Malaysia Airlines
KL Open Squash Championships '04

10-15 Feb, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

15-Feb, Finals:
Atkinson breaks local hearts
Alex Wan reports from KL
Nicol
David's bid for victory in the KL Open fell at the final hurdle, as Holland's top seed Vanessa Atkinson completed a 3/1 victory to take the title.

In the men's final, second seed Wael El Hindi of Egypt snatched his second career victory when he beat third seed Laurens Jan Anjema of the Netherlands 3/1.
Full story

14-Feb, Semis:
David Pulls Through
Malaysia's Nicol David needed to pull out all the stops to reach the women's final in th KL Open, recovering from 2-1 down to beat Wales's Tegwen Malik. David meets top seed Vanessa Atkinson in the final, while in the men's Laurens Anjema faces Wael El Hindi.

13-Feb, Quarters:
Top seeds face first tests
Top seeds in the women’s, Vanessa Atkinson and Nicol David, both faced their first real tests today after having easy matches yesterday ...

12-Feb, Round One:

"Duracell Bunny" Whips Petersen
Nicol David was in flawless form in her match against Ellen Petersen. The recently graduated medical professional was thought to be a threat for David. I overheard the locals referring her to the Duracell bunny, never stops running!

  • Women's Draw

  • Men's Draw

  • Reports

  • History

  • 2003 Event

Malaysia Airlines
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Photos from Alex Wam

Malaysia Airlines KL Open Squash Championships '04
MEN'S DRAW $11k
1st Round Thu 12th Quarters Fri13th Semis Sat 14th Final Sun 15th
[1] Tommy Berden (Ned)
15-13, 15-6, 15-5
[Q] Roger Ngan (Hkg)
Tommy Berden
15-10, 15-4, 15-11 (40m)
Ritwik Bhattacharya
Tommy Berden

w/o

Laurens Anjema
Laurens Anjema

15-2, 7-15, 15-11, 15-10

Wael El Hindi

[7] Ritwik Bhattacharya (Ind)
15-10, 15-9, 15-11
Jago Nardelli (Eng)
[3] Laurens Anjema (Ned)
15-11, 15-6, 15-7
[Q] Takehida Hota (Jpn)
Laurens Anjema
15-10, 15-8, 15-9 (49m)
Cameron White
[5] Cameron White (Aus)
15-12,9-15,7-15, 15-13, 15-7
Timothy Manning (Aus)
[Q] Kenneth Low (Mas)
15-7, 15-9, 15-11
[6] Mohamed Essam A Hafiz (Qat)
 Mohd Essam A Hafiz
12-15, 12-15, 15-5, 15-6, 15-11 (81m)
Cameron Pilley
Mohd Essam A Hafiz

15-6, 13-15, 15-14, 15-4 (46m)

Wael El Hindi

[Q] Wong Wai Hain (Hkg)
15-6, 15-11, 15-0
[4] Cameron Pilley (Aus)
Tony James (Aus)
15-10, 17-14, 15-9
[8] Callum O'Brien (Nzl)
Callum O'Brien
15-9, 15-8, 15-7 (27m)
Wael El Hindi
Timothy Arnold (Mas)
15-13, 15-4, 15-6
[2] Wael El Hindi (Egy)
 

Qualifying Finals:
Kenneth Low (Mas) bt Kirby Sinclair (Aus) 15-13, 15-13, 15-12 (53m)
Roger Ngan (Hkg) bt Morten Sorensen (Den) 15-8, 15-3, 15-6 (59m)
Takehida Hota (Jap) bt Mohd Nafzahizam (Mas) 15-9, 15-10, 15-12 (27m)
Wong Wai Hang (Hkg) bt Tom Hoevenaars (Ned) 15-9, 15-6, 15-9 (47m)

Round One:
Kenneth Low (Mas) bt Andre Holderegger (Sui)  9-15, 15-9, 15-4, 15-10
Kirby Sinclair (Aus) bt Mohd Nafiizwan (Mas)  15-8, 15-6, 15-9
Morten Sorensen (Den) bt Chul Woo Sung (Kor)  15-3, 15-4, 15-6
Roger Ngan (Hkg) bt Kamran Khan (Mas)  15-8, 15-3, 15-6
Mohd Nafzahizam (Mas) bt Hyun Goo Kim (Kor)  15-9, 15-10, 15-3
Takehida Hota (Jap) bt Tan Tze Hion (Mas)  15-9, 15-10, 15-12
Tom Hoevenaars (Ned) bt Supreet Singh (Ind)  15-5, 15-8, 15-6
Wong Wai Hang (Hkg) bt Ryun Hoe Koo (Kor)  15-9, 15-6, 15-9

