Top national junior Aaron Liang continues to make headlines in the junior circuit as he defied the seedings to make the quarter finals of the boys’ main event at the Asian Junior Championships in Macau. However, it wasn’t only Aaron who performed above expectations, as unheralded Samuel Lau gate-crashed the last eight of the boys’ under-15 event.
Seeded only joint-ninth, Aaron sent joint-fifth seed To Wai Lok of Hong Kong packing in the last-sixteen in clinical fashion, winning in straight games. This is not the first time he has beaten Wai Lok, as the pair had met two years ago in Penang, with Aaron winning in the same score line.
The big win earned him a shot against the joint-third seed Haris Qasim of Pakistan. He started off with a bang and raced to a 2-0 lead, before his opponent came back strongly to force the decider, which eventually went the Pakistani’s way after a close fight. However, Aaron took the loss in his stride and credited his opponent.
“Haris played an amazing match and came back really strongly. However, the fifth game was slightly unfortunate for me with some unfavourable calls and situations. However, it’s no excuse as I had allowed him to make a comeback in the first place. But through this, I’ve learned the importance of digging deep and maintaining the same level of focus throughout the match, especially when being in the lead. The slightest lapse of concentration can cost you the entire match, which is ultimately what happened there.”
With Aaron finishing joint-fifth, he achieved his personal target of a top-eight finish. A clearly satisfied Aaron said later:
“It felt like a huge burden had been lifted off my shoulders when I finally won the match (against To Wai Lok in the last sixteen). I’ve played him two years ago, but I know he has made significant improvements. I felt nervous going into the match but I’m glad I pulled through and achieved my own target.
“The World Juniors is in a few weeks and I am going in with the mentality of playing my best squash – with no regard of the seedings or draw, and I hope to achieve my target once again to cap off my junior career.”
“I really did not expect to make it that far, especially when I saw I was up against the third seed. If I rate my happiness from 1 to 10, it’s way up there at a 9 at least. After the match, I realised our Singaporean standards are not that far off the other players. If we work harder, I believe we can be up there with them,” said a surprised but happy Samuel afterwards.
Edward Thng, who won the Technoform Lion City Junior Open, also finished joint-fifth to justify his seeding in the boys under-15 event after making the last eight. Edward won his first two rounds with relative ease in straight games before being stopped by Malaysia’s second seed Joachim Chuah.
The other two locals in the boys under-15 category, Benjamin Koh and Ethan Chua, both crashed out in the opening round and finished 18thand 21strespectively.
In the boys under-17, Jerome Aw was the best finisher at joint-9th, and justifying his joint-ninth seeding. After enjoying a first-round bye, he saw off Kuwaiti Hussain Alzaatari in straight games before bowing out to eventual champion Nathan Kueh of Malaysia.
The other two Singaporeans in the category, Zacheus Yeo and Josiah Chong, both won their opening matches before bowing out in the second round. Zacheus was felled by Malaysian British Junior champion Ameeshenraj Chandaran while Josiah fell to Hong Kong’s Cheng Ka Hin.
There was less joy for the girls as none of the four who participated in the under-15 category managed a top-10 finish. But that was not something expected of them as none of them were seeded.
Sonya Bajaj and Paige Hill both managed to clear their first-round hurdles before falling to the eventual finalists. Sonya was shown the exit by top seeded Malaysian and eventual champion Aira Azman, while Paige was halted by India’s Yuvna Gupta. Sonya finished joint-11th while Paige finished joint-13th after the playoffs. The other pair of Gracia Chua and Joy Lim were first-round casualties and finished 19thand 21st respectively.
Singapore’s director of coaching Allan Soyza was feeling positive of his charges and said:
“It was a great experience for Team Singapore with the high level of squash they had to face. Brilliant performance by Aaron Liang to beat To Wai Lok and just missing out on a semis spot losing to Haris Qasim 11/9 in the fifth.
“Special mention to Samuel Lau who managed to get his opponent to concede the match at 1-1 and 11-11 in the third game to make the quarter-finals and Edward Thng who played very well to live up to his 5/8 seeding. To have three quarter-finalists is a fantastic achievement for Singapore Squash who were one of the smaller contingents at the championships. These small steps show that we are heading in the right direction.”
BU15 Samuel Lau
R32: Samuel Lau bt Chiang Ieng Chak (MAC) 3-0 (3,4,3)
R16: Samuel Lau bt Rutva Samant (ret.) (IND) [3/4] 3-1 ((6), 5, 11-11 ret.)
