Sanjay Singh and Satomi Watanabe win in Pattaya
By Alex Wan – Squash Mad Asian Bureau Editor
It may not be a PSA World Tour event, but the lure of the sun, white sandy beaches and lots of free beer was too good an offer to refuse. Boasting a total prize money of close to US$10k, the 2nd Singha Thailand Squash Open had attracted some of the region’s leading players.
The event attracted foreign entries from neighbours Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia and even nations as far as India and Japan. A notable participating nation is Brunei, the tiny oil rich state, who has not, in recent years, if not never, participated in competitive squash.
Japan’s rising star, Satomi Watanabe, who led her nation at the recent Women’s World Teams, won the women’s event after beating Rachel Arnold of Malaysia in the final. Satomi, the world number 45 was just too strong as she dominated Rachel with her power play, winning comfortably in straight games 11-4, 11-5, 11-5, thus dethroning the defending champion.
“I’m really happy to win the event, which is held in such an amazing place. I like it very much, so I really hope to come back again next year to defend my title,” said the Japanese number one.
Earlier in the semi-finals, Satomi had come from a game down to down Philippines’ Jemyca Aribado. Prior to that, she had come through against locals Jitra Chanetiyoung and top Thai woman Ananthana Prasertratanakul.
Rachel, meanwhile had nail-biting battle with Hong Kong’s Vanessa Chu in the last four. After winning the first game comfortable, Vanessa edged home the next game but was unable to stop the Malaysian’s progress, eventually losing out 11-13 in the fifth.
The men’s final was an interestingly unexpected one featuring an all-Malaysian final. Last year’s 3rd place winner Elvinn Keo, who is the top seed this year, faced surprise finalist and 7th seed Sanjay Singh in a highly entertaining match. The match up lived up to its billing of nick fest as both players are known to love to end rallies with their shot-making talent.
But it was the drama which enfolded in the fourth game that over-shadowed the many nicks. Elvinn was on course for the title, having been 2-1 and 9-2 up in the fourth against Sanjay Singh. But a strewn of errors allowed the remarkable turnaround from Sanjay, who from 2-9 down went to game ball 10-9. Elvinn did manage to save that, but then send another 3 consecutive tins for Sanjay to draw level.
The fifth game was close all the way, with Sanjay getting to championship ball first at 10-9, but it was only in his 4th match ball which he manages to complete the turnaround, winning 11-8, 8-11, 6-11, 12-10, 15-13, and a winner’s cheque of US$2,000.
“Honestly, at 9-2 down, I was ready to give it up, as many would too. But a few errors from Elvinn lifted my confidence and I just started to feel more and more I could get the game.
It feels good to win. Even though I wasn’t seeded to get this far, I knew I was able to do well, knowing I was a former PSA professional.
I hope to come back next year and hopefully, still be able to maintain the same playing standard since I am not training and competing (on the PSA tour) anymore,” said a very satisfied Sanjay after his great comeback win.
Sanjay Singh Chal (MAS) bt Elvinn Keo (MAS) 11-8, 8-11, 6-11, 12-10, 15-13
Satomi Watanabe (JPN) bt Rachel Arnold (MAS) 11-4, 11-5, 11-5
Pictures by Thailand Squash Rackets Association and Satomi Watanabe