Sneha sets high goals after winning Scottish Open title

A happy Sneha Sivakumar after beating compatriot Au Yeong Wai Yhann to win the Scottish Junior Open Girls’ Under-19 title, with England’s Charlotte Jagger third. PHOTO COURTESY OF SNEHA SIVAKUMAR

The temperature dipped below ice point at times but the cold never bothered her.

Instead of being frozen by the occasion, Singapore teenage squash player Sneha Sivakumar overcame the cold and older opponents to cap the year with the Scottish Junior Open Girls' Under-19 title on Saturday night (yesterday morning, Singapore time).

The 16-year-old beat 18-year-old compatriot Au Yeong Wai Yhann 3-1 (11-5, 7-11, 11-7, 11-2) in an all-Singaporean final at the Edinburgh Sports Club to land her first international triumph outside Asia on her first attempt. Earlier in the semi-finals, she had dispatched England's 18-year-old second seed Charlotte Jagger 3-1.

"The weather was super cold and the court conditions were extremely different from what I was used to in Singapore," Sneha, who will be starting her junior college studies at Raffles Institution, told The Straits Times in a phone interview.

"The ball bounce and speed were different, so with every match, I understood all these better and it all came together in the final, especially in the last game where I was able to get the ball deep and control the rallies."

Sneha, the world junior No. 57, had earlier defeated Wai Yhann at the KL Juniors and Singapore Open U-19 tournaments to take third place, and will be placed in the top eight of her age category in Asia before she heads to the British Junior Open this week in Birmingham.

Her victory on Saturday has given her the confidence to set the bar higher.

"For the senior side, I will be looking forward to playing in the Asian Squash Team Championships and the Asian Games this year," said Sneha.

"I'm also looking to get in the top 10 of the world junior rankings by the end of the year."

Singapore Squash Rackets Association president Woffles Wu credited the change in the training programme for the "fantastic achievement" of an all-Singaporean final at a prestigious European event.

The 57-year-old told ST: "We have made great strides in the last five to six years.

"We were doing okay at a lower level, but bringing in Allan Soyza as the technical director at the end of 2016 brought about a change in the training programme and injected a new mindset and motivation when it comes to high performance... as did the mix of coaches (such as Timothy Arnold and Choong Kam Hing).

"What they are doing now resonates with many of the players and that has shown in terms of the three golds won at the 2017 SEA Games.

"As for juniors like Sneha and Wai Yhann, they have great potential and are capable of good things.

"If they continue to improve on their technique and strength, they will get there."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 01, 2018, with the headline Sneha sets high goals after winning Scottish Open title. Subscribe