The 2019 Singapore Squash Open lost its top seed today when the top seed and Singapore’s top player Samuel Kang was narrowly beaten by Korea’s Lee Seung Taek in a dramatic five game thriller. Samuel’s shocking exit leaves only Aaron Liang as the sole flag-bearer in the men’s open main event after the youngster came through from two games down against Malaysia’s Andrik Lim.

Samuel Kang, who had set his sights on winning the tournament, was clearly made to pay for his slow start in the opening two games. On both occasions, he allowed Seung Taek to open up healthy leads never once got into the lead himself.

Samuel Kang (red) with his opponent Lee Seung Taek after their five-set thriller

In the opener, Seung Taek opened up 3-point leads at 7-4 and 8-5 before being closed in at 9-9. But two winning rallies gave the Korean the lead. The second game was even worse off from Samuel as he found himself on the back foot and trailed 1-5. Samuel never recovered from the deficit and despite saving four game balls from 5-10, he came just short and Seung Taek took a 2-0 lead after winning 11-9.

It was almost a straight game match after the Korean had match ball at 10-7 in the third game. But with the home crowd behind him, Samuel dug deep and strung five points in a row to force the fourth game – a game he dictated for most parts and duly won much to the crowd’s delight.

However, all the energy spent on the last two games seem to have taken its toll as he never led again in the match. Seung Taek surged ahead to 6-1 and 9-4. There was a second wind from Samuel who fought back to 9-9, but the Korean was not to be denied his major upset. After 71 minutes on court, it was game and match to Lee Seung Taek 11-9, 11-9, 10-12, 8-11, 11-9.

Malaysia’s Farez Izwan, the joint-fifth seed narrowly escaped defeat from the hands of his senior Ng Jo Wen after coming back from 2-1 down to win the last two games 11-5 and 11-7 for a place against Seung Taek.

Andrik Lim (left) and Aaron Liang before their match

While Samuel failed in his comeback bid, youngster Aaron Liang prevented another upset of the day when he fought back from two games down against Malaysian teenager Andrik Lim 11-13, 7-11, 11-8, 11-6, 11-3. The joint-fifth seed’s win sets him up with the biggest name in the draw, Nafiizwan Adnan.

Nafiizwan Adnan (left) beat Natthakit Jivasuvan (right) to take a spot in the quarters

Nafiizwan, the 2018 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist, took out Thailand’s SEA Games bound Natthakit Jivasuwan 11-6, 11-6, 11-7.

There were no further upsets in the men’s open as all other seeds won in contrasting fashion. Wee Ming Hock came through a tough match in four over Alex Crouch, while Reymark Bergonia halted the giant-killing run of Indonesia’s Satria Bagus Laksana in five.

In the bottom quarter, Elvinn Keo and Robert Garcia will face each other in the last eight in a repeat of the SGSquash Circuit #5 final after both won in straight games. Elvinn easily dispatched Korean Jo Yeonghun while Robert beat compatriot David Pelino.

“I’m not happy to have to play my teammate but there’s nothing we can do – it’s just the luck of the draw. I played well today to win in three and I am looking forward to get into the next round, and possibly the final”, Robert Garcia said.

Sherilyn Yang (black) upset Anatana Prasertratanakul (pink) to earn a quarterfinal spot

In the women’s open event, Singapore are guaranteed a semi-finalist after Sherilyn Yang put up an impressive display to upset Thailand’s Anantana Prasertratanakul in straight games – 11-8, 11-5, 11-6. It is very commendable for Sherilyn, who has taken time off from work to train for the SEA Games. 

“I’m generally satisfied with my game today. I stuck to the game plan and it worked really well for me. Ana is a great player and I lost out in our last meeting. I’m very glad that all the training and help from various coaches the last few months has paid off”, said Sherilyn.

“One thing I would still like to work on is the ability to cut off the ball more. I’ve recently made some minor changes in my technique and I’m seeing major improvements in my game. With a better swing, I hope to be able to step up and take my game to the next level”, Sherilyn added when probed on what she would like to see herself do better.

The win earns her a spot against SEA Games teammate Au Yeong Wai Yhann who easily saw off Nisa Nur Fadillah 11-6, 11-3, 11-2. 

Lai Wen Li (red) and Gracia Chua (blue) before their match

In another match, Singapore’s top junior Gracia Chua lost out to top seed Lai Wen Li expectedly. But the gutsy youngster was full of excitement at the prospect of the opportunity to play someone of the Malaysian’s calibre.

“I was very excited to have the opportunity to play with Wen Li. She is a top-100 player in the world and her shot placement was very sharp. She also reacted very quickly to my attacking shots and exposed how loose they were. But this opportunity makes me want to train harder on getting my shots tighter and expand my shot variety”, Gracia commented.

Aika Azman and Nazihah Hanis both won comfortably, and with Wen Li’s win, the top half of the draw in the last four will all be Malaysians and thus ensuring them a finalist on Saturday. 

In the bottom quarter, second seed Jemyca dropped a game against Malaysia’s Yasshmita Jadishkumar in her 11-7, 9-11, 11-8, 11-5 win. Her compatriot Aysah Dalilda meanwhile, was no match for Amirah Rosli.

For a full set of results, fixtures and draws, please click here

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