Two consecutive titles in December! Talk about ending the year with a bang!
That’s exactly what Singapore’s top men’s player Samuel Kang did down under in New Zealand. The 28-year old Economics lecturer Samuel, together with team mates Benjamin Sim and Brandon Tan were in Auckland for two legs of the SquashXL Pro Satellite events.
The first event was the Kumeu River Wines satellite, held on 3-6 December 2018. Brandon Tan, a former national junior, was taken out in the opening round by eventual finalist Viktor Hogberg. The 26-year old Swede was far too strong for Brandon, who lost in straight games. Benjamin Sim also fell in the opening round against local Willz Donnely. Having taken the opening game 11-8, he was unable to keep his winning ways and lost the next three to the 18-year old.
Samuel meanwhile, had Kiwis in the first three rounds before facing Swede Viktor Hogberg in the final. He had a relatively easy opening round against Leo Fatialofa, winning 11-4, 11-1, 11-4. His first big test came in the next round, where he needed four games to see off Sion Wiggin, ranked 268 in the world. In the semi-final, Samuel beat teenager Anthony Lepper in straight games to book his ticket in the final. (Video below)
Having watched Viktor take out team mate Brandon in the opening round, Samuel had a pretty good idea of his final opponent’s game. The Barcelona-based Swede did not make it easy for Samuel. He took the first game 11-8, but Samuel, who is known for his high work-rate, came back strongly to take the next two games in convincing score lines. The Swede came back to draw level, but it was Samuel who had the last say in the final game.
After a short break, the Singaporean trio was back competing once again at the Compressport Racket satellite held in the same venue. There was no luck once again for Brandon, who despite playing far better, lost out to Willz Donelly in five games. He twice took the lead 1-0 and 2-1, but lost the final two.
Benjamin Sim was a little luckier than Brandon as he joined Samuel directly in the last eight after both received first round byes. But like the week before, he was once again beaten in four games, this time by the hands of Joel Arscott, a 19-year old Australian.
Samuel meanwhile, came into the event full of confidence after his win the previous week. He started with a second win over Anthony Lepper before taking out Willz Donelly, who had the pleasure of playing all three Singaporeans in the two weeks.
Samuel played his toughest encounter in the final against 19-year old Lwamba Chileshe. Samuel started promisingly and took a commanding 2-0 lead, dropping just 5 points. But things took a turn in the next two games as Chileshe, a Zambian native, fought back to take the next two closely fought games to draw level. Samuel had to use all his experience in the fifth before winning the decider 11-9 for his second title.
“It was great to win both these titles in Auckland. 2018 was a pretty good year as I felt as I made some improvements to my game, so it was nice to get these wins to prove that. The wins will also help push my rankings up since I just joined the PSA and really needed the ranking points.
Ben (Sim) and Brandon (Tan) had a couple of tough games which could’ve gone either way. As the tournament was played on an all-glass court, the boys took some time to get used to it as they have less experience on playing on such courts. That’s a huge advantage for the local players as we do not have an all-glass court here in Singapore.”
John Duggan, the tournament director and also founder of the SquashXL training centre was a happy man to see the Singaporean boys there to compete. He said, “We really enjoy having overseas players participating in our tournaments as it increases the competition and creates new friendships. The Singaporeans were a great bunch and fun to have around. We would love to have them back again for our PSA events in February, April and May.”
Earlier this month, Au Yeong Wai Yhann, Timothy Leong and Chua Man Tong also participated on the PSA World Tour. The trio were in Hong Kong to play the PSA 5 Challenger Contrex Cup. Unfortunately, none were able go beyond the opening round.
Hong Kong’s Henry Leung took the men’s title, while Melissa Alves of France denied a home double after beating Singapore Open finalist Lee Ka Yi in the final.
RESULTS (SINGAPORE PLAYERS ONLY)
KUMEU RIVER WINES SQUASHXLPRO SATELLITE #1
Auckland, New Zealand
3-6 Dec 2018
R1 : Samuel Kang bt Leo Fatialofa (NZL) 11-4 11-1 11-4
R1 : Viktor Hogberg (SWE) bt Brandon Tan 11-4 11-5 11-4
R1 : Willz Donnelly (NZL) bt Benjamin Sim 8-11 11-6 11-8 11-9
QF : Samuel Kang bt Sion Wiggin (NZL) 11-7, 8-11, 11-4, 11-4
SF : Samuel Kang bt Anthony Lepper (NZL) 13-11, 11-1, 11-3
F : Samuel Kang bt Viktor Hogberg (SWE) 8-11 11-5 11-3 5-11 11-4
COMPRESSPORT RACKET SQUASHXLPRO SATELLITE #2
Auckland, New Zealand
10-13 Dec 2018
R1 : Willz Donnelly (NZL) bt Brandon Tan 8-11, 11-4, 8-11, 11-6 11-4
QF : Samuel Kang bt Anthony Lepper (NZL) 11-2, 12-10, 11-6
QF : Joel Arscott (AUS) bt Benjamin Sim 11-2 6-11 11-8 11-5
SF : Samuel Kang bt Willz Donnelly (NZL) 11-3 11-8 11-8
F : Samuel Kang bt bt Lwamba Chileshe (NZL) 11-3 11-2 9-11 13-15 11-9
PSA5 CONTREX CUP
Kowloon Cricket Club, Hong Kong
9 – 12 Dec 2018
R1 : Cheng Nga Ching (HKG) bt Au Yeong Wai Yhann 11-9, 11-2, 8-11, 8-11, 11-9
R1 : Wee Ming Hock (MAS) bt Timothy Leong 11-5, 7-11, 11-8, 11-13, 11-4
R1 : Matthew Lai (HKG) bt Chua Man Tong 11-4, 11-1, 7-11, 11-4