Samuel and Wai Yhann move up world ranking with two consecutive tournament wins

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Samuel Kang (l) and Au Yeong Wai Yhann (r) with SSRA President Patrick Thio, after winning their back-to-back titles.

Samuel Kang and Au Yeong Wai Yhann both chalked up back-to-back victories at the MARIGOLD National Squash Championships 2021 and MARIGOLD SGSquash Closed Satellite 2021 that was held at the Kallang Squash Centre on 10-13 November and 15-18 November 2021 respectively.

The pair, who last year took a hattrick of National titles earned 80 valuable points each from the two wins to boost their PSA World Ranking. Samuel, who was in 506 in November, climbed to 311, while Wai Yhann went from 261 to 171 in the December world ranking.

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Finalists warming up for the Closed Satellite final that was held behind closed doors due to COVID-19 SMMs.

Given the restrictions from the government due to COVID-19, both the National Championships and SGSquash Closed Satellite was held behind closed doors and only featured a small number of invited players.

At the National Championships, the pair won in very contrasting fashion – Samuel having to dig out all his experience while Wai Yhann had a much easier time compared to last year.

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Au Yeong Wai Yhann and Gracia Chua (r) acknowledge each other with a clash of rackets after their National Championships final.

22 and already four in a row

Wai Yhann, just home from her new base in Bristol, United Kingdom, where she is pursuing a Psychology degree at the University of the West of England, faced youngster Gracia Chua in the final once again. It was a pretty lopsided affair, as the national number one never allowed Gracia into the match. Perhaps it was also the lesson she learnt from last year’s final when Gracia gave her a scare in the third game, extending it way into the tie-break.

“I’m very happy with my performance. This is the Singapore Nationals, the biggest event here and I’m very proud of myself. I’ve seen a lot of progress in my game and even though it’s been just a few months, I’ve been working a lot on my movement and my game composure, and it’s really showing now. It’s always nice to play in this tournament and seeing all the juniors, and how much they’re improving”, said the four-time national champion.

Still only 22 years of age and with four titles in the bag, Wai Yhann is certainly in line to join the legion of Singapore legends like Joannah Yue (ten titles), Mah Li Lian (eight) and Lim Seok Hui (seven).

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Aaron Liang (l) is happy he got his revenge over Marcus Phua in the semis, after losing out in the same stage last year.

Aaron goes one better, but Samuel still too strong

Aaron Liang, the 21-year-old youngster went one step closer to his maiden title this time round. While he fell short in the final, he did get the better of experienced campaigner Marcus Phua in a highly entertaining semi-final the day before. Having been upset in straight games at the same stage the previous year, the victory was very sweet for Aaron, who did not hide his emotions as he let out a loud roar after the final point.

“He (Marcus) beat me 3-0 last year and it was really good to get my revenge”, Aaron said.

Marcus was graceful in defeat as he was full of praise for Aaron, who at 21, is 12 years his junior. He said, “Aaron played really well today. It was a great match and very close. I knew the margins would be fine and Aaron just played the big points really well.”

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Samuel Kang (l) was tested, but still proved too strong for Aaron Liang at the National Championships final.

The final was as highly entertaining as the day before, with Samuel coming out tops once again to cement his status as the undisputed Singapore number one. In a match of the highest quality, both Samuel Kang and Aaron Liang gave the livestream viewers a treat that lasted just over an hour.

With the games at one a piece, the third was crucial and it was the more experienced Samuel which took it 11-9. With the lead back in hand, he strolled to a 11-4 win for his fifth national title, one which he shared later is most meaningful.

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Samuel Kang buries his head into the towel after an emotional win.

“Today was very special. Compared to the previous ones, this one means the most to me. Coming for the past two months, I wasn’t able to train much and I had an injury. Two weeks before this I wasn’t able to run without pain. I was feeling a bit demotivated, lost the fire a little bit. I think the pandemic has affected all of us. We all go through these cycles where your motivation drops.

“When I saw people playing, I felt like I still want to do that and I still have the ability to do that, so why waste it? Personally, I don’t have anything to proof. I just want to play for as long as I’m happy and this tournament has definitely got me onto court and feeling happy”, Samuel said in his post-match interview.

SGSquash Closed Satellite

Given just a day’s rest after the National Championships, the bulk of the players returned to the courts once again to compete in the MAGIROLD SGSquash Closed Satellite 2021. With a few extra entries from Singapore-based foreigners, the competition got a little more variety.

In men’s event, Malaysians Casper Lai and Cheah Wei Jie both stretched national trainees Timothy Leong and Kojiro Tan to four games in their opening round. The pair did well in patches, particularly at the start, but soon found the pace too much to handle.

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It was Samuel Kang (r) and Aaron Liang once again in the final of the Closed Satellite.

The final, which was a face-off between Samuel and Aaron once again, nearly did not happen as Samuel wasn’t sure if he was able to compete after feeling a strain in his IT band in the morning. However, a quick hit in the afternoon and a visit to the doctor who assured him that there was no risk of a tear, gave him the confidence to step onto court.

The pair once again did not disappoint, giving the online audience once again a match filled with some amazing shot making and impossible pickups. But it was Samuel once again, who reigned supreme.

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It was another close battle between the pair that ended with Aaron Liang being sent sprawling into the back corner.

The women’s event was even more interesting, with Indian Shaivi Rau, Japanese Ayumi Sakai and Malaysian trio Lim Jee Nee, Adele Han and National Coach Gillian May Ng joining the fray.

It was certainly an eye-opening experience for our young girls as they were not pitted against some unfamiliar faces. National Coach Gillian eliminated her student Ong Zhe Sim in the last eight but fell short to eventual winner Wai Yhann in four, despite taking the opening game.

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Au Yeong Wai Yhann saw off Lim Jee Nee, the second consecutive Malaysian, to win the Closed Satellite.

Jee Nee, a former Malaysian national junior, took out second seed Gracia Chua and joint-third seed Au Yeong Wai Iynn, but found the final hurdle too much as she fell to Wai Yhann in four.

 

More photos from the events can be found at:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.3077807545676551&type=3

 

RESULTS (Finals only)

MARIGOLD National Squash Championships 2021

Men’s                 : [1] Samuel Kang beat [3/4] Aaron Liang 11-6, 10-12, 11-9, 11-4 (67m)

Women’s           : [1] Au Yeong Wai Yhann beat [2] Gracia Chua 11-6, 11-2, 11-4 (20m)

 

MARIGOLD SGSquash Closed Satellite 2021

Men’s                 : [1] Samuel Kang beat [3/4] Aaron Liang 8-11, 17-15, 11-7, 11-6 (68m)

Women’s           : [1] Au Yeong Wai Yhann beat [5/8] Lim Jee Nee (29m)

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