Malaysia Airlines KL Open Squash Championships '04
WOMEN'S DRAW $20k    Draw from WISPA
1st Round Thu 12th Quarters Fri 13th Semis Sat 14th Final Sun 15th
[1] Vanessa Atkinson (Ned)
9-3, 9-4, 9-1
[Q] Eman El Amir (Egy)
Vanessa Atkinson
9-7, 9-5, 9-7 (40m)
Pamela Nimmo
Vanessa Atkinson

9-4, 9-7, 9-2 (27m)

Omneya Abdel Kawy

Vanessa Atkinson

9-0, 9-7, 1-9, 9-2 (28m)

Nicol David

[7] Engy Kheirallah (Egy)
8-10, 9-6, 9-0, 9-5
Pamela Nimmo (Sco)
[3] Omneya Abdel Kawy (Egy)
9-5, 9-5, 6-9, 7-9, 9-3
Tamsyn Leevey (Nzl)
Omneya Abdel Kawy
 6-9, 9-3, 9-3, 9-7 (41m)
 Amelia Pittock
[8] Amelia Pittock (Aus)
9-2, 9-0, 9-0
[Q] Katie Patrick (Can)
[Q] Runa Reta (Can)
6-9, 5-9, 9-2, 10-9, 9-6
[6] Sharon Wee (Mas)
Sharon Wee
9-0, 9-3, 9-2 (19m)
Tegwen Malik
Tegwen Malik

8-10, 10-8, 7-9, 9-7, 9-5 (61m)

Nicol David

Tegwen Malik (Wal)
9-5, 10-9, 9-3
[4] Rebecca Chiu (Hkg)
Shabana Khan (Usa)
9-1, 9-2, 9-0
[5] Madeline Parry (Irl)
Madeline Parry
9-4, 3-9, 9-3, 9-0 (36m)
Nicol David
[Q] Ellen Petersen (Den)
9-2, 9-2, 9-1
[2] Nicol David (Mas)
   

Qualifying Finals:
Katie Patrick (Can) bt Kate Roe (Eng) 9-7, 9-3, 6-9, 9-5
Ellen Petersen (Den) bt Tricia Chuah (Mas) 9-0, 9-6, 9-1
Eman El Amir (Egy) bt Christina Mak (Hkg) 9-1, 7-9, 9-1, 9-5
Runa Reta (Can) bt Line Hansen (Den) 9-4, 9-0,8-10, 4-9, 9-1

Round One:
Kate Roe (Eng) bt Kozue Onizawa (Jap)  9-5, 9-0, 9-0
Katie Patrick (Can) bt Delia Arnold (Mas)  9-5, 9-2, 9-2
Ellen Petersen (Den) bt Sally Looi (Mas)  9-0, 9-3, 9-0
Tricia Chuah (Mas) bt Jaclyn Hawkes (Nzl)  8-10, 10-8, 10-9, 9-7
Eman El Amir (Egy) bt Mami Nishio (Jap)  9-7, 9-3, 9-1
Christina Mak (Hkg) bt Carlin Wing (Usa)  9-1, 9-3, 9-2
Runa Reta (Can) bt Elise Ng (Hkg)  9-7, 9-2, 9-4
Line Hansen (Den) bt Siti Munirah Jusoh (Mas)  9-2, 9-1, 9-1

Reports
15-Feb, Finals:
ATKINSON BREAKS LOCAL HEARTS
Alex Wan reports from KL
 

The top seeds, save for the injured Tommy Berden, all went into the finals. There were several upsets of the lower seeds during the week, with Tegwen Malik coming very close to take out local darling Nicol David yesterday.

In an unconventional arrangement, the men's final is played first. Second seed Wael El Hindi, survivor of a very physical semi final the day before, is to face Laurens Jan Anjema, who didn’t have to even be in court yesterday. Anjema was totally lost in the first game, losing 2-15 in less than 10 minutes. The crowd had already written off Anjema at this point, who seem to be giving El Hindi a stroll in the park. His lengths were loose and his drops were way too high. The 90 seconds seem to have done magical wonders, as Anjema seems to have come back with a vengeance. Now, it was El Hindi’s turn to seem to be the lost one. Anjema had at one point, led 10-3. El Hindi gained a couple more points before Anjema wrapped the game up.