QF: Tse Jat (HKG) [5/8] bt Samuel Lau 3-0 (1,6,2)
Final placing: joint-5th
BU15 Edward Thng [5/8]
R32: Edward Thng bt Sehath Perera (SRI) 3-0 (1,0,2)
R16: Edward Thng bt Nathan Rosenzweig (HKG) 3-0 (5,10,4)
QF: Joachim Chuah (MAS)  bt Edward Thng 3-0 (2,9,5)
Final placing: joint-5th
BU15 Ethan Chua
R32: Mohammad Hamza Khan (PAK)  bt Ethan Chua 3-0 (2,8,5)
17-32 plate: Ethan Chua bt Ali Ahmad A A Alnejadah (KUW) 2-0 (0,6)
17-24 plate: Anas Ali Shah (PAK) bt Ethan Chua 2-0 (7,6)
Final Placing: joint-21st
BU15 Benjamin Koh
R32: Krishna Mishra (IND) bt Benjamin Koh 3-0 (8,14,12)
17-32 plate: Benjamin Koh bt Abdulrahman Saud A A Alhashem (KUW) 2-1 (8,11,6)
17-24 plate: Benjamin Koh bt Sehath Perera (SRI) 2-0 (2-3)
17-20 plate: Benjamin Koh bt Oh Seo Jin (KOR) 2-1 (12,(7),3)
17-18 plate: Anas Ali Shah (PAK) bt Benjamin Koh 2-0 (6,4)
Final placing: 18th
BU17 Jerome Aw [9/16]
R32: Jerome Aw bt Hussain Thamer H M Alzaatari (KUW) 3-0 (11,5,6)
R16: Nathan Kueh  bt Jerome Aw 3-0 (8,4,10)
Final placing: Joint-9th
BU17 Zacheus Yeo
R32: Ameeshenraj Chandaran [5/8] bt Zacheus Yeo 3-0 (4,0,6)
17-32 plate: Zacheus Yeo bt Chan Kuan Tai (MAC) 2-0 (1, 0)
17-24 plate: Maasilham Faheth Asmone (SRI) bt Zacheus Yeo 2-0 (4,6)
Final placing: joint-21st
BU17 Josiah Chong
R64: Josiah Chong bt Carlos Chan Gassmann De Oliveira (MAC) 3-0 (3,2,3)
R32: Cheng Ka Hin (HKG) [9/16] bt Josiah Chong 3-0 (6,8,6)
17-32 plate: Bader Mohammed S Kh Almoghrebi (KUW) bt Josiah Chong 2-1 ((10), 5,11)
Final placing: joint-25th
BU19 Aaron Liang [9/16]
R32: Aaron Liang bt Hamoud Ahmad H M Aljenaidel (KUW) 3-0 (1,2,4)
R16: Aaron Liang bt To Wai Lok (HKG) [5/8] 3-0 (7,9,12)
QF: Haris Qasim [3/4] (PAK) bt Aaron Liang 3-2 ((4),(6),7,5,9)
Final placing: joint-5th
GU15 Sonya Bajaj
R32: Sonya Bajaj bt Themini Palliyaguru (SRI) 3-0 (3,0,3)
R16: Aira Azman (MAS)  bt Sonya Bajaj 3-0 (5,2,1)
9-16 plate: Sonya Bajaj bt Jun Ain (KOR) 2-1 ((5), 8, 11)
9-12 plate: Kaavya Bansal (IND) [5/8] bt Sonya Bajaj 2-0 (3,9)
Final placing: joint-11th
GU15 Paige Hill
R32: Paige Hill bt Wong Man Weng (MAC) 3-0 (2,4,2)
R16: Yuvna Gupta (IND) [3/4] bt Paige Hill 3-0 (2,3,6)
9-16 plate: Thanusaa Uthrian (MAS) [5/8] bt Paige Hill 2-1 ((6),7,8)
Final placing: joint-13th
GU15 Gracia Chua
R32: Tam Mariko Cho Nga (HKG) bt Gracia Chua 3-0 (4,3,3)
17-32 plate: Gracia Chua bt Shenaya D Siriwardana (SRI) 2-0 (6,4)
17-24 plate: Gracia Chua bt Anargiovishka Perera (SRI) 2-0 (2,8)
17-20 plate: Pooja Arthi R (IND) bt Gracia Chua 2-1 (4,(8),7)
Final Placing: joint-19th
GU15 Joy Lim
R32: S Akshaya Sri (IND) bt Joy Lim 3-0 (6,7,6)
17-32 plate: Bye
17-24 plate: Akari Midorikawa (JPN) bt Joy Lim 2-0 (7,3)
Final placing: joint-21st
All photos during the tournament courtesy of Macau Squash Association