TEENAGER Nur Aliah Izzati Anis is seen as the best bet for hosts Penang to win a title in the PBA 13th Penang Malaysian Junior Open Squash Championships on June 1 to 6 at the Nicol David International Squash Centre in Bukit Dumbar.
Fresh from winning the Penang Most Promising Female Athlete 2014 award, the 15-year-old Nur Aliah will be gunning for her first girls’ Under-15 title during the competition, which also doubles up as the qualifiers for the 2016 British Junior Open in January.
Nur Aliah, who was the Asian Under-13 champion in 2012, will have her work cut out due to the presence of formidable junior players from Egypt.
“Among the Penang-based players, Nur Aliah has the best chance to land a title,” said the tournament director and Penang squash coach Khoo Teng Hin.
“However, it will be a tough challenge as there will be a strong foreign presence this year, including players from Egypt, Hong Kong and India, who have confirmed they will play in Penang.
“We are banking on Nur Aliah to draw strength