With a game each, both players knew whoever wins the third will hold a big upper hand. Both players went all out in this game, which was close right from the start. El Hindi seemed to always be in the way of Anjema in this game, and referee Jamshed Gul had to make several difficult decisions. Anjema, who was on the receiving end of a few no let decisions, came out to speak to Gul on a few occasions. El Hindi held on and was rewarded with the game.

The fourth game started off quickly and El Hindi was winning point after point. Ten rallies have past with the Egyptian winning every single one of them. It was 10-0 to El Hindi now, when Anjema suddenly woke up and won point after point. Both the Egyptian and the crowd were shocked, and Anjema was enjoying his moment. At 10-13, Anjema received a harsh no let and it was now match point to El Hindi then hit an unreachable drive to the left handed Anjema’s backhand which was too far for his reach. El Hindi reacted with a big scream and both hands in the air. The Egyptian, in his speech, noted that he will be back next year to defend his title. The pleasant looking Dutch was ever smiling despite his loss and also assured that he’ll definitely be back next year.

In the women’s final, we have world number four Vanessa Atkinson against local star and world number eight Nicol David. Both have had recent good runs, reaching the World Women’s Open semi finals before losing to the then world numbers one and two, Carol Owens and Cassie Jackman. Similar to the men’s final, the first game was a whitewash, with Atkinson triumphing with a 9-0 scoreline in a little more than 5 minutes. David never settled down or found her touch in this game.

The second game started in similar fashion with Atkinson racing to a 5-1 lead before David started to play her own game. David tied the game at 7-7 and the home crowd, by now, was hoping for a repeat of the semi finals, where she came back to beat Tegwen Malik. Atkinson then changed the tide of the game and finished her off to take a commanding 2-0 lead.

In the third, it was David’s game and Atkinson showed some signs of tiredness, or perhaps a tactical move to save energy. Credit to David too as her volley drops seem to have been much tighter in this game, with a couple hitting the nick as well. David kept the pace up in this game to romp home 9-1. After the 90 seconds, both players were back in court and many would know that the Duracell Bunny never stops running, so there was still a lot of hope for the local crowd. It was fairly long game with serves exchanging hands plenty of times, but each time David served, Atkinson made sure she never got a point. Atkinson walked away with a 9-2 win, though the score line doesn’t suggest how competitive this game was.

After many times coming to Kuala Lumpur, Atkinson won her first title here. The lanky 7 times Dutch National Champion, in her speech, had cheekily thanked Tegwen Malik for tiring David out. With a liking for char kuey teow (local delicacy of wok fried rice noodles), Atkinson hopes that she can be back to defend her title in the coming year. David, meanwhile, paid tribute to Atkinson for a great performance. The petite Penang lass, who often trains with Atkinson at the Liz Irving Academy, isn’t disappointed at all with her performance. Asked if she felt pressured with the fact that the tournament status was raised to allow her to play, the youngster said “Pressure at home is always there, it’s up to you whether or not you want to take it in. I tried my best in every match and I am not disappointed at all”.
 

14-Feb, Semis:
NICOL MAKES IT TO THE FINAL…JUST
Alex Wan reports from KL

The semi final day of the Malaysia Airlines KL Open 2004 today was packed with surprises. First of all, top men’s seed suffered a major blow when his hand injury was so bad he could barely sign for his prize money, let alone think of taking Laurens Anjema in court!

The first match on court surprise was the men’s semi final, where second seed Wael El Hindi of Egypt took on Mohd Essam A Hafiz of Qatar. El Hindi was first of the pair who got things going for him, while Hafiz was still struggling to find his touch. In the second game, the score line was always close with both these well built men hitting shots out of each other’s reach. Several calls from referee Jamshed Gul were questioned by both players, with each of them on the receiving end nearly an equal number of times. Hafiz seemed to have been running into El Hindi for easy lets, and was also not clearing the ball quick enough. In the end, it was Hafiz who held on to take the game by just a whisker.

In the third game, there were more bumping into each other and the game was halted at one point when El Hindi was hit in the hand. When Hafiz was not clearing the ball fast enough and El Hindi was getting all the lets, it had gotten to his head. Hafiz then seem to be more interested in getting lets and cheap strokes more than actually playing the ball, which the referee noticed. Despite this, it was Hafiz which got to match point first, but El Hindi clawed back to 14-all. Hafiz called for set one and in the next rally, El Hindi was upset the interference from Hafiz did not earn him a stroke. He regained composure to take the game.

