International winners at SGSquash Circuit Finale

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The final leg of this year’s SGSquash Circuit saw international participants take top honours in the open categories – Gurshan Singh of Malaysia taking the men’s and India’s Tanvi Khanna taking the women’s. The event was also made extra special as it coincided with the World Squash Day on 13 October 2018.

There was plenty of drama and excitement in the men’s open this time round, as younger players were taking out their much more illustrious seniors right from day one. First to be ousted was Malaysia’s 5th seed Ng Jo Wen who was beaten by Singapore-based Indian Rutvik Rau in four games.

This was followed by the exit of 2nd seed Timothy Leong at the hands of ex-Malaysian national junior Mohd Amir Farhan, who after edging through the first game 14-12, won comfortably in the next two.

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Aziz (left) moved in for the pick up against Kang

By the second day, both the top seeds were out as Samuel Kang let a 2-1 lead slip and fell to Malaysian teenager Adam Aziz, a Malaysian Sports School student, who played way above himself on the day in what was arguably the match of the tournament.

When asked about his strategy, the 17-year old said :

“I played a lot more pressure shots to the back and held my shots longer to break Samuel’s movement. In the fifth game, I changed my game a little to attack more so that he couldn’t be in so much control.”

Rutvik Rau continued his giant-killing run with an impressive straight games victory over Chua Man Tong the following day for a place in the last four and a clash with Adam Aziz.

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Rau (right) with a full stretch

In the last four, Gurshan Singh won the all-Malaysian battle against Julian Joshua Wong in the bottom half, while in the top half, Adam Aziz edged out Rutvik Rau in four games. After an energy sapping third game which Adam won 15-13, the fourth game was a breeze as Rutvik wasn’t able to be physically competitive anymore after that tough game.

The final was an anticlimax affair as Gurshan Singh put all his experience to good use in seeing off his younger opponent in straight games comfortably. Adam Aziz, who all week had Ng Jo Wen advising him between games except today, seemed a lost puppy in court as he was completely outplayed.

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Singh vs Aziz in the Men's Open Finals

“I always love coming to Singapore. When I first saw the draw, I really saw that I had a chance to make it to the final, so since the first day, I had set my mind to do it. I pretty much just focussed on everything I do, in every game I played. I made sure I did the right thing in court.”

“I didn’t have any pressure playing. I just told myself to go there and have fun, but since the first day, everything was going well and I felt quite good about it. I made sure I kept my mentality right, made sure I had good meals, good sleep, and that’s it really”, said Gurshan after his maiden win in Singapore.

In the women’s open, the event did not get off to a good start when Singapore’s second seed Sneha Sivakumar pulled out for the second time of this year’s SGSquash Circuit citing illness. This was followed by Yukino Tan who had to pull out of her last match after hurting her foot.

Tanvi Khanna, who was part of the Indian national team to the Asian Games and Women’s World Championships, set the ball rolling on the opening day with a hard fought upset win over Singapore’s top seed Au Yeong Wai Yhann in five games.

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Khanna vs Au Yeong in the earlier rounds

Malaysian Nurina Najib provided the other upset in the group stage after she overcame 3rd seed Angie Ooi in four games to top the group and set up a semi-final clash with Wai Yhann. In the last four, Wai Yhann edged past Nurina in four close games while Tanvi breezed past Angie.

The final was anticipated to be a close affair, with Wai Yhann hoping to make amends for her earlier group stage loss to Tanvi. However, that was not the case as Tanvi played with a lot more confidence today in comparison to their earlier meeting. There was clearly a lot more punch in her game as attacks were aplenty through the three games she took to ace the title.

“I’m really happy with today. What I had in mind, I was able to execute it physically. Overall I’m very happy to be here in Singapore. Everyone is super friendly and I had an awesome tournament”, said Tanvi in her post-match interview.

She also paid tribute to Wai Yhann, citing her honesty, “My opponent (Wai Yhann) was very fair on court. She called all her shots that were down and that is great sportsmanship.”

When asked why she seemed a different player today, she added :

“This is my first PSA event and that was my first match, so I was really nervous. I wasn’t able to get the flow and be in the moment. I had a couple of days to settle and learn from that, because I knew I could play better. “

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Khanna vs Au Yeong in the Women's Open Finals

Wai Yhann, meanwhile, was all positive despite her loss :

“I think basically I’m a lot more passive (compared to her) and I did not really move her around the court as much as I should have. Whenever I gave her a loose shot, she was very confident to go forward. I think I also had a slightly tougher time in this tournament (compared to Tanvi), so I think my body was a little more tired.”

“But overall, I think it’s still a very good tournament. I can definitely see a lot of improvements, so I’m looking forward to future tournaments.”

In the other categories, Gavin Lai beat national junior Kieren Tan in four games. The pair split the first two games, before Gavin bagel-ed his younger opponent in the third game and wrapping up with an 11-6 in the fourth.

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Bawa (left) vs Ang in the Men's Div 2
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Lai (left) with a backhand shot against Tan
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Singh vs Koh in the Men's Masters Finals

In Division 2, second seed Arjun Bawa came back from two games down to oust Sean Ang, while in the Masters event, Singapore ex-national Udai Singh beat Victor Koh in four games.

“This (SGSquash Circuit) is a terrific initiative to support the continued revival of squash in Singapore. Having the SGSquash Circuit with the regular feature of tournaments year round, we can see players of all levels and age groups driven and motivated to train. It has resulted in extending the squash season to almost the entire year and with more overseas participants, the level of interest has increased, which augurs well for the growth of the sport in Singapore,” Udai said when asked what he thought of the SGSquash Circuit this year.