It was definitely not a good day in the office for the tournament top seeds as both Jemyca Aribado of Philippines and home favourite Samuel Kang were ousted by the second seeds in the final of the PSA Closed Satellite SGSquash Circuit #4.
Singapore’s world number 117 Au Yeong Wai Yhann gave the packed gallery plenty to cheer for today as she avenged her defeat in the last PSA Closed Satellite SGSquash Circuit #3 final. The petite Wai Yhann turned the tables on her higher-ranked opponent this time round with a hard fought 13-11, 6-11, 11-6, 11-6 victory.
The first game was close all the way and both women were never more than two points apart. Wai Yhann got to game point first 10-9 but it was saved. At 11-10, Jemyca, the world number 91, committed the cardinal sin of serving the ball out, and Wai Yhann duly took the opportunity to take the next two points, and the lead.
The second game was all Jemyca as she punished virtually every shot put to the front that wasn’t a winner. The crafty Filipino took a 4-1 lead, then played a few bad rallies that allowed Wai Yhann to draw level 4-4, before stepping up to win four points in a row to lead 8-4 and never looked back.
The third was point for point once again, but at 6-a-piece, Jemyca slipped at the T and fell onto the ground. There was fear she might’ve twisted her ankle but thankfully, after a short break, she managed to play on. But from this point, her movement was not quite the same and all Wai Yhann did was continued playing her best. She never dropped another point on the third game and clinched the fourth comfortably for the title and US$400 purse.
“I’m really happy with my performance today. The last time round we played, I lost out 3-2. Ever since then, I’ve been training really, really hard to get my game more consistent. And I think today, that really showed as I was able to drag on the rallies.
“I knew I went into today’s match as the fitter one and I used that to my advantage. I wanted to draw her into long rallies to tire her out and when the opportunity came, I would go short just to work her in the front. That just panned out really well today,” said Wai Yhann after her win.
When asked what she thought was the difference between the last time she played and today, she added, “I was a lot more passive back then and was not as comfortable taking my opportunities. I’ve been working closely with (national coach) Timothy (Arnold) a lot on my volleys and I’ve gotten a lot more consistency n that area.”
Having just returned from two PSA Challenger Tour events in Australia just days before this event, Wai Yhann also felt those two weeks put her in a competitive state of mind and the matches she had there had given her more perspective coming into this event.
There was no double joy for Singapore though as men’s top seed Samuel Kang was ousted by talented Malaysian Elvinn Keo. Despite coming into the event from a two-month break from the game, Elvinn Keo’s finishing touches were equally as lethal and certainly belie his world ranking of 296.
It was not a smooth start for Elvinn as a string of errors into the tin gave Samuel a flying lead 7-1. But all that changed when Elvinn started to find his range and accuracy as he turned the big deficit to take the first game 12-10. Elvinn continued to dominate in the second, often ending rallies with finishes that landed into the nick that drew a lot of oohs and aahs from the packed audience.
Elvinn did not try very hard in the third game due to fatigue, going down tamely 3-11.
He continue to look fatigued at the start of the fourth, falling behind 1-5. But a pair of uncharacteristic tins from Samuel to bring the score to 5-5 seems to be the turnaround point of this game. Elvinn picked up the pace once again and won several points with the low cross court shot that he does so well. He drops just 2 more points before winning 12-10, 11-5, 3-11, 11-7.
Despite the loss, Samuel has something to celebrate as he jumped 23 places to his career-best ranking of 156 this month after returning from two PSA Challenger events in Australia. Samuel got into the quarters at the Bendigo International and bettered that with a semi-final berth at the South Australian Open, where he lost out to World Junior runner-up Moustafa El Sirty in a close four game battle.
“I started off alright today but I wasn’t finding my length very well. Elvinn is very dangerous in the middle of the court with his volleys and he definitely made me pay for that. It’s always very nice to play with someone like Elvinn who plays at a very fast pace and is very, very accurate. Overall, I’m still very happy to be able to play and compete against these guys.
“I played in two 5k events in Australia and it was very good exposure to play against the foreign players and some of the top guys. It has definitely helped my game, but it’s been a month since I got back and not managed many games before this event,” said Samuel after the match.
The champion Elvinn Keo, once ranked in the 70s on the PSA World Tour, was rather surprised with his achievement here after his break from squash:
“I’m definitely very happy with how I did after not being in a squash court for two months. I certainly did not expect to win. This also came in the last minute (after some pull outs) so I did not have a chance to prepare. But I am very glad to have won this and hopefully, slowly creep my way back into some 5k events.”
“I did not expect Samuel to play this way as he played quite differently from the last time we played a few months ago. I was trying to adjust to that and that cost me seven points in a row. I told myself to keep the rallies going a little longer and wait for better opportunities to attack (instead of forcing them). Well, that worked out pretty well,” Elvinn added when asked how he came back from the huge deficit in the first game.
In the local events, seasoned campaigners Victor Koh and Jeremy Khoo battled it out in the Men’s Masters’ final, with the former winning in straight games.
In the other men’s finals, Malaysian top seed Loshman Veerakumar halted giant-killing unseeded compatriot Jonathan Lau’s run in the Men’s Division 1. In Division 2, Mark Lee beat James Nicholas in the battle of the joint-third seeds. The pair had taken out the top two seeds in the round before.
In the Women’s Division 2 final, top seeded national junior Aaliya Abuthinin ousted Vicky Lai in three games.
Men’s Open — Elvinn Leo  (MAS) bt Samuel Kang  (SIN) 12-10, 11-4, 3-11, 11-7
Women’s Open — Au Yeong Wai Yhann  (SIN) bt Jemyca Aribado  (PHI) 13-11, 6-11, 11-6, 11-6
Men’s Division I (B Grade and below) — Loshmaan Veerkumar  (MAS) bt Jonathan Lau (MAS) 11-5, 12-10, 11-7
Men’s Division II (D Grade and below) — Mark Lee [3/4] (SIN) bt James Nicholas [3/4] (SIN) 11-7, 11-5, 11-3
Women’s Division II (C Grade and below) — Aaliya Abuthinin  (SIN) bt Vicky Lai [3/4] (SIN) 12-10, 11-4, 11-9
Men’s Masters’ II (45 years and over) — Victor Koh  (SIN) bt Jeremy Khoo  (SIN) 11-5, 11-7, 11-6