Sivasangari creates history as youngest national champion and Ivan retains title
By Alex Wan – Squash Mad Asian Bureau Editor
Sivasangari Subramaniam created history when she became the youngest national champion while Ivan Yuen continued his recent fine form by retaining his maiden title from last year. However, it was the women’s event that stole the limelight this year with all eyes on the PSA Young Player of the Year and also on the return of former world number five Low Wee Wern, who was playing her first event in twenty months after recovering from an ACL injury.
Victory surely did not come easy for the 19 year old as she had to see off a strong challenge from Wee Wern in the final before winning 9-11, 11-7, 11-9, 4-11, 11-7 in just under an hour. The pair had both gone through to the final in very similar fashion – winning comfortably in the first round before surprisingly being troubled by much less heralded opponents in the last eight, both being stretched to five games. It was also similar in the semis with both having to dig deep to win 3-2, Sivasangari edging past Rachel Arnold, and Wee Wern being fully tested by youngster Aifa Azman.
“I’m very happy to win this. Wee Wern came out strong today. I was pretty nervous and I put quite a lot of pressure on myself. So, I’m really happy I managed to make it. I just had to give everything I could and overall, I think I played really well and I’m happy with it,” said a jubilant Sivasangari, the world number 40.
It was great to see Wee Wern back on court after such a long absence, having had to undergo a second ACL surgery over twenty months ago. Her ability to play through the week with some tough encounters certainly augurs well for the Malaysian camp, who will now be focussing on the upcoming Asian Games in August.
Speaking to journalists after her loss, a very positive sounding Wee Wern said, “To be honest, after being out for so long, I didn’t know what to expect coming into this. I had a few close matches and I feel I’m getting better on court each day. I’m definitely lacking a lot of match practice and tournaments after so long, so the decision making on court, I’m still not there yet. I just need a lot more matches to come back into competitive squash again.
I’m definitely pretty far from my best, but Sivasangari is a top 40 player, so to come back after twenty months and matching top 40 squash is not too bad a result as a start, but it’s always disappointing to lose. I guess it’s a step forward that I am back on court, which is the most important thing.”
In the men’s event, an in-form Ivan Yuen repeated his feat last year to capture his second successive national title. He beat Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Nafiizwan Adnan in five games in a repeat of last year’s final. As expected, it was a long match between the pair, lasting 75 minutes over four close games.
Like Wee Wern, the top seeded Nafiizwan was also returning from an injury, albeit a much lesser one. The Terengganu lass was returning after a 7 week absence since limping out with a calf injury at the British Open in May
It was also extra sweet for Ivan, who exacted revenge over second seed Ng Eain Yow, a player he had to twice in the last year. Ivan, the losing finalist to Mohamed Elshorbagy in the World Juniors in 2009, was simply a class above the 2016 World Junior Champion in their last four clash.
“Nafiizwan is a very strong player and he’s far more experienced. He’s always a tough player to play but I just stuck to my game plan and gave everything I had, and I’m really happy with my performance today.
Obviously, I’m very happy to defend my title but more so, I am delighted to be able to play the game that I want to. I’m happy that I’m progressing and coming back in terms of my game. Hopefully, I can bring this form into the Asian Games (in August). I’m enjoying to play squash again and I am happy to show everyone what I’m capable of,” said Ivan.
Barring any unusual circumstances and decisions from the Malaysian camp, Ivan, Nafiizwan, Sivasangari and Wee Wern have all virtually booked their places in the individual event of the Asian Games with this result.
Sivasangari Subramaniam bt Low Wee Wern 9-11, 11-7, 11-9, 4-11, 11-7 (57m)
Ivan Yuen bt Nafiizwan Adnan 11-6, 12-14, 11-9, 11-9 (75m)
Pictures by Kng Zheng Guan