Just last week, four days of action filled the Kallang Squash Centre as 170 juniors from 10 countries took part in the 2nd TECHNOFORM Lion City Junior Squash Championships, fighting to bring home honours in one of nine categories.
Four different countries walked away winners at this edition of the Championships. Hosts Singapore took home the coveted Boy’s Under-19 title, as well as the Boys’ Under-15 title, with further finalists in the Girls’ Under-13 and Under-15 categories. Malaysia took home titles in three of the nine events contested, while Hong Kong had two winners. Both Japan and the Philippines took home a title each, in the Girls’ Under-17 and Boys’ Under-13 categories respectively.
Singaporean Aaron Liang took home the top honours winning the Boys’ Under-19 event. Having last had a strong showing in the National Championships with a third-place finish, Aaron entered this tournament as the top seed for the event.
“I think my lower error rate made the biggest difference in the match. He is a good player and has strong fundamentals, but I knew he was prone to unforced errors. I used that to my advantage by keeping the rallies longer and applied the necessary pressure to force more errors”, said Aaron after his win.
This win, Aaron said has been a “huge boost for [his] confidence”. This would be a good boost given that he will be contesting in the upcoming Asian Junior Individuals and World Junior Championships, where he has set himself a target of a top-8 and top-16 finish respectively.
“This win here at home is important in motivating me to train harder and smarter in the next few weeks leading up to these events,” Aaron added.
This will also be one of Aaron’s last junior events as he turns 19 in September. Speaking of his progression into the senior events, Aaron is well aware of what he needs to work on. When asked what he thought were the main differences in the senior game, he said,
“Definitely the greatest transition is in the mental aspect. Against senior players, there needs to be greater patience which many juniors lack. Senior players tend to make wiser shot selections and have more of a peripheral awareness on court.”
In the top girls’ category, the title went to Japan’s Ayumi Watanabe, taking home the win dropping only 14 points throughout the three matches played. Ayumi, the younger sister of top Asian PSA player, Satomi Watanabe, was much more in her element on court than during the post-match interview, where she said that she was “nervous” before the start of the tournament, being the top-seed for the event. But her performance and results clearly showed that she had little to be nervous about.
Another local junior, Edward Thng also took home a title in the Boys’ Under-15 category. In the final, he faced off against the Under-13 US Junior Open winner, Rohan Arya Gondi of the USA. He took the decider 11-4 after being 1-0 and 2-1 down during the match.
“It was a hard-fought battle and I was down 1 game, so to be able to come back and win in 5 was a great experience.
“I was able to learn more of my weaknesses in the matches I played in this tournament, and this gives me more motivation to train harder and work on them,” Edward said later.
Philippines squash continues to prosper as Christopher Buraga took home the Boys’ Under-13 title, and it could be the country’s first junior title of such a big regional event. Christopher came into the tournament as the top seed, having last played in Singapore in one of the SGSquash junior circuits. Throughout the week, he was hardly troubled and made it through to win the title without dropping a game.
Local finalists in the girls’ categories, however, were not as fortunate as both fell to stronger opponents in the final. In the Girls’ Under-13, second-seeded Au Yeong Wai Iynn faced her toughest fight in the semi-finals where she went away with an 11-8 win in the fifth-game against Najwa Zara of Malaysia.
Despite the 3-0 loss in the final against Alyssa Ho Tsz Ling of Hong Kong, Wai Iynn walked away from this tournament with valuable experience.
“During the competition, I played some Malaysians and a Hong Kong girl. I learned that they play very differently as Singaporeans play more to the back. But the Malaysians attack the front more.”
She noted some of her weaknesses and in-game errors, saying, “I will work on my running and the execution of some of my shots, particularly my front shots.”
In the Girls’ Under-15 category, top-seeded Singaporean, Paige Hill faced no challenge up till the final where she met joint-fifth seed, June Loke Qian Ting from Malaysia. The Malaysian had previously upset the second-seed as well as joint-third seed Singaporean, Gracia Chua.
Reflecting on her performance, Paige notes, “I had big leads in the 1st and 2nd game but I lost focus. I feel I need to improve a lot more on the bigger and more important points. So, I believe it’s my mental skill I need to improve.”
She also gave kudos to June as being the better player that day and earning the win. Despite the loss, Paige says, “I feel that in the last year, my game has improved a lot. I feel like I am getting closer to top players that I was never able to beat before.”
She will be representing Singapore next in the Asian Junior Individuals and the World Junior Championships for the girls’ team and individual events.
Looking at the overall results of local players in Singapore, technical director for Singapore Squash, Allan Soyza was encouraged by the increased competitiveness of local players against international opponents.
“It shows that they can compete if they believe in it.” Local performance improved from 2018, despite the increase in participation numbers.
“We will be looking to achieve AJSS Gold status in 2021 by attracting at least 200 participants for the 2020 edition.”
This is encouraged by the increase of about 30% in participation this year compared to 2018. Much of this is due to the increase in foreign participation, particularly from Malaysia as numbers doubled to 52 players from last year.
Results (Finals only)
Girls’ Under 11 — Gladys Ho Wing Kai (HKG) bt. VInosagi Monn Vinoth Monn (MAS) 11-9, 11-8, 11-4
Boys’ Under 11 — Jedidiah Kwan Zhe Ming (MAS} bt. Isaac Wong Shiu Jit (HKG) 11-5, 3-11, 11-5, 11-3
Girls’ Under 13 — Alyssa Ho Tsz Ling (HKG) bt. Au Yeong Wai Iynn (SIN) 11-7, 11-3, 11-5
Boys’ Under 13 — Christopher Buraga (PHI) bt. Takeru Shinomiya (JPN) 11-7, 11-7, 11-6
Girls’ Under 15 — June Loke Qian Ting (MAS) bt. Paige Hill (SIN) 11-9, 11-9, 8-11, 11-2
Boys’ Under 15 — Edward Thng Boon Hwi (SIN) bt. Rohan Arya Gondi (USA) 5-11, 11-5, 6-11, 11-7, 11-4
Girls’ Under 17 — Ayumi Watanabe (JPN) bt Shaivi Rau (IND) 11-1, 11-6, 11-1
Boys’ Under 17 — Ameeshenraj Chandaran (MAS) bt. Andrik Lim (MAS) 11-5, 11-5, 13-11
Boys’ Under 19 — Aaron Liang (SIN) bt. Jared Michael Nalliah (MAS) 11-5, 11-5, 9-11, 11-3
Full results available at tournamentsoftware.com