By Alex Wan
After running two successful events at the end of 2020, Singapore Squash started the event calendar on a high with the DYMON ASIA SGSquash Circuit 1. With 100 participants playing in four categories, the response was nothing short of encouraging. What made it even sweeter was the onboarding of a brand new sponsor, DYMON ASIA into our donor base.
Given that the last two events – the National Championships and the Masters and Junior Opens – had nationality and age restrictions, many were playing their first competitive event in over a year. The lack of competition was apparent in some, while there were some who had clearly worked hard over the year and came up with some surprising results.
Unseeded Joel walks away a worthy winner
The most surprising results came in the Men’s Division 2, where none of the top four seeds made the semi-finals, and only two of the top eight seeds made it into the quarter-finals. National junior girls Au Yeong Wai Iynn and Ong Sze Sim made good account of themselves in the event as they both played beyond their seeding to make the last eight of event.
The biggest upset came in the opening day when top seed Randall Yeo was shown the exit by Joel Tan after a huge battle that ended 15-13 in the fifth game. Joel would continue his good run and have a fairytale ending, beating the joint-fifth seed John Caleon in the final over four games.
“I’m very happy to have won. It’s been a tough tournament with so many good players, so I am glad I made it all the way. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve also not have many events so it’s good to be playing squash again”, Joel said after his win.
National junior Swetha justifies her top billing
The Women’s Division 2 went mostly to seeding, with national juniors Swetha Sivakumar and Vicky Lai both battling it out in the final. Swetha, the younger sister of world junior quarter-finalist Sneha, came out victorious in four games.
There was however, a surprise quarter-finalist in the event when Tiffany Toh came up with a double upset in the first two rounds, before being halted by Vicky in the last eight.
Jia Shen shines yet again
Jia Shen Nur-Adin, an NUS student who came into the spotlight after doing well at the National Championships last year, continued to impress in this event. Seeded joint-fifth in the Men’s Division 1 event, he took out second seed Abhinav Gupta in the last eight en route to winning the event.
In the final, he took out former national junior and joint-third seed Tan Hua Wang in a highly entertaining final that went the distance. While Hua Wang was pushing for a high tempo game, Jia Shen employed a very smart game plan of slowing down the pace of his more well-trained opponent. Jia Shen, who looked down and out of gas in the fourth game, pushed through the fifth to edge home the title on the tie-break.
“Towards the end, both of us were hesitant to play drops and we both just pushed everything to the back. I was really just trying to pick up everything as my mind wasn’t really working (at that time). I was just going with the flow”, Jia Shen said when asked how he pulled through in the fifth game having been pushed so hard before that.
Jia Shen, who has shown he has what it takes to be part of the national squad, also said that while the thought of playing for Singapore has crossed his mind, his academic commitments of pursuing his degree makes it difficult to commit to the training.
Samuel dominates premier event
Four-time national champion Samuel Kang makes it two titles in two events after winning the main event, the Mixed Open. He did this in a commanding fashion by not dropping a single game throughout the event.
Having come through the earlier rounds with relative ease, many had expected a close battle in the final against second seed Aaron Liang. While the score line in the final might not suggest so, the first two games of the match were far tenser than it looks.
Samuel started off with a very dominating display of consistent hitting, which often ended with Aaron tinning and raced into an 8-1 lead. However, his younger opponent came back strongly, moving the ball into the front more cautiously and waiting more patiently for his chances to strike. Aaron was rewarded handsomely for this and won nine points in a row to go into the lead 9-8. With only two points to seal the game, Aaron once again got a little impatient and was trying to end the rallies too soon which proved to be his downfall as he lost the next three points to fall a game behind.
The second game was very much similar, with Samuel going into a lead at 8-3. This time, Aaron only got to within a point at 8-7, before Samuel tightened his game to take a two-game lead. Samuel never let off from hereon and was always ahead in the third. He finished off the match with a backhand two-wall boast which left Aaron flat-footed and unable to respond.
“I felt physically flat from the start and I was quite fortunate to get that lead in the first game. But a bit disappointed I didn’t push on to close that”, Samuel said on not capitalising on his big lead in the first.
Samuel also added, “I think we are very privileged here to be able to get on court so often and to even have a tournament. It’s good for the country, it’s good for the squash scene here. We saw that Singapore is trying to host a couple of sporting events like the (ATP 250) tennis event, so hopefully we can hold bigger (squash) tournaments”.
RESULTS (Finals only)
 Samuel Kang beat  Aaron Liang
Men’s Division 1
[5/8] Jia Shen Nur-Adin beat [3/4] Tan Hua Wang 9-11, 11-6, 12-10, 4-11, 13-11
Men’s Division 2
[17/32] Joel Tan beat [5/8] John Caleon 11-5, 6-11, 11-2, 11-8
Women’s Division 2
 Swetha Sivakumar beat  Vicky Lai 11-6, 11-6, 7-11, 11-8
For a full list of results, please visit :