Squash: SEA Games-bound players to use Singapore Open as final tune-up

National squash player Samuel Kang is aiming to win the Nov 12-16 Singapore Squash Open.
National squash player Samuel Kang is aiming to win the Nov 12-16 Singapore Squash Open.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Elite athletes want to win every match at every tournament they compete in and national squash player Samuel Kang is no different.

But while the 28-year-old is aiming to win the Nov 12-16 Singapore Squash Open, where he is the top seed in the men's draw, the chance to get more match practice before the SEA Games is more important to him.

The event will feature both a men's and women's Professional Squash Association (PSA) tournament and offers world ranking points. It is also Kang's last competitive outing before the Nov 30-Dec 11 SEA Games in the Philippines.

The world No. 158 told The Straits Times on Monday (Nov 11): "I'm the top seed but there are a lot of strong players in this tournament... there are a couple of notable ones like (recently retired former world No. 26) Nafiizwan Adnan who is probably the favourite.

"These guys will provide very strong competition and it's important to play these high-quality matches that will allow us to get exposure to the higher level and faster pace of the SEA Games.

"More than winning matches, I want to try and put in whatever I've been practising in training into the match, it's not so much about the end result."

Kang, who won the deciding singles rubber at the 2017 SEA Games men's team squash final, has been working on playing at a higher pace and intensity for the last two weeks with Malaysian Elvinn Keo, who used to be ranked in the top 100.

Keo,31, was recently roped in by the Singapore Squash Rackets Association (SSRA) management committee as a sparring partner. He will also feature at the Singapore Open.

Kang explained: "Playing at a higher intensity means taking the ball earlier and volleying more. Sometimes when trying to increase pace you lose accuracy, so playing against these guys helps us get used to the pace so that (our shots) can remain accurate under pressure.

 
 
 

"There are also some specific shots I'm working on, and I'm also trying to be more attacking and use my strengths to expose certain weaknesses in my opponent."

For teammate Au Yeong Wai Yhann, seeded joint-third with Malaysian Aika Azman in the women's draw, this week's tournament is a chance to gauge her level of play against that of her competitors from the region.

Referring to the top two seeds, World No. 81 Lai Wen Li of Malaysia and 91st-ranked Jemyca Aribado of the Philippines, Au Yeong said: "They're likely to be opponents I face at the SEA Games. For the past few months my coach and I have been working on strengthening my basic game and now that that has settled, we're moving into more tactical and aggressive play."

The top eight seeds in the women's draw hail from South-east Asian nations, which SSRA president Patrick Thio said "clearly signals we are getting noticed internationally."

He added: "The presence of these international players will also be an opportunity for our own players to compete out of their comfort zone ahead of the SEA Games in Manila. For the squash fans, there are bound to be some exciting matches in store for them."