asian Bureau Editor
Japan’s young rising star Satomi Watanabe clinched her maiden PSA tour title as she triumphed over Wales’ Deon Saffrey in a 73-minute thriller at the final of the 2017 Nissan Makati Open in Manila, Philippines. After taking a 2-1 lead, she allowed the Welsh veteran to draw level, but manages to squeeze through the fifth 15-13 in a nerve wrecking finale to the match.
Satomi couldn’t have asked for a tougher draw at the event. Whilst she did not have to play through the qualifiers, she was drawn against top seed Vanessa Chu, who at 58 in the world, is more than 100 places above her. After ousting the top seed, she took out Malaysia’s Ooi Kah Yan in the last eight and Hong Kong’s Lee Ka Yi in the semi-finals, all of whom are ranked above her current 196.
The 18 year old has been having a good run of results in the last two months, reaching the quarter finals at the Asian Individual Championships in April after taking out Malaysia’s Rachel Arnold in the last sixteen and following that up with a final appearance at the PSA5 Malaysian Tour Series earlier this month.
The Yokohoma native was overjoyed with her first title.
“I feel really happy to win my first ever PSA title.”
“I think I won this because of the sacrifices I’ve made through the years, like moving to train in Penang, Malaysia, so I don’t really feel like making the move there was a sacrifice at all”, she said when asked if the sacrifice of moving out of home to train felt extra worthwhile after this.
Apart from Satomi, there was also another first for Japan as her compatriot Risa Sugimoto participated in her first ever PSA event. The 22-year old had to play through the qualifiers and in the first round of the main draw, took out experienced Malaysian Aika Azman.
In the men’s event, India’s Harider Pal Singh Sandhu earned the title after seeing off Malaysian left-hander Mohd Syafiq Kamal for the second time in two weeks. The pair had met a weekend ago in the final of the Malaysian Tour Series where the Indian won 3-1, but the scores suggest a much easier time this time round with a straightforward 3-0 in less than 40 minutes.
It was only recently that Philippines joined the PSA tour when Jemyca Aribado played her first event in China in September 2016. It must be lauded that the setup headed by Robert Bachmann, less than a year later, has managed to put up an event for both the men’s and women’s with such a major corporation in Nissan as the title sponsor.
Coincidentally, the Japanese-corporation sponsored title was won by a Japanese youngster on foreign soil. Perhaps, this could be used as a stepping stone by the Japan Squash Association for a similar event back in Japan backed by a Japanese corporation?
Final Results :
Harinder Pal Singh Sandhu (IND) bt Mohd Syafiq Kamal (MAS) 11-5, 11-7, 11-4 (32m)
Satomi Watanabe (JPN) bt Deon Saffrey (WAL) 11-9, 8-11, 11-8, 8-11, 15-13 (73m)