Elvinn Keo and Lai Wen Li both justified their favourites label coming into today’s final as they both claimed the 2019 Singapore Squash Open men’s and women’s open titles in contrasting fashion. The victories of the Malaysian duo meant new names go on the roll of honour as neither has won the Singapore Squash Open before.
Elvinn Keo waltzed his way to the title today after beating a third Korean in this tournament. Having had a pretty rough draw to start off with, this win will be especially sweet. This also means that he remains unbeaten for 15 matches in Singapore, having won the last two events here as well.
The 31-year old Elvinn was simply a class above today as he completely demolished a helpless Lee Seung Taek. Save for the middle of the second game, it was all about Elvinn today as he sent Seung Taek onto all for corners of the court, often twisting and turning him, before nailing his signature finishing touches.
As Elvinn said in his post-match interview yesterday, they both have a similar game. It was clearly a wrong game plan for Seung Taek to come in to play his natural game to match Elvinn’s as the quality of their preference to play fast and taking it early was of very different qualities.
“Despite not being seeded highly in the tournament because of my PSA ranking, I am happy I managed to pull this through. I just kept my focus match by match instead of letting that bug me.
“My game plan today was really to not let him get into his rhythm and pull him into my game, which as you see from the score, it worked to my favour very well.
“Of course there was pressure to win, but I think he would have the pressure too, having taken out the top seed. But it’s something that I have gotten used to dealing with having been a professional for so many years. I just had to keep myself focussed and stick to my game plan today”, Elvinn said of his win today.
Despite the one-sided affair, credit must be given to Elvinn as he maintained his focus on the job in hand right to the end. Even in the third game, when he raced to a 6-0 lead, he never took his foot off the pedal and allowed the Korean just 2 points, finishing off the game and match with a forehand cross court drop shot that his opponent never saw coming.
Top seed Lai Wen Li justified her seeding when she took the women’s open title. The Malaysian World No. 75, currently at her highest world ranking, used all her experience to see off the challenge from second seed Jemyca Aribado in four games.
The 19-year old Sabahan did not have the best of starts as she took quite a while to get into the first game. After taking over the early lead at 3-2, she allowed Jemyca a string of 6 points to surge ahead to 8-3 and was never able to come close again in the 9-minute opener.
The momentum took a complete shift in the second though, as Wen Li then went 7 points in a row from 1-2 down to 8-2 for an unassailable lead. She allowed 2 successive points to her Filipino opponent before wrapping up in just 6 minutes.
Wen Li, having achieved perhaps her best career results in her last tournament last month when she made it to the final of the $12k SRFI Indian Tour, must be playing with a lot of confidence these days.
This was evident when it mattered most in the crucial third game, where the winner would get into a psychological advantage of being a game away from the title. Wen Li did just that as she dug deep to save 3 game balls, before taking the game 13-11 in the longest game of the match at 17 minutes, longer than the first two combined.
With the lead in hand, save for the opening point and at 7-8, Wen Li was always ahead and she closed out the match with a 4-point run to claim her first Singapore Squash Open title.
“I’m very happy to win this title. There were a couple of rallies maybe where I didn’t do so well, but I’m happy I managed to come back. This is really a good event for me to win as it’s also a preparation for the SEA Games”, said first-time Singapore Squash Open champion Lai Wen Li.
For Jemyca, her focus now shifts to the SEA Games that will be held in her hometown of Manila where she will lead the Philippines women’s team into competition.
“I did not manage to win today but I think we both played well. It was close and could’ve gone either way. I played my best today, much better than the previous rounds. For now, I’m looking forward to the SEA Games with excitement and I hope something good will happen there”, Jemyca said.
In the men’s master’s finals, second seed Charlie Alexander Thomas emerged from a closely contested match against top seed and recent Malaysian Open Over 55 champion Victor Koh. This is the first loss for Victor in local master’s tournaments since October 2018.
Elvinn Keo [5/8] (MAS) bt Lee Seung Taek [9/16] (KOR) 3-0, 11-4, 11-7, 11-2
Lai Wen Li  (MAS) bt Jemyca Aribado  (PHI) 3-1, 6-11, 11-4, 13-11, 11-8
Men’s Masters (over 45 years of age)
Charlie Alexander Thomas  (SIN) bt Victor Koh  (SIN) 3-2, 11-2, 9-11, 12-10, 9-11, 13-11
For a full set of results, fixtures and draws, please click here