By now, Hafiz was clearly not a happy man and was beginning to be sarcastically insulting the referee’s decisions. El Hindi played smart to continue rallying and asking for lets. At 13-4, Hafiz hit the ball into the floodlights to give El Hindi match point. His return of the next serve was straight into the gallery, something this gentleman’s game doesn’t need.

The first women’s semi final match between world number four Vanessa Atkinson and world junior champion Omneya Abdel Kawy looked very attractive on paper, what more with Atkinson having reached the semi final of the World Women’s and Abdel Kawy having won the Vassar Class of 32 title last month, they both look to be in top form. However, few who have been in the gallery over the past few days will disagree with me that Kawy is not playing at her peak. Her poor form carried on today, when she was easily beaten by Atkinson in a match that lasted only 27 minutes. The only time Kawy looked close to taking a game off Atkinson was in the second game, but this was also primarily due to the many unforced errors which Atkinson committed. In the third game, Atkinson played some flawless squash to take six points in a row. On match point, Kawy sent the ball up into the top tier of the gallery, where there was no one. A new ball had to be warmed up, something Atkinson was clearly not happy about. Kawy never did turn this situation in her favour and Atkinson boked her place in the final tomorrow.

The final match of the evening is definitely the one everyone has been waiting for. First of all, local star Nicol David was on court and secondly, everyone was eager to know if Tegwen Malik could take on the Duracell Bunny after two convincing upsets. The match started calmly, with both players playing cautiously. David reached game ball first but was unable to close the game out. In the next game, Malik was beaming with confidence and the Duracell Bunny was caught. After 10 minutes, Malik was already 7-1 up. A disputed call by world referee Chris Sinclair seems to be the turning point for the local lass, who fought back slowly to take the game. In the next two games, the crowd was treated to an amazing display in the art of retrieving from arguably two of the best today. The tightest drops close to nicks and the deepest drives that hugged the walls were returned, at times, winners coming out of them. Malik took the first one to lead 2-1, but David bounced back to force the rubber.

Malik definitely had David and even more so, the local crowd that came in droves to cheer her on. Many had commented that if she continues playing at this level, she will be up there with the big girls in no time. The fifth and final game saw David all pumped up and playing her heart out for a place in tomorrow’s final. She did it convincingly and after a little more than an hour, the crowd can now look forward to come back tomorrow to watch their favourite squash darling, the Duracell Bunny, Nicol David back in action against Vanessa Atkinson.


13-Feb, Quarters:
TOP SEEDS FACE FIRST REAL TEST
Alex Wan reports from KL


Top seeds in the women’s, Vanessa Atkinson and Nicol David, both faced their first real tests today after having easy matches yesterday. Dressed smartly in an all black outfit, Atkinson faced Pamela Nimmo, who had yesterday upset Egyptian Engy Kheirallah in the first round. Atkinson started rather unconvincingly, giving away several easy points to Nimmo, who also hit some beautiful winners to catch Atkinson off guard. After the first few points, Atkinson started to hit tighter shots which Nimmo had no troubles returning. Watched on by the Vice-President of the World Squash Federation, Abdullah Sani Karim, these two very fair skinned women played some great squash. It was Atkinson who held her nerve who walked out the winner after three games, but credit to Nimmo for a great performance.

Omneya Abdel Kawy, who had a tough game in the first round, next took to court to face Aussie Amelia Pittock. Like yesterday, Kawy seems to be giving away too many easy points tonight. Each time she builds a lead, mistakes seem to crop in. Kawy dropped the first game, but came back very strongly to win the next three, thus booking her place in the semi final against Atkinson.

After steamrolling past Rebecca Chiu yesterday, Welshwoman Tegwen Malik continued her giant killing run here. This time round, it was sixth seeded local girl Sharon Wee who fell prey. Taking just 19 minutes, Malik, who was especially strong in the front of the court, proved her win yesterday was no fluke when she outplayed Wee in every possible way.

The Duracell Bunny today faced a very determined Irish in Madeline Perry. Winning the first game with relative ease, Nicol was surprised by Perry in the second. Perry broke away to 7-3 and then serves exchanged hands a few times before Perry wrapped it up. In the next two games, Nicol was back herself and played a “safe” game, retrieving everything Perry had to throw at her and keeping it tight.

