A file picture of Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan (right). He is preparing for the Pittsburgh Open which begins on Jan 31, 2014.
PETALING JAYA: With several important tournaments coming up this year, national No. 2 squash player Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan is prepared to shoulder some responsibility.
World No. 35 Nafiizwan is the second longest serving player in the team after national No. 1 Ong Beng Hee and the pair are expected to lead Malaysia’s challenge in the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, and the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland.
For a start, the 27-year-old Nafiizwan is fired up to give the Malaysian men, for so long living in the shadows of women’s world No. 1 Nicol David, a boost when he competes in the Pittsburgh Open on Friday.
The Terengganu-born player will be boosted by the fact that he made the main draw of the Tournament of Champions (TOC) in New York last week, although he lost to Australia’s Cameron Pilley in the first round.
“It was not easy trying to get into the main draw of the TOC because it’s a high-level tournament and all the top players compete in it,” said Nafiizwan.
“I think I did well to beat Alan Clyne (of Scotland) in the qualifying finals and I’m definitely improving on my shots and fitness.
“It would have been better if I could have spent more time on the glass court there because I definitely needed the practice. But it also means I need improve on my consistency if I aim to become a top player.
“I’m definitely in good spirits and motivated ... as this is a big year for me, and Malaysian squash. I definitely want to do better in Pittsburgh (compared to the TOC).”
Nafiizwan, who is seeded sixth, will take on Mexico’s Cesar Salazar in the first round. A win will pit him against third seed Nicolas Mueller of Switzerland.
“Cesar is definitely not short on confidence as he won the Atlanta Open last week,” said Nafiizwan.
“But he may be feeling a little tired ... I’m feeling pretty good and sharp with my own game, so I’m prepared to give it my best.”
Meanwhile, Egypt’s Mohamed El Shorbagy, who achieved a career high ranking of No. 4 in the world last month, enjoyed a good start to the year when he beat England’s Peter Barker for the Motor City Open title in Detroit.
The 23-year-old Shorbagy, who made the semi-finals of the TOC, won 8-11, 12-14, 11-4, 11-6, 11-7.