Malaysia's Valentino Bon Jovi Bong (left) celebrates after beating Matthew Karwalski of Australia in the CIMB Malaysian Open squash championships qualifiers in Bukit Jalil on Monday. - MOHD AZHAR ARIF/ The Star
KUALA LUMPUR: Valentino Bon Jovi Bong made heads turn at the recent Glasgow Commonwealth Games with his unique name.
Yesterday, the 25-year-old Sarawakian made heads turn once again – this time through an impressive performance in the first qualifying round of the CIMB Malaysian Open at the National Squash Centre in Bukit Jalil.
Valentino, the world No. 164, gave everything he had to pull off an 11-6, 11-7, 8-11, 6-11, 11-7 win over world No. 61 Matthew Karwalski of Australia.
“It was really an up and down match for me. I played really well in the first two sets, but I was too eager to win and lost focus in the third and fourth,” said Valentino, who never managed to clear the first qualifying round in the past.
“It’s definitely the best win for me so far. I think it’s due to the experience I gained playing at the Commonwealth Games.
“Now I need to recover fast for my next match,” he added.
Valentino will take on Indian youngster Mahesh Mangaokar on Tuesday for a place in the main draw. World No. 63 Mahesh overcame Malaysia’s Gurshan Singh 11-3, 9-11, 11-6, 11-4.
As for former world No. 10 Mohd Azlan Iskandar, he made an effortless return to a Professional Squash Association (PSA) match.
The 32-year-old Sarawakian, who is making a comeback to represent Malaysia at next month’s Incheon Asian Games in South Korea, strolled to an 11-4, 11-6, 11-1 win over Kuwait’s Ammar Altamimi.
“I felt like I was 28 again. I was definitely moving a lot better than I was two months ago,” said Azlan.
“It was still a tough match though as I’m more of a social player nowadays. But I’m excited to be playing again and I’m looking forward to my next match.”
Azlan will take on South Africa’s Shaun Le Roux for a place in the main draw.
Meanwhile, Egyptian teenager Habiba Mohamed showed no ill effects of her world junior exertions in Namibia as she stormed into the main draw on Monday.
The 15-year-old Alexandria-born lass was simply unstoppable despite a slow start as she routed Malaysia’s Zulhijjah Azan 13-11, 11-1, 11-5.
“I arrived only yesterday (Sunday) night and I haven’t had any sleep at all,” said Habiba.
“It was 30-hour flight immediately after the world juniors. I flew from Windhoek and transited twice, at Johannesburg and Dubai before arriving here.
“I’m really tired but I’m really happy after winning the world juniors and I’m ready to keep playing here.
“I wanted to take a break initially but my coach said I should play this tournament because I do not have anything else after this.”
Habiba’s reward for a superb performance will be a match up against fourth seed Camille Serme of France in the main draw on Tuesday.
In other results no Malaysian women made it through from the qualifiers with the best bets Rachel Arnold and Vanessa Raj both losing their matches.
Rachel took the first game but was worn down by Hong Kong’s Liu Tsz Ling in a 12-10, 6-11, 3-11, 8-11 defeat.
Vanessa on the other hand gave American veteran Latasha Khan a good run before bowing out 5-11, 7-11, 14-12, 3-11.
World No.48 Tsz Ling will now go on to face eight-time champion and world No.1 Nicol David in the first round of the main draw.