Filepic shows Vanessa Raj in one of the age-group tournaments last year. The 19-year-old won her final junior title at the National Junior Squash Championships in Bukit Jalil on Sunday.
KUALA LUMPUR: Vanessa Raj, who turned pro last year, bade farewell to her junior years by living up to her top billing in the girls’ Under-19 category in the National Junior squash championships at the National Squash Centre in Bukit Jalil.
The Penangite, who turned 18 last month, had no problem disposing of joint-third fourth seed Teh Min Jie of Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) 12-10, 11-4, 11-5 in the final on Sunday.
Though excited about winning the national junior title, the world No. 102 Vanessa was more thrilled about being given a wildcard entry for next month’s World Open in her hometown of Penang.
“This is the first time I’ll be featuring in the World Open and I’m honoured to be given the wildcard. I am looking forward to playing against the top players in the World Open,” said Vanessa, who won the Asian Youth Games title in Nanjing last August.
The draw for the World Open is not out yet but Vanessa will surely be up against one of the top 20 players in the first round.
Vanessa is also looking forward to sparring with Malaysian squash queen and seven-time world champion Nicol David in preparation for the World Open.
“I’ve never played or spar with Nicol before ... hope to do so before the World Open,” said Vanessa, who has enjoyed her time competing – and winning – at the junior level.
“The National Junior Championships, which I won today, is my last junior level tournament. From now on, I will only play at the senior level and WSA (Women’s Squash Association) tournaments as my goal is to be a good professional player,” said Vanessa, who is awaiting her Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) results.
Vanessa said that she would focus more on her squash career than her studies.
“I will not ignore my studies and will only decide what to do after getting my SPM results,” said Vanessa, who will also feature in the SRAM NSC Series No. 1 tournament on Feb 23.
Meanwhile, Mohd Syafiq Kamal, who returned from England last week after a month training under world renowned coach Malcolm Willstrop, was disappointed with his performance despite bagging the boys’ Under-19 title.
The top seed from Kota Baru had to come back twice to beat joint third-fourth seed Shyan Kwan of Federal Territory 7-11, 11-6, 2-11, 11-4, 11-5 in the final.
Syafiq, who will turn 18 in August, was disappointed with himself as “I thought my game was supposed to improve after my training stint at the Pontefract Club in Leeds”.
“However, I was nervous and struggled in the first and third sets. I just couldn’t play my normal game. It could be because I trained too hard in Leeds,” said Syafiq, who turned pro last month and is ranked 284th in the world.