By ROD GILMOUR (Squash Mad Correspondent in Singapore)
“With PSA they know how to make a draw,” joked Ng Eain Yow on the opening day here at the Marigold Singapore Squash Open.
Perhaps it was fitting that the first round draw pitted two of Asia’s best male players, who slugged it out over five games as the biggest PSA event to take place in South East Asia – with an equal parity prize pot of $220,000 – kicked off in energetic fashion.
After Saurav Ghosal had claimed a five-game victory over his Malaysian rival earlier this month at the Asian Team Championships, it was Yow who prevailed here 12-14, 11-4, 9-11, 14-12, 11-1 over 90 minutes having saved a match ball in the fourth.
“Even though it was 11-1 in the fifth I was really relieved to get through that,” Yow said afterwards. “At some stages we were digging deep and it was so tough physically with the humidity.”
After Covid, key wins for Yow saw him shoot up the rankings on the cusp of the top 20, but he has been dealt a draw hoodoo over the last 12 months in his pursuit of further ranking riches.
“The past year has been really tough,” he revealed. “It’s not an excuse per se but for the Platinum events I have been drawing the top five and top 10 for the whole of the last year.”
Yow has a point. This season he has been unable to break off the shackles, coming up in the second round against Mohamed El Shorbagy, brother Marwan and Ali Farag in his opening World Tour events.
The 24-year-old added: “I made more third rounds when I was 20 years old and I’m playing my best squash ever now. At the top level it’s not about luck, I have to find my own and create my own luck and matches like this give me loads of confidence.
“When I do break through this stage, they won’t be saying ‘it’s a lucky breakthrough for Yow. It’s not a one-off he has cemented himself as a top 15 player’.
“I caught a few of the top players out when I met them last year, but now they are really locked in when they are playing me. I’m really up for the challenge now.”
Yow’s draw luck has yet to change for now – his win over Ghosal, India’s Commonwealth singles bronze medallist, pitting him against top seed Paul Coll in the second round on Wednesday.
Whatever may happen here, the Malaysian is relishing the return of top level squash to Singapore, this year’s Open the first in a three-year deal with the PSA.
“Singapore is just like playing at home,” said Yow, into his ninth season on tour. “It’s great to be on the Asia tour and home ground advantage after being in Europe.
“When I was a junior, I didn’t really play here because there weren’t really any big events. It’s a great thing and it’s brilliant for Singapore to have junior and senior events.
“Covid has been tough but they are putting in a lot of effort. Hopefully Singapore will become one of the next South East Asian nations alongside us.”
For now, these two players are the standouts. The pair played some excellent retrieval rallies, especially to the front, while there were some clinging rallies down the backhand wall which made for an even contest until the fifth.
“We are both smooth movers and we were really moving around each other,” Yow added. “It feels like it’s hard to get me out of position and I was well balanced.”
Compatriot Aifa Azman then took out Olivia Clyne in the women’s first round to make it a brilliant Malaysian one-two.
Pictures courtesy of PSA World Tour