In the men’s, top three seeds Tommy Berden, Wael El Hindi and Laurens Jan Anjema had no problems disposing off their respective opponents. El Hindi had the quickest match of the night, winning in just 27 minutes against New Zealand’s Callum O’Brien. London-based Dutch, Laurens Jan Anjema had a much tougher time against Cameron White of Australia, who didn’t look quite recovered from his marathon 81 minute match the night before. Berden, meanwhile seem to have played it easy in his match against Indian number one, Ritwik Bhattarcharya, another one from the Neil Harvey camp in Chingford. Berden’s experience alone was too much for the Indian, who tried very hard, to handle. The downside is, however, in a bizarre case, Berden seem to feel extreme pain in his right hand after this match. He has since given a walkover to Anjema in tonight’s semi final.

As expected, the battle of the two tallest players in the tournament was an exciting one. Cameron Pilley, losing semi finalist to defending champion Mohd Azlan Iskandar, had taken the first two very closely contested games in identical scores of 15-12. Hafiz, the slightly taller of the two, then came back to take the next two convincingly to force a rubber. In the final game, it was point for point, with Hafiz eventually running away the winner. Hafiz, an Egyptian now donning Qatari colours, faces Wael El Hindi in tonight’s semi final.
 


Nicol David12-Feb, Round One:
THE “DURACELL BUNNY”
WHIPS PETERSEN
Alex Wan reports from KL


Today marked the beginning of the local event of the Malaysia Airlines KL Open. With another four men’s and a ladies event, a total of about 100 people were at the National Squash Centre. In a country like Malaysia, this is a rare sight to behold.

In both the professional events, several interesting matches took place with a few seeds falling to their less fancied opponents. The presence of Chris Sinclair, the only women world referee, here at the championship on her own expense certainly adds sparkle to the event. She was seen around, giving advises to the local referees.

First on centre court was Vanessa Atkinson, who made short work of her Egyptian qualifier, Eman El Amir. She commanded play right from the start and El Amir never got into the game. Atkinson’s tight drives to the back was troubling El Amir a lot. Even fellow countrywoman Omneya Abdel Kawy providing at courtside couldn’t help her.

World junior champion Omneya Abdel Kawy took on court next against Kiwi Tamsyn Leevey. Kawy took a commanding lead in the first game and Leevey was looking very lost. Just when Kawy looks set to wrap the game up, she makes a series of mistakes to allow Leevey to creep back into the game. In the second game, it was the same case again. Leevey played more patiently and was rewarded with the next two games. An upset at this point was possible, but in the rubber, Kawy was simply a class above Leevey.

Malaysia number two, Sharon Wee looked sluggish in the first two games against qualifier Runa Reta. Unforced errors from the world number 20 gave Reta easy points. Malaysian head coach Jamshed Gul must’ve given Wee some sound advise during the break after the second game, as she seem to have come back with a vengeance, taking the third easily. Reta raced to a 7-4 lead in the fourth before Wee slowly clawed back. A few disputer referee decisions had Reta walking out of the court. This proved to be the turning point as the Canadian had then lost a bit of concentration and Wee was not about to disappoint the home crowd, saving several match points along the way before forcing the rubber, which she fought hard to win.

Nicol David was in flawless form in her match against Ellen Petersen. The recently graduated medical professional was thought to be a threat for David. I overheard the locals referring her to the Duracell bunny, never stops running! David picked up virtually everything Petersen had thrown at her and left everyone at the packed gallery in awe. After about twenty minutes, it was clear David is simply a class above Petersen.

In another dramatic match, fourth seed Rebecca Chiu was sent packing by a highly spirited Tegwen Malik in straight games. Chiu, a very well known face in the local Malaysian scene, having battled her junior days against the likes of Leong Siu Lyn, had too many loose shots tonight. Credit should be given to Malik too, as she played a smart and patient game to oust the reigning Asian Games champion. In the second game, Chiu fought back from 1-7 down to hold game ball at 8-7, but Malik came back to take the game. In the third, Chiu simply had no answer to her tight shots, thus ending Hong Kong’s challenge in this year’s Malaysia Airlines KL Open.

In another upset, Pamela Nimmo overcame a first game deficit to beat Egypt’s Engy Kheirellah. The tall Scot’s win earned her a place to face top seed Atkinson tonight. The other two matches in the women’s category went according to seeding, with Madeline Perry easily disposing Shabana Khan and Amelia Pittock doing the same against Canadian qualifier Katie Patrick, who was simply not the same person who had ended Kate Roe’s run the previous night. Between Pittock and Perry, they both had only dropped a total of five points!

