The Oncocare Singapore Junior Squash Open reached new heights this year with the record number of entries. A total of 291 participants from 18 countries signed up for this year’s edition. This year also marked the third consecutive year Oncocare has come in as the title sponsor.
Malaysia dominated the recently concluded Oncocare Singapore Junior Squash Open by walking away with eight of the ten titles at stake. They had a chance for a clean sweep as they had a finalist in every age group. However, Indian Rutvik Rau and Hong Kong’s Valerie Huang denied that pleasure by winning the boys’ under-19 and girls under-13 categories.
Rutvik Rau of India and Jessica Keng of Malaysia took top honours, winning the under-19 categories in contrasting styles. Rutvik, who was seeded second, defied the odds to upset top seeded Malaysian Darryl Gan in a hard fought final, while Jessica was hardly troubled all week.
Singapore-based Rutvik, who’s had a remarkable year on the local senior circuit, put the silver lining to his year by bagging the title. Up to the semis, he was hardly troubled despite having Singaporean national juniors Kieren Tan and Matthew Wong along the way. The pair, who was part of the Singapore World Juniors squad this year, went down tamely to Rutvik in the last 16 and quarters respectively.
Rutvik’s first real test came in the form of Malaysia’s Sunil Kumar Sivanesan in the semis, who stretched their match to four games. In the final, Rutvik was in his element against top seeded Malaysian Darryl Gan. After dropping the opening game, he came back strongly to take the next three to seal the win.
“I have worked hard on my game this year. I really wanted the title and was focused to do well this year. It’s very special for me as this is my first Asian circuit title. Winning it here at home (where I’m based) makes it even more memorable”, Rutvik said after his win.
In the girls’ main event, 16-year old Jessica Keng lived up to her top billing and won all her four matches in the round robin competition. Despite playing an age group above, Jessica was head and shoulders ahead of the competition, winning every single match in convincing fashion and dropping just 45 points throughout the competition.
December must be a memorable month for the former British Junior Open champion, as she had only two weeks before reached the last eight of the Tecnifibre Singapore Squash Open PSA event and followed that up with a win at the KL Junior Open a week later.
“This win means a lot. I won the KL Junior Open last week, so to follow up with this win is a great result. It’s my last tournament of the year so it’s nice to end it on a memorable note”, said Jessica Keng, a British Junior Champion three years ago.
Hong Kong’s Valerie Huang was the only other non-Malaysian winner as she pocketed the girls’ under-13 title after defeating Shalini Muruges of Malaysia. The top seeded Valerie was dominant through all the rounds, never dropping a game through the tournament.
There was no joy once again for the local juniors as none were able to take home a title. Singapore’s best hope was Gracia Chua, who was seeded second in the girls’ under-13 category. Unfortunately, she was edged out by Malaysian Shalini Muruges, who came back from 2-1 down, in the semis.
Another local, Samuel Lau, the third seed in the boys’ under-15, was also seen as a prospect. But Samuel fared badly to crash out early in the last 32 to South African Wolf Hamm. This means that the extra incentive from Oncocare who offered $1,000 extra prize money to any Singaporean who won a title, remains untouched.
However, there were some notable results from a few who played beyond their seeding. Au Yeong Wai Lynn, the younger sibling of top women’s player Au Yeong Wai Yhann, gate crashed into semis of the girls’ under-13 and Paige Hill did the same in the girls’ under-15. Both Wai Lynn and Paige were seeded fifth in their respective age groups. In the boys event, Singapore’s top junior, Aaron Liang also gate crashed into the semis of the boys under-19, but lost out in three close games to Daryl Gan.
RESULTS (FINALS ONLY)
Girls Under 11 – Harleein Tan (MAS) bt Haneesha Veerakumar (MAS) 11-6, 12-10, 11-4
Boys Under 11 – Jayden Oon (MAS) bt Altamis Aqhar Sallam A. Sufian (MAS) 11-6, 11-5, 11-9
Girls Under 13 – Valerie Huang (HKG) bt Shalini Muriges (MAS) 11-5, 11-6, 11-5
Boys Under 13 – Veroon Heng (MAS) bt Seojin Oh (KOR) 11-8, 7-11, 11-6, 11-4
Girls Under 15 – Yasshmita Jadishkumar (MAS) bt Nur Maisara Mohd Azian Shah (MAS) 11-2, 11-5, 11-7
Boys Under 15 – Lau Hui Rong Chris (MAS) bt Aidan Yunus (MAS) 11-8, 11-7, 12-14, 11-5
Girls Under 17 – Shasmithaa Nityanandan (MAS) bt Vharsha Mithraa Dineshi (MAS) 6-11, 11-8, 11-3, 13-11
Boys Under 17 – Ishant Shah (MAS) bt Nicolas, Jenn Hinn Chee (MAS) 8-11, 11-3, 11-0, 11-5
Girls Under 19 – Jessia Keng (MAS) bt Angie Ooi (MAS) 11-5, 11-6, 11-6
Boys Under 19 – Rutvik Rau (IND) bt Darryl Gan (MAS) 5-11, 11-4, 11-7, 11-9