Friday, December 1, 2023

Tired Tesni Evans toppled by Rachel Arnold on day one in Singapore

By ALAN THATCHER (Squash Mad Editor) and MATT COLES (PSA) in Singapore

Just two days after finishing runner-up in the New Zealand Open, Wales’ Tesni Evans crashed to a shock defeat in the first round of the Singapore Open to Malaysia’s Rachel Arnold.

Evans took the first game at the Kallang Squash Centre 11-9, but the effects of the travel and short turnaround started to show.

From appearing in front of a packed crowd around the glass court in New Zealand as she finished runner-up to Joelle King on Saturday, Evans was relegated to a side court at Kallang with a handful of spectators watching. It must have felt a surreal contrast on the opening day of this PSA World Tour Gold level competition.

Arnold came through to win the second game 11-3, before crucially clinching the third on a tiebreak 13-11. She carried that momentum into the fourth game, and secured the win, making her way into the last 16, where she will now face Egypt’s Rowan Elaraby.

A delighted Arnold, ranked 28 in the world – 15 places behind Evans – said: “I thought I played really well today. I tried to stay composed throughout the whole match. I thought she would be a bit tired from New Zealand, so I tried to extend the rallies a bit more.

“It was still a close match. This is our third time playing in a few months this year, it’s more than enough! Pretty happy with the win today!”

Aifa Azman (right) beats Olivia Clyne

Malaysia’s Aifa Azman also halted a higher-ranked opponent on the opening day, beating USA’s Olivia Clyne at the OCBC Arena.

World No.24 Azman, wasted three match balls in the fourth before winning 11-8, 9-11, 11-7, 13-15, 11-2 against Clyne, who sits four places above her in the world rankings.

After a quick start from the young Malaysian, the first game was tight, with Clyne fighting back. However, Azman won the last three points to secure an 11-8 win, and to move into the lead in the contest. The second game followed a similar pattern, but this time, it was Clyne who snuck through, winning it 11-9 to level the contest.

The Malaysian came out fighting again in the third, and she then went match ball up in the fourth game as well. The American saved three match balls, and also spurned a couple of game balls herself, before taking a tie-break win 15-13.

However, Azman played some incredible stuff in the last game, winning the first 10 points to almost guarantee the win. Clyne saved two more match balls, but the World No.24 won it 11-2 to set up a clash with World No.6 Nour El Tayeb.

“I am very excited to win this match! I didn’t do well in the U.S. Open. I am very happy to win against Olivia, it’s always a tough match!” Azman said.

“I am very happy to have come back in the fifth 11-2. I think my tactic are getting much better! This is amazing, I have never been to Singapore before, only transited in the airport. I am very happy to play here!

“I played her (Nour El Tayeb) in the World Championships, and she is a top player. I am looking forward to play against her, but this time with a better game plan so I can give more of a fight against her than I did last time!”

Emily Whitlock wins through

Nadine Shahin (EGY) bt Low Wee Wern (MAS) 3-1: 10-12, 11-8, 13-11, 11-7 (43m)

Nadine Shahin took on the returning Low Wee Wern on the glass court at the OCBC Arena and managed to win 10-12, 11-8, 13-11, 11-7  after a bright start by the Malaysian. She was featuring for the first time on Tour since July 2021, and on her return from an ACL injury, she claimed the first game tiebreak.

She continued that form by winning the first four points of the second, but the Egyptian fought back. A superb forehand kill gave her the game on her first game ball, to level the match.

The third was also tight and it went to another tiebreak, with both players having two game balls. Shahin was the one to clinch it 13-11 to take a 2-1 advantage.

Former world No.5 Wee Wern, who now sits outside the top 400, fought back again to lead 6-2 in the fourth. However, the Egyptian did not panic, and some ferocious hitting saw her take the victory, dropping just one more point in an 11-7 win in the fourth. She will now take on World No.4 Amanda Sobhy, the tournament’s top seed, on Wednesday afternoon.

Shain paid tribute to Wee Wern on her comeback, saying: “Nobody with this talent, or squash skills can ever… No matter how many years or injuries, you cannot take away that talent.

“She has always had it; she has always had those skills. She also showed great athleticism today, so you wouldn’t know that she was injured. I am just glad to have her back.

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“It was one of the toughest matches ever, especially to be played here, in the morning to me! I am glad she is back on Tour, and hopefully she is going to continue. I am so happy with this match, I will take it as a good win for me, obviously!

“It is my first time here, and everything is so perfect, so well organised. I am glad the Asian tour is back, you know. Since COVID we haven’t really had it. I am staying for three weeks and going to Malaysia and Hong Kong after this, so I am really glad to have this event for the first time.

“Obviously, Amanda is top four in the world. Hopefully, I can scare her off, play a great match. If I can keep continuing this focus, and this hard work, I think I can do some good damage, and hopefully, that will be good tomorrow!”

Emily Whitlock (Wales) enjoyed a comfortable win against Singapore’s wild card Leia Lee Zi Fang, winning 11-1, 11-1, 11-2 in 17 minutes.
Whitlock meets England’s No.4 seed in the bottom half of the draw on Thursday, while No.7 seed Georgina Kennedy meets Sabrina Sobhy (USA).

The MARIGOLD Singapore Squash Open will continue on Wednesday, November 16, with the top half of the second round being played. All the action from the OCBC Arena in Singapore will be shown live on SQUASHTV.

MARIGOLD Singapore Squash Open, OCBC Arena, Singapore.

Women’s First Round: 
Nadine Shahin (EGY) bt Low Wee Wern (MAS) 3-1: 10-12, 11-8, 13-11, 11-7 (43m)
Nele Gilis (BEL) bt Mariam Metwally (EGY) 3-1: 9-11, 11-8, 11-1, 11-4 (34m)
Rachel Arnold (MAS) bt Tesni Evans (WAL) 3-1: 9-11, 11-3, 13-11, 11-8 (46m)
Aifa Azman (MAS) bt Olivia Clyne (USA) 3-2: 11-8, 9-11, 11-7, 13-15, 11-2 (55m)
Emily Whitlock (WAL) bt Leia Lee Zi Fang (SGP) 3-0: 11-1, 11-1, 11-2 (17m)
Sabrina Sobhy (USA) bt Melissa Alves (FRA) 3-0: 12-10, 12-10, 11-7 (43m)
Salma Hany (EGY) bt Alexandra Fuller (RSA) 3-0: 11-9, 12-10, 11-9 (33m)
Hollie Naughton (CAN) bt Au Yeong Wai Yhann (SGP) 3-0: 11-6, 11-4, 11-2 (21m)

Women’s Second Round (Top Half, Wednesday, November 16):
[1] Amanda Sobhy (USA) v Nadine Shahin (EGY)
Nele Gilis (BEL) v [6] Olivia Fiechter (USA)
[5] Rowan Elaraby (EGY) v Rachel Arnold (MAS)
Aifa Azman (MAS) v [3] Nour El Tayeb (EGY)

Women’s Second Round (Bottom Half, November 17):
[4] Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) v Emily Whitlock (WAL)
Sabrina Sobhy (USA) v [7] Georgina Kennedy (ENG)
[8] Tinne Gilis (BEL) v Salma Hany (EGY)
Hollie Naughton (CAN) v [2] Joelle King (NZL)

Pictures courtesy of PSA World Tour 


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