If we were all honest enough, going into the World Juniors and coming out with a top eight finish by any Singaporean in any event was something unthinkable even to the most optimistic person.
But Sneha Sivakumar, a SPEX (Sports Excellence Scholarship) scholar did just that in Chennai, India. Entering the event unseeded and relatively unknown, the 17 year old Raffles Institution student fought her way through the last eight before bowing out to England’s Lucy Turmel, the tournament’s third seed and world number 66.
Having drawn Aira Azman, a promising junior from Malaysia with vast international exposure certainly wasn’t the best of draws for Sneha. But a good showing from her to win 3-1 gave her the boost of confidence she needed, which was evident in her major upset of England’s seasoned campaigner and world number 85 Elise Lazarus in the next round, which on paper, remain her biggest scalp of the event.
The win got her a place in the last sixteen where she faced Egyptian Ingy Hammouda, in what she described as one of the toughest matches of her life.
“The last sixteen was close. It was 2-2 and 9-9 in the fifth. I’m just glad I kept my head in place and managed to force two mistakes out of her to win,” said Sneha.
The win earned her a place in the last eight and a match on the all-glass show court erected at the Express Avenue Mall. However, her dream run was halted by third seed Lucy Turmel of England in straight games.
“I thought I had a chance in the quarters. I played pretty well but it was very clear that my opponent was far more experienced playing on the glass court. The conditions in there are really different. The ball is different, the bounce is different, the lighting is different. There are so many different elements, and the lack of such a court to train on back home is certainly a disadvantage for me.”
There was certainly no shame in defeat for Sneha, who felt unsurprisingly, very pleased with her performance at the event and that she played way above herself.
“I was playing with no pressure at the event. I haven’t played much on the world junior circuit so I was relatively unknown. I did not have a good draw to start off with, but the results, that’s something else. It’s unbelievable,” Sneha said.
Sneha earns praises from Laura Massaro
Former world champion and world number one Laura Massaro, who was in Chennai as part of the coaching team for the England team, was full of praise for Sneha. When asked what she thought of Singapore’s new star, she said :
“I hadn’t heard of Sneha before Chennai, but as soon as I saw her on court with Elise (Lazarus), I thought she looked good.
I thought watching her play both Elise (Lazarus) and Lucy (Turmel), she was solid and had a feisty attitude. I liked the determination and feel that as a female squash player, if you move well and are determined, that will get you a long way.
I am sure with input from the right people and some more technical input, she can push on and be successful.”
Sneha proves her worth for SPEX scholarship
Sneha’s performance in Chennai proves that she is well-deserving of the SPEX Scholarship that she has received from Sport Singapore. The scholarship is awarded to an elite group of athletes within the High Performance Sports (HPS) pathway and provides financial support to assist athletes in their education, career and personal development. Amongst the other scholars in the programme are Singapore’s Olympic gold medallist Joseph Schooling and fellow swimmer Quah Zheng Wen.