The men’s event saw Qatari Mohd Essam Hafiz ending the dream run of local boy Kenneth Low. Hafiz’s long each enabled him to reach the ball earlier, something which troubled Low’s play a lot, who was seen stretching to retrieve every single shot. Low never got a chance to use his deceptive shots tonight and it frustrated him quite a bit. Mid through the first two games, Low was simply exhausted and had also given up on chasing the ball altogether, trying to slam in spectacular winners along the way.

Local wild card entry Timothy Arnold gave a great account of himself against Egypt’s world number 36 Wael El Hindi, particularly in the opening game. Both players were trading point for point, and Arnold slammed some great nicks into the front forehand corner. El Hindi broke away first to 13-11, only for Arnold to claw back and draw level at 13-all. Experience won El Hindi the next 2 points to wrap up a great first game. In the second and third, El Hindi kept the pace and Arnold could no longer last it anymore, bowing out tamely.

Top seed Tommy Berden had the same scenario going on for him againt Hong Kong qualifier Roger Ngan as well. The first game was a pretty close affair, with Berden coming out victorious 15-13. In the next two games, he was just running Ngan all over the court and it was all over soon after.

Cameron White, a familiar face in the KL Open scene, had a marathon match against fellow Aussie Timothy Manning. The two must have been on court for close to two hours. Rallies were of the “textbook squash” kind with both players chasing down every shot all over the court. Manning overcame his first game loss to win the next two to lead 2-1. the next game was a close affair, with White winning at 15-13 and later close the match out with a 15-7 score line in the fifth.

Chingford-based mates Ritwik Bhattacharya and Laurens Jan Anjema both had comfortable games with similar scorelines of 3-0. Bhattacharya takes on top seed Tommey Berden tonight, while Anjema has a very tired Cameron White to face.

Last year’s KL Open semi finalist Cameron Pilley, dressed in full AIS gear played great squash to beat Hong Kong’s Won Wai Hang convincingly. The third game in particular, Pilley did the amazing thing of winning it in one hand and handing Wong a 15-0 drubbing. Ever since this standard of scoring was introduced, love score lines have somewhat been a rarity. Aussie Tony James played his heart out against Kiwi Callum O’Brien, but still fell short, losing 10-15, 14-17, 9-15.

Tonight, the interesting match in the men’s should be Pilley v Hafiz. Both are very tall and have an amazing reach. Having watched both players in court last night, Pilley seems to have far tighter shots and will hold the advantage. In the women’s, local girl Sharon Wee faces a daunting task against Tegwen Malik, who made beating Rebecca Chiu look so easy. Wee, however, will have the home crowd support her all the way.

 


11-Feb:
Qualifying Finals:
ASIANS DOMINATE MEN’S QUALIFYING
AS WOMEN’S SEEDS FALTER
Alex Wan reports from KL

In a very rare scene, Asians completely dominated the men’s qualifying finals today and monopolised all four berths in the main draw. Kenneth Low started the ball rolling, continuing his gallant performance with another hard fought win over Kirby Sinclair in three close games. While he did not quite look like the person who played yesterday, Low still managed to bring local cheer to the small crowd watching. Sinclair was clearly a frustrated man on court, often looking amazed with Low’s flicks. Several serves were just slammed right into the nick, much to the crowd’s delight. Yesterday, Low had hinted that he could be back in the professional circuit if he does well in this tournament. Luck was on his side when he was drawn to play Mohd Essam Hafiz of Qatar tomorrow, the lowest seed to be drawn a qualifier.

Roger Ngan, an up and coming youngster from Hong Kong, started with a bang in his match against Dane, Morten Sorensen, winning 15-2 in no time. However, things seem to take an abrupt turn in the next game with the same scoreline. Ngan woke up and took the next two games to complete a great victory over a player ranked about fifty places above him. The win earned him a match against top seeded Dutchman Tommy Berden.

Mohd Nafzahizam then went into court with the home crowd behind him. All hopes were high on Adnan to win his match against Takehida Hota, but a very sluggish display from Adnan virtually handed Hota his ticket in the main draw. Adnan was clearly nervous and played well below par. After 27 minutes, all was over and Hota has a date with Laurens Jan Anjema tomorrow.

Wong Wai Hang completed the Asian domination with a convincing win over Tom Hoevenaars of Netherlands. Right from the start, Wong had controlled the game with tight lengths and deceptive drops. Hoevenaars simply couldn’t reproduce his form from the previous evening, where he gave Surpreet Singh and beating.

