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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Four in a row winners at Singapore Nationals 2021

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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Samuel Kang and Au Yeong Wai Yhann extend dominance in Singapore
By Alex Wan – Squash Mad Asian Bureau Editor

It was once again a battle of experience versus youth in both the finals of the MARIGOLD National Squash Championships 2021. Samuel Kang and Au Yeong Wai Yhann, who won a hattrick of titles each last year, continued their reign after seeing off their younger opponents at the Kallang Squash Centre.

 

An emotional win for Samuel

Samuel Kang, who has been the man to beat on the local scene for some years now, continued his supremacy after a nail-biting final against 21-year-old Aaron Liang. It took Samuel four games and 67 minutes to claim this victory, more than double the time he took to complete the previous two rounds.

It was evidently emotional win for Samuel as he was seen burying his face into his towel for some time after the match. Having faced with a busy work schedule and not being able to train much, he also had to battle with an injury and doubts in his head weeks before the start of the event.

Samuel Kang (r) plays a drop in his final against youngster Aaron Liang at the Singapore Nationals 2021.

“Today was very special. Compared to the previous ones, this one means the most to me. Coming for the past two months, I wasn’t able to train much and I had an injury. Two weeks before this I wasn’t able to run without pain. I was feeling a bit demotivated, lost the fire a little bit. I think the pandemic has affected all of us. We all go through these cycles where your motivation drops.

“When I saw people playing, I felt like I still want to do that and I still have the ability to do that, so why waste it? Personally, I don’t have anything to proof. I just want to play for as long as I’m happy and this tournament has definitely got me onto court and feeling happy.”

When asked about his plans for next year, Samuel said he looks forward to getting back into training more regularly and indicated that the Asian Games 2022 in Hangzhou, China would great – if the team was given the go ahead.

Aaron Liang (front) gave his best but was still short against five-time champion Samuel Kang.

For Aaron Liang, he can hold his head up high despite the loss in his first ever National’s final appearance. Having come through a mammoth five game battle against second seed Marcus Phua the previous evening, he gave Samuel one of his toughest matches on the local scene in recent years. Despite cramping from the second game, he was still able to sneak a game and play through to the end, albeit with a little limp towards the end.

“I’m pretty satisfied with reaching the finals. I lost (to Marcus) 3-0 in the semis last year – he beat me flat, so it was really good to get my revenge. Coming into this final, I was very exhausted. Going into the first game, I was getting tortured!”, Aaron said when asked how happy he was getting to the final.

 

Wai Yhann extends gap

While it was a match of experience versus youth, the experienced Au Yeong Wai Yhann is just 22 years old and after yesterday evening, she already has four national titles in the bag. With many more years ahead of her, she will be gunning to beat local legends Joannah Yue and Lim Seok Hui’s record of ten and seven national titles throughout their careers.

Having just flown in from Bristol, England two days prior to her opening match, she cruised to the title without dropping a game. In a repeat of last year’s final, Wai Yhann showed supremacy and did not allow the 15-year-old Gracia Chua into the match very much.

Gracia Chua (r) at only 15, was playing her second Nationals final, against defending champion Au Yeong Wai Yhann.

Apart from the first half of the opening game, Gracia was often on the back foot for most of the match. Wai Yhann’s deeper drives and higher lobs meant Gracia was never allowed to volley much, which proved to be the big difference between the pair.

It was a straightforward 20-minute victory for Wai Yhann, who seemed a lot more confident than she did a year ago. Her few months of training with the world’s best in Bristol, England has definitely done her good.

“I’ve seen a lot of progress in my game although I have been away for just a few months. I’ve been working a lot on my movement and just my game composure and it’s really showing now.

“It’s always nice to play this tournament and seeing all the juniors and seeing how much they’re improving, I think we have a very strong group of girls and it’s really promising”, Wai Yhann said in her post-match interview.

 

One day rest before the next grind

The players get a day of rest before they compete again in the MARIGOLD SGSquash Closed Satellite 2021 from 15-18 November 2021. They will be joined by several invited Singapore-based guest players.

 

MARIGOLD Singapore National Championships 2021

Men’s Final
[1] Samuel Kang bt [3/4] Aaron Liang 11-6, 10-12, 11-9, 11-4 (67m)

Women’s Final
[1] Au Yeong Wai Yhann bt [2] Gracia Chua 11-6, 11-2, 11-4 (20m)

Men’s 3/4 Placing
[2] Marcus Phua bt [5/8] Timothy Leong 11-1, 11-6, 11-5 (21m)

Women’s 3/4 Placing
[5/8] Ong Zhe Sim bt [3/4] Au Yeong Wai Iynn 11-7, 11-8, 8-11, 12-10 (36m)

Pictures courtesy of Frank Foo/Singapore Squash

 

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