By Alex Wan
The first junior event on the 2021 calendar, ONCOCARE SGSquash Junior Circuit 1st Leg, was held successfully at the Kallang Squash Centre on 15-20 March 2021. With the continued support of ONCOCARE, 138 juniors got to battle it out in six categories over six days of competition.
The top seeds of the event won all but one of the categories. The older age group events were expectedly dominated by Singapore’s national junior trainees, while Ultimate Squasher trainees took both top honours in the Under-11 events.
Ultimate Squasher reigns supreme in the Under-11s
Top two seeds of the Girls Under-11 event, Kayla Choy and Jacintha Han, both of whom train with Ultimate Squasher, took to court to start off the finals day. The bespectacled Kayla, who attends Raffles Girls School, was in control for much of the first two games and led 2-0.
Kayla looked set for a straightforward win when she led 8-2 in the third, but seem to have lost concentration. Jacintha capitalised on that, came back strongly to draw level and held game ball at 10-9. But she was unable to convert the next rally that lasted 18-shots, a remarkable number from two girls at their age. A tin from Kayla gifted her a second game ball, which she duly converted to force a fourth game.
After that lapse of concentration, Kayla regrouped and took charge of the fourth, never allowing Jacintha to come back, and sealed the title with an 11-7 score line in the fourth.
In the Boys Under-11 event, it was again an all-Ultimate Squasher contest. Top seed Adiv Gole of Tanjong Katong Primary School was dominant in seeing off second seed Avik Ghosh in straight games.
The fashionable Adiv, who sported different coloured shoes on court, said later, “I feel proud and even more determined to win the next tournament now. I will continue to train hard and increase my fighting spirit to achieve my goals”.
Fydel Mok surprises in the Boys Under-15
The Boys Under-15 was the biggest of the event with 42 participants and the only one that needed more than a 32-man draw. It was also one of the most fiercely competed events, with only eventual winner and top seed Jethro Chua the only top four seeded player to reach the semi-finals. In the lower half in particular, second and joint-third seeds Andrew Kim and Ethan Kuan were shown the exit in the quarter-finals and last sixteen respectively.
The biggest surprise of the event was Fydel Mok, the joint-ninth seed who crashed into the final after two upsets in a row and a five-game battle with fellow giant-killer Sujen Ettikan in the last four.
In the final, he had a slow start and was always behind. But his determination, as one would’ve witnessed from the amount of fist pumps, saw him come back to take the first game 12-10 against the top seed.
It was clear that Jethro had much more variety and attacking options in his game to end rallies. In each game, Jethro would have a big lead before Fydel mounted a comeback. Apart from the first game, Jethro was able to halt each Fydel each time he was on his way to drawing level.
“I’m disappointed to lose today. I think I need to work on my forehand back corner, where he (Jethro) got a lot of points from. It’s amazing that I could get this far into the final as this is my debut (national level) junior tournament. It’s even more so when I am so lowly seeded and I hope I can make further upsets in the next tournaments”, said Fydel, who is the only finalist of the Under-15 and above age groups who is not part of the national junior training. Fydel attends St.Patrick’s School and trains with former national coach Simon Yang.
In the Girls Under-15, Ong Zhe Sim, or Simmy as she is better known to her friends, powered her way to the title without dropping a single game. Having dropped just 25 points coming into the final, she continued to exert her dominance against pint-sized Saiesha Ranjan in the final.
Rallies in the first game were short as Simmy never allowed Saiesha to settle. However, Saiesha played much smarter in the next two games, finding ways to extend the rallies with a much more patient game plan. Despite that, Simmy was just far superior and wrapped up both the games in a much more respectable score line.
Gracia Chua and Edward Thng solidify position as top juniors
In the main Under-19 events, Gracia Chua and Edward Thng solidified their positions as the top juniors in the country when they clinched the titles, albeit in contrasting fashion.
Gracia, who only turns 15 in June, was head and shoulders above Wai Iynn in the final. While Wai Iynn has the build and power to her advantage, the depth and variety in Gracia’s game was clearly superior. Gracia was especially dominant on the backhand side and often forced Wai Iynn into a boast to create attacking opportunities.
The first game was decently competed, but the second was a complete one-sided affair. The third game was by far the best of the three, as Wai Iynn was calmer and more composed with lengths. But that was still not enough to extend the match any further as Gracia maintained the lead throughout and won 11-8.
In the Boys Under-19, top seed Zacheus Yeo was an early casualty, surprisingly losing out to Ethan Chua in the last eight after taking a 2-0 lead. Having upset the seedings to make the final of the last junior event in December, this certainly must be disappointing for Zacheus.
With his main competition eliminated, second seed Edward Thng made no mistake and took full advantage to win the event. However, that did not come easy as Theodore Chua came in firing at the start of the final.
Theodore was also aided by some tins from the left-handed Edward in some critical moments. Having led at the start of the opener, Edward gave away the lead at 6-7 and gifted the game to Theodore with two tins at the end.
In the second game, Theodore looked good for a two-game lead when Edward once again hit two tins at 8-8 to go game ball down. However, this time, Edward managed to pull himself together to score four points in a row to draw level on the match.
The third and fourth were one-sided affairs and it was clear the first two games had taken a lot out of Theodore. His speed and movement were a far cry from what was seen in the first two games. Edward clinched the title with similar 11-3 scores in the third and fourth, and must be relieved to not go two-down.
“I think it’s my many years of experience playing that helped me with my mental strength to push on, despite being game ball down. It helps me to take each point at a time rather than focus on the game itself”, said Edward when asked how he came back from two tins to win four points in a row.
Theodore, meanwhile explained, “Towards the end of the second game, I was physically tired. I was trying to push through mentally to close out that game but I did not manage to. In general, Edward is a more consistent player and he took advantage of my tiredness”.
ONCOCARE support continues to pour in despite pandemic
The event would not have been possible without the constant support of ONCOCARE, who has been pillar of strength for junior squash in Singapore. Despite the pandemic hitting many businesses, they continue to come through.
Dr. Tay Miah Hiang, co-founder one of Singapore’s largest private oncology practices and a competitive squash player himself in his heydays, was quick to point out:
“I’d like to say that there was no question about the sponsorship even when COVID-19 hit the town. In fact, more help is needed for the game to raise the morale of the society and players at large.
“We are quite fortunate that we are not hit as bad by the pandemic. In fact, we have been seeing more patients than ever and it has prompted me to help more – not just financially, but assistance that could be used for more collateral benefits such as bringing everyone together to show our tenacity and that we can work together to overcome difficulties”.
 Kayla Choy bt  Jacintha Han 11-6, 11-8, 10-12, 11-7
 Adiv Gole bt  Avik Ghosh 11-4, 11-5, 11-9
 Ong Zhe Sim bt  Saiesha Ranjan 11-3, 11-7, 11-7
 Jethro Chua bt [9/16] Fydel Mok 10-12, 11-8, 11-7, 12-10
 Gracia Chua bt  Au Yeong Wai Iynn 11-7, 11-3, 11-8
 Edward Thng bt [3/4] Theodore Chua 9-11, 12-10, 11-3, 11-3