While Asians dominated the men’s qualifying, it was the total opposite in the women’s event, with none of the three playing for a berth in the main draw winning. Ellen Petersen broke all local hearts when she outclassed Tricia Chuah. Petersen, who took a break since the Brest Open in May 2003, was ranked 19 only a little over a year ago. Chuah tried hard, but was simply well a class below Petersen, who turned out to be the only top four seeded player to qualify for the main draw.

England’s Kate Roe was on court for more than an hour, battling it out against Canadian Katie Patrick. Ranked 38 in the world, Roe simply had nothing working for her. At the end of the close first game, she hurled her racket onto the ground in frustration. Roe lost the second game, but came back to take the third. Patrick however, was way more focussed and determined to claim her place in the main draw. She was clearly the calmer of the two and made far less mistakes than Roe to walk out a deserving winner.

Christina Mak failed in her bid to join teammate Rebecca Chiu tomorrow when she bowed out to Eman El Amir of Egypt. Canadian Runa Reta nearly threw her match away against second seed Line Hansen. After winning the first two games comfortable, dropping only four points in total, Hansen fought back to win a close third game, and followed with the fourth. Things took a turn again in the fifth when Reta romped home with Hansen collecting only a consolation point.

Several first round matches tomorrow will take place in the all glass court. In the men’s, locals will be cheering for Kenneth Low in his match against Mohd Essam Hafiz, which looks like it’s going to be a close one. Local wild card Timothy Arnold, who has been based in the Netherlands, faces an uphill task against second seed Wael El Hindi. The match between Kiwi Callum O’Brien and Aussie Tony James looks to be close on paper, with O’Brien ranked only seven placesa above James.

In the women’s, Nicol David takes to court against Ellen Petersen in a repeat of 2002’s final, while her Malaysian compatriot has Runa Reta as opposition. Both matches should be interesting and results could go either way. Top seed Vanessa Atkinson faces Egyptian qualifier Eman El Amir, who will go all out to breate a possible all_Egyptian quarter final.
 


10-Feb
LOCAL CHEER IN QUALIFYING
Alex Wan reports from KL

Kenneth Low, a KL native who only recently quit professional squash, entered the event as a local player. Low is amazingly gifted player with hand skills to die for. If Jonathan Power is the wrist from the north, Low is definitely the wrist from the east! Having drawn against qualifying top seed Andre Holderegger at the on-site draw, even himself was not so confident about his chances. The first game was a struggle for Low, who has not been training at all for the past few months. It was a good five rallies before he began getting his lengths back. From the second game onwards, his touch volleys and deceptive wristwork sent Holderegger scrambling all over the court. Low struggled with fitness towards the end but hung on to romp home with a big upset.

Mohd. Nafzahizam Adnan was the only other local who won his qualifying match. Adnan had a much easier match compared to Low, beating Korean Hyun Goo Kim with relative ease. Adnan will face Takehida Hota of Japan, who ousted his team mate Tan Tze Hion, today, for a place in the main draw. The Koreans had taken a gamble, coming with two extra players, hoping for a pullout. The gamble was aptly rewarded when Aussie Raj Nanda puled out of the tournament due to injury and the no-show of Dane Mads Kjorsberg. Their campaign, however, ended yesterday when the other two apart from Koo, Chul Woo Sung and Ryun Hoe Koo, lost their matches against Morten Sorensen and Wong Wai Hang respectively.

All the other men’s qualifying went according to seedings, with Kirby Sinclair booking his place in the qualifying finals with a 3-0 win over the other Adnan brother, Mohd. Nafiizwan. Fourteen year old Kamran Khan probably played his biggest ever tournament when he took to court up and coming Roger Ngan of Hong Kong. The experience of Ngan was too much for the youngster to handle, going down 8-15, 3-15, 6-15. Dutchman Tom Hoevenaars took out another Asian, Supreet Singh of India in an easy match.

In the women’s qualifying, another KL native Tricia Chuah, pulled off the other upset of the day. Having suffered a humiliating defeat to Mami Nishio at the Buller Challenge some months back, Chuah was determined to make an impact in her home event. This, she did with a hard-fought 8-10, 10-8, 10-9, 9-7 win over Kiwi Jaclyn Hawkes. The lanky Kiwi had braved her ankle injury, playing with a heavy bandage. This was further aggravated when the two clashed in the middle of the fourth game. The impact sent both sprawling to the ground, with Hawkes grimacing in pain.

