SINGAPORE – After suffering six losses to players in the world’s top 10 this year, Malaysia’s top squash player Ng Eain Yow found himself on the verge of a seventh at the Marigold Singapore Squash Open on Wednesday.
The world No. 24 was two games down against top seed and world No. 2 Paul Coll, who had come from 5-0 down in the third game to level the score at 8-8.
But Ng displayed nerves of steel to adjust his game, winning the next three points to turn the game around and eventually triumphed 9-11, 9-11, 11-8, 11-5, 11-4 for his first victory over Coll.
Ng, 24, was beaming after the second round win and took time to sign autographs and take photos with fans at the OCBC Arena.
After discovering that he was playing more to Coll’s tempo in the first two games, Ng switched things up by playing more short balls in the front of the court, making it difficult for the New Zealander to return.
The Kuala Lumpur native said: “It also had a lot to do with belief (in myself). In the first two games, I don’t think I did much wrong. So I just needed to reinforce the mindset that I can still do it.
“I started attacking more in the third game and playing my own game instead, which paid off. I kept the ball short a lot because his strength is at the back of the court so I didn’t want to spend too much time playing at the back.”
The win is also a confidence boost for him, and after a short celebration, he will turn his attention to Friday’s quarter-final against sixth seed Joel Makin.
He added: “A few times I’ve come close to beating (players in the top 10) and to actually pull through today, it was really pleasing and encouraging. And to do it somewhere so close to home, it makes it extra special.
“I can be happy for maybe half the day, but then it’s straight back to focus on the next match. I’m not happy just to beat Paul here today, I want to go all the way. If I can beat Paul, who’s the top seed, I can beat anyone.”
The victory was particularly meaningful for Ng, whose parents were in the audience cheering him on. His father usually watches his matches live on television even in the wee hours in Malaysia and Ng was glad to finally have him in the audience as he completed his spectacular comeback.
“It did help me, especially in the fifth (game),” he said.
“There was (someone who) was shouting really loud for Paul Coll and then I think my mum got a bit feisty and I could hear her shouting, ‘Come on, Yow!’”
For Coll, his wait to regain the top spot in the world rankings from Egyptian Ali Farag continues. The New Zealander admitted he was not feeling his best after suffering from a fever, body aches and chest pain on Tuesday.
“I didn’t leave my bed yesterday and it was tough for me,” he said. “I was not physically great today, and that’s always an uphill battle when you’re playing squash, but well done to him. He played well and he’s playing well.
“Now I just have to get my body right and get my energy back. I’ve got (the Hong Kong Open) in a couple of weeks so I have to get healthy for that.”
In March, Coll, 30, made history by becoming the first male player from his country to top the world rankings, taking over from rival Farag. He was also the first non-Egyptian to be world No. 1 since Frenchman Gregory Gaultier topped the rankings in June 2017.
Since then, the pair have taken turns at the top. For now, Farag – who pulled out of the Singapore Open owing to injury – will get to hold on to the top spot for a while more.
Coll was happy to have achieved his life-long goal of becoming the world No. 1, adding: “It’s more a personal celebration for myself, my team, family and country. It’s been quite a special season for me and hopefully I can continue my form and win a few more titles.
“It’s nice feeling a different sort of pressure and it’s something I’m trying to manage in the right way, so I can stay (up) there for a longer period of time. I’m just enjoying these new challenges and it’s an exciting time for me.”
He also stopped short of calling Farag his main rival, noting other top players such as England’s world No. 3 Mohamed El Shorbagy and Peruvian world No. 5 Diego Elias.
Farag also hailed his competitors, saying in an earlier interview that they had each shaped his career differently.
The 30-year-old said: “Paul is one of the biggest challengers of my career now, but we can’t forget all the other great players (like Mohamed, and world No. 4 Mostafa Asal). Each one represents a different challenge of their own.
“I always go back to the drawing board or stay on court by myself or with my coach to try and work on specific things to help me (overcome) this specific opponent.”
The US$220,000 (S$301,000) Singapore Squash Open, which ends on Sunday, is the first Professional Squash Association World Tour Gold event to be held here.