James Huang wins on his third attempt and Singaporeans dominate Masters’ events
While the men’s open was not a full-fledged PSA event this year, it was no short of excitement as a bevy of PSA professionals took part in a bid to take home the S$3,000 winner’s purse. It also gave the rare opportunity to many social players to share court space and rub shoulders with the professional athletes.
Chinese Taipei’s undisputed number one player James Huang finally won the Tecnifibre Singapore Squash Open this year. He was competing for the third consecutive year here, and having lost out in the last eight in 2016 and then losing out in the final last year, the 33-year old from Taipei finally took top honours. In the final, he edged out Philippines’ Robert Garcia 11-8, 7-11, 11-5, 12-10 in a repeat of last year’s semi-final.
The 14-time time Chinese Taipei national champion was forced to dig deep into his reserves against the player he beat 3-0 just a year ago. Having dispatched top seeded Malaysian Addeen Idrakie in straight games in the last four, James was coming into the final full of confidence. It was no different for Robert, as he had come back from a 2-game deficit to see off another Malaysian, Asyraf Azan, the second seed, in a drama-filled match.
“I knew Robert had tough five-setters in the last two days, so my body was a lot more fresher. I tried to play more patiently and to extend the rallies. I didn’t do very well actually, but I’m happy to take the close fourth game and the win.
I like Singapore a lot, and I’m happy to come back every year. It’s a special place for me. I used to train here as a junior (under Victor Koh) and I have lots of friends here. I feel very familiarised with Singapore. It feels like another home to me,” James said after his win.
On the local front, two Singaporeans, Samuel Kang and Chua Man Tong, made it to the last eight. The pair justified their top 8 seeding after beating Rutvik Rau and Vivian Rhamanan respectively. But in the next round, both found their opponents too tough and lost in straight games. It has to mentioned that despite losing in straight games, Man Tong twice held game balls in the first two games before losing to Robert Garcia.
Indonesian women reign supreme
In the Women’s Division 1, Indonesians dominated the eight-woman draw with four entries. It was an Indonesia versus Chinese Taipei affair in the semis – Lee Yi-Shuan, who ousted the second seed in the opening round, faced Irma Maryani. In the upper half, top seed Lin Chiao-Chi faced Yaisha Putri Yasandi. Both matches went Indonesia’s way, but in very contrasting fashion. Irma saw off Yi-Shuan in straight games, but Yaisha needed five games to upset the top seed.
In the all-Indonesian final, it was Yaisha Putri Yasandi who walked out victorious after Irma retired while trailing 7-9 with the set score at two-a piece. It was a very well deserved and hard earned win for Yaisha, who was stretched all the way to five-games in every round.
Clean sweep for Singapore in the Masters
The trio of Victor Koh, Udai Singh and Mohd. Rizal Mohd. Kadir won their respective age groups in the Masters event to give Singapore a clean sweep. The three, all former Singapore internationals, beat their foreign opponents in the finals and justified their top seeding.
Rizal set the ball rolling with a 3-2 win over good friend Glenn Hitch of Australia in the Masters 1 (35 years and above). He had led 2-0, but allowed Glenn to fight back to force the decider, which turned out to be a one-sided affair. Udai Singh then easily dispatched Indonesian head coach Djoni Supardi in straight games in the Masters 2 (45 years and above) to make it two of two.
The stage was left to Victor Koh to claim the clean sweep as he took to court against three-time World Masters champion John Macrury of the Cayman Islands in the Masters 3 (55 years and above) final. The pair, both lefties, thrilled the crowd with their accuracy of shots and retrieval ability.
John, who at 66-years of age, was impressive and took the early lead in the opening game, going to game ball at 10-7. But a spirited fightback from Victor denied him the game. The tough first game must’ve taken its toll on John, as the next turned out to be a tame affair. Victor had also read John’s game by now, and was able to gain more control of the rallies. Victor’s victory ensured all three Masters’ titles stayed within Singapore.