Heartbreak for Singapore duo Au Yeong Wai Yhann and Samuel Kang, but lots of positives to take in after losses in the SGSquash Circuit finals
The SGSquash Senior Circuit kicked off its second season in style with a record number of entries in the Men’s Open. Now that it is a PSA Closed Satellite event, it has been attracted more and more foreign entries, particularly from those who are seeking points to boost their ranking on tour. In fact, the draw was full and several late entries had to be rejected.
Singapore’s top two players Samuel Kang and Au Yeong Wai Yhann did well to reach the final in the men’s and women’s open, but sadly, there was no silver lining finish for either of them, as they were on the losing end to their Malaysian opponents.
In the women’s final, Wai Yhann fell short to 18-year old Lai Wen Li in straight games 11-8, 11-6, 11-5. The world number 77 from Kota Kinabalu had earlier saw off another local, Sneha Sivakumar in the semi-finals.
The first game had both girls getting a feel of each other, playing down the lines a lot more. But the difference was when Wen Li was given an opportunity to volley, very often, the ball would not come back.
The second game saw a string of tins from the racket of Wen Li, allowing Wai Yhann to forge ahead 5-1. The Malaysian was a little impatient and went for kills in less than ideal situations and was punished for them. As she began to play more patiently, she was rewarded and dropped just another point in the game. With two games in hand, Wen Li played a lot more relaxed in the third and closes it out rather easily for the win.
“I’m quite happy with my performance this week as I felt my game plan and shots went the way I wanted them to be.
“I’ve played her before but it’s usually 3-1 or very close games (even if it’s straight games). She’s a good player as she is fit, picks up most of the shots and doesn’t up easily. I’m not surprised with the way she played because I’ve played her several times and I have an idea what to expect.
“I felt a bit pressured as I am playing in her home ground. But I told myself to be calm and follow the game plan accordingly. I’m really happy that I manage to win it 3-0 this time,” Wen Li said in the post-match interview.
However, despite the loss, there were lots of positives for Wai Yhann to take from today as it is evident how her game has matured over the last couple of months. The choice of shots and her willingness to volley more showed today, and while it wasn’t enough to rattle Wen Li, it’s a big step forward. This augurs well with her current ranking, which at 117 this month, is her career’s best. This observation was confirmed by Wai Yhann, who later said :
“Generally I am pretty happy with my performance. To be honest, going into this tournament, my focus was not on winning or losing but rather the mental aspects of the game – focusing on the quality of shots and choices, and taking more risks, which I felt I did much better than before.
“You learn more from losing than winning”. I think I’ve found a lot more confidence in myself through this tournament, and this loss serves as an eye-opener to work on the weaknesses in my game as well as motivation to keep at what I am doing!”
When asked if winning the second game would’ve made a difference, she simply said, “For sure, to play well to get a 5-1 lead, and then lose, that sucks! Going 0-2 down is always tough mentally, so definitely it wasn’t ideal losing that set. But of course, you cannot take away the fact that Wen Li played really well to come back and so kudos to her!”
In the men’s final, all eyes and hopes was on Samuel Kang, who had upset the form books to take out second seed Naoki Hayashi the previous day. However, this was not to be as Addeen, the world number 94 stamped his mark and played cleverly to oust Samuel 11-7, 11-8, 12-10.
Having played Samuel a few times last year, the Malaysian seem to have found a way to dominate the rallies. It was clear from the start Addeen wouldn’t be hanging around in the back of the court, where Samuel is at his strongest. Mixing the rallies with straight drops and boasts to force Samuel to the front, the Malaysian was clinical with his finishes in the first two games. Between points, a couple of nicks came off his racket too off the serve, which the crowd enjoyed, but certainly to the dismay of Samuel.
However, things were different in the third as mistakes started to come off the Malaysian’s racket, which gave Samuel a confidence boost as he seem to be more comfortable playing his game. In fact, it was Samuel who got to game ball first, but was unable to convert.
“I am happy with my performance here overall. I took part in this to prepare for my next two PSA events in Canada – one is a 10k and the other a 20k. Hopefully, winning here would give me confidence to do well there next month.
“I played Samuel here twice last year. I lost one and won the other. I know he’s a good player and it’s not easy to play him. But I did train very hard the last month and I am happy all that hard work is worth it and I was able to win in straight games,” said Addeen, just before rushing off to catch his bus home to Kuala Lumpur.
While it may be disappointing that Samuel wasn’t able to come out tops, it has to be noted that he hasn’t been able to train very much this year due to a changes in his professional life. Despite that, Samuel has been trying to make up by doing solos several days a week.
Samuel however, wasn’t too unhappy with how he did. He said :
“Overall, I’m satisfied with the way I’m playing at this point of the year. I haven’t had any match practice since December so I’m glad I managed to get through some tough opponents.
“I had a busy week and was very close to having to give a walkover for my first match, so just playing in the tournament was good for me. Although I haven’t been able to join the national squad sessions, I’ve still been training (on my own). The draw this time was really strong so I’m definitely happy to make the final.
“Addeen was very sharp and it took me a while to get used to playing someone with that accuracy and pace. I felt I was starting to get into the match in the third game, but it was just too late. I believe that if I can get exposure to more players of his calibre, I’ll be able to compete consistently at that level.”
National coach Timothy Arnold, who has been with his charges throughout the tournament, had hoped for more, but was certainly not too disappointed with his charges.
“Wai Yhann did alright today. It’s not where I want her to be yet of course, but it’s a work in progress. She has showed some improvements in her game – it is more solid and her mental game is way better than what it was six months ago. But having said that, I am still hoping to see her having a little breakthrough in the near future.
“Sam’s preparation leading up to this event wasn’t great. Due to his new job scope, he wasn’t able to train as much as he wants to. So what he really needs to do is to get some consistent training in first, before we can analyse what he could’ve done better.”
The event also hosted other categories such as the Men’s Divisions l and ll and Men’s Masters l,ll and lll.