The OncoCare Singapore Junior Open 2019 finally produced a home winner as Ong Zhe Sim came out victorious in the all-Singapore final in the Girls Under-13 event. The finals today, witnessed by a over-crowded audience at the Kallang Squash Centre, had to be the highlight of the event. Having not have a home winner before, Singaporeans thronged to the venue to witness the special moment.
The pint-sized Zhe Sim, played well above her size as she halted the challenge of compatriot Au Yeong Wai Iynn in four games to claim the title, and the additional bonus of SGD 1,000 offered by OncoCare for any Singaporean winner in the competition.
Wai Iynn, younger sister of the nation’s top women player Au Yeong Wai Yhann had earlier upset the seedings to edge second seeded Malaysian Najwa Zara Mohd Fakhrul Razi in a five-game semi- final. However, she found her top-seeded compatriot Zhe Sim too hot to handle today and lost out in four games.
“I feel a big sense of achievement. I kept telling myself not to give up and remembered my coaches telling me not to be over-excited during matches, when the going was tough. I am very happy to be the first Singaporean winner in the competition and I will continue to train hard”, said Zhe Sim after her win at court side.
Singapore was also represented in the Boys Under-17 final by Edward Thng, the nation’s top junior at the moment. However, the lefty didn’t have this A-game as he fell to Malaysia’s Hi Jia Rong for the second time in two weeks. The pair had a week ago met in the final of the KL Junior Open final, where Jia Rong won in five games.
It was definitely not one of Edward’s better games as he sprayed quite a number of shots into the tin in hasty attempts to end the rallies. It didn’t help that Jia Rong was playing a very patient game in keeping the balls tight to the back and having an extremely low error rate.
“I’m really happy with the win. We just played last week in a five-setter but today I managed to do it in four. I was mentally stronger than him and I kept calm throughout the match. I noticed he was making a lot of mistakes and I slowed the ball down to unsettle him. I think today, the biggest difference between us was that he made a lot of mistakes and he wasn’t able to change the pace of the rallies when he needed to”, Jia Rong shared.
Perhaps the biggest surprise winner of the event is South Africa’s Joshua van Der Wath, the joint- 17th seed, who played a very matured game to oust Malaysian Sachin Kumar Sivanesan in four games to win the Boys Under-19. Joshua, clearly the more patient between the pair, did not have to do much as Sachin’s need to finish off rallies in a fancy manner proved to be his biggest downfall, as he found the tin more often than the front wall.
Joshua has been clinical all week with back-to-back upsets, including the top seed Ong Jin Zher in the semis and joint-third seed Hoje Ryu in the second round. The son of South African legend Craig van der Wath, who reached a career-high ranking of 31 in the world, was clearly satisfied with his first tournament win on foreign soil, as he said:
“I’m very happy! This is the first time I’m winning overseas, especially in such a nice country. I’ve always believed in myself, that I’ll be able to do it. But obviously, you don’t want to be overconfident, so I took every match as if it’s the last match of the tournament”.
Apart from the trio of Zhe Sim, Wai Iynn and Edward, the other notable Singapore juniors who deserves a mention include Jerome Aw, who lost out to Boys Under-19 winner Joshua in the last eight. However, he came back strongly in the classification matches to finish fifth.
Theodore Chua and Josiah Chong also finished above their seeding of joint-ninth after the classification matches in fourth and seventh respectively. The pair had earlier gate crashed into the quarters of on the main draw after upset wins, which Theodore came out victorious in four games.
Despite the loss, Josiah was positive of his performance and said, “It was a good learning experience playing players from all over, which will be useful for me in the future. Theodore and I have played a lot recently and it’s never easy playing him. He’s very fast and he takes everything early. Today, he played very well and I am glad to see him in the semis!”
In the other finals, neighbour Malaysia continues to dominate as five of them featured all- Malaysians; the Boys and Girls Under-11, Boys Under-13, Girls Under-15 and Girls Under-17. In addition to the Boys Under-17 event, they took home six of the ten categories on offer.
Hong Kong’s Jat Tse and Japan’s Ayumi Watanabe prevented a seventh title for Malaysia as they both won the Boys Under-15 and Girls Under-19 categories against Malaysian opponents.
Jat Tse he edged past Tay Jun Qian in three very competitive games, while Ayumi was ruthless in her final as she bageled her second opponent in the tournament in an 11-9, 11-5, 11-0 win over Chen Yu Ng.
RESULTS (ALL FINALS)
Boys U11 : Jayden Oon (MAS) bt Yeak Wei Sim (MAS) 11-9, 11-9, 11-3
Girls U11 : Harlein Tan (MAS) bt Vimietha Prakash (MAS) 11-2, 11-2, 11-7
Boys U13: Kretti Pillay Muniswaran (MAS) bt Satchhin Selvayagam (MAS) 118, 13-11, 11-7
Girls U13: Ong Zhe Sim (SIN) bt Au Yeong Wai Iynn (SIN) 11-9, 4-11, 11-1, 11-8
Boys U15: Jat Tse (HKG) bt Tay Jun Qian (MAS) 13-11, 13-11, 11-8
Girls U15: Chen Yu Jie (MAS) bt Nur Maisara Mohd Azlan Shah (MAS) 11-4, 11-5, 11-8
Boys U17: Hi Jia Rong (MAS) bt Edward Thng (SIN) 11-8, 6-11, 11-7, 11-6
Girls U17: Nathalie Sim (MAS) bt Laavanya Kugan (MAS) 11-2, 11-4, 11-9
Boys U19: Joshua van der Wath (RSA) bt Sachin Kumar Sivanesan (MAS) 11-7, 7-11, 11-5, 11-3
Girls U19: Ayumi Watanabe (JPN) bt Chen Yu Ng (MAS) 11-9, 11-5, 11-0