Chuah’s colleagues, however, could not produce more upsets. The trio of Delia Arnold, Sally Looi and Siti Munirah Jusoh, all part of the Malaysian team who finished sixth at the World Junior Women’s Championship, went down tamely to their opponents. Arnold was the best performer among the three, picking up enough points to make a game against Canadian Katie Patrick. Ellen Petersen, the 2002 KL Open runner-up to Nicol David, ouclassed Looi, while her fellow countrywoman Line Hansen disposed Jusoh.

Qualifying top Kate Roe, who is giving the British Nationals a miss to be here, won her match easily against Kozue Onizawa of Japan. Eman El Amir moved one step closer to joining her Egyptian colleagues in the main draw with 9-7, 9-3, 9-1 victory against Japan’s Mami Nishio.

Hong Kong duo of Christina Mak and Elise Ng both had mixed fortunes in their matches today. Mak won comfortably against Netherland-based American Carlin Wing to earn a berth against El Amir for a place in the main draw. However, Ng, who has been based in Chingford at the Neil Harvey camp, was no match for Runa Reta of Canada.

Tonight, the local squash fraternity will be hoping for Kenneth Low and Tricia Chuah to produce their fine form again to make the main draw. Low, who will play Kirby Sinclair, seems to have an easier task as compared to Chuah, who faces a daunting task against Ellen Petersen, who only a year ago was ranked in the top twenty.


KL READY FOR BIGGEST OPEN YET
Event preview from Alex Wan

The Kuala Lumpur Open this year is set to be the biggest ever, since its inaugural event back in 1999. The arrival of Malaysia Airlines as the title sponsor makes them the third airline company to join the squash fraternity after Cathay Pacific (Hong Kong Open) and Qatar Airways (Qatar Airways Challenge). Prize money for this year’s event increased from US$20K last year to US$31K this year. The increase in prize money is mostly attributed in elevating the women’s event, while the men’s remain the same.

The attention is definitely on the women’s event, where local squash darling Nicol David will be playing her first tournament as a world top ten player. David, whose last WISPA title was at the 2002 edition of the KL Open, has indicated that she is hungry for success after reaching the top ten. Last year, Mohd. Azlan Iskandar won his first PSA title here in front of the home crowd. This time round, David will be looking to upstage the odds and win her first title as a world top ten player.

The ladies event has attracted six top twenty players, with the top seeds being Vanessa Atkinson and Nicol David, both of whom reached career-high rankings most recently. An explosive match between Sharon Wee and Rebecca Chiu is on paper for the quarter finals. The two have been playing each other on many occasions and Wee will be banking on home ground to create an upset here. Should Sharon do so, a repeat of last year’s first round clash against compatriot David is on paper. In the top half, Atkinson is drawn to meet World Junior Champion Omneya Abdel Kawy in the semi finals. Should the top two seeds meet in the final, expect a very close match. David has been in remarkable form since the Malaysian Open in August, beating players like Cassie Jackman and Natalie Grainger, the top two players in the world, along the way. Atkinson too, has enjoyed a good run, with wins over Jackman and Rachael Grinham last year.

In the men’s event, Tommy Berden is seeded one and he will be looking to make up for his disappointing loss in the final last year. He has Egyptian Wael El Hindi, now ranked one spot above him at 34, for company at the other end of the draw. In El Hindi’s half of the draw is Aussie Cameron Pilley, who leapt ten places in this month’s rankings, as third seed while Berden has countryman Laurens Anjema on his half. Local wild card, Timothy Arnold, who last year had to play against Berden, is drawn to play El Hindi in the first round. After nearly a year based in the Netherlands, it’ll be interesting to see how much this young lad has improved.

The partnership with Malaysia Airlines as the title sponsor has excited everyone here in the local squash fraternity. The idea of having such an organisation wanting to be involved in squash speaks volumes. At the Malaysian Open last August, local satellite company ASTRO broadcasted the matches nightly on the sports channel. For the Malaysia Airlines KL Open, everyone is hoping for the same. Good squash matches are a rarity here, and the exchange rate simply does not allow commoners to afford videos from the west. Expect the courts to be very packed, particularly when David gets on court!
 

Kuala Open History:

Year Men's Champion Women's Champion
2003 Moh'd Azlan Iskandar (Malaysia) Carol Owens (New Zealand)
2002 Mike Corren (Australia) Nicol David (Malaysia)
2001 Tommy Berden (Netherlands) Rachael Grinham (Australia)
2000 Ajaz Azmat (Pakistan) Nicol David (Malaysia)
1999 Kenneth Low (Malaysia) Carol Owens (New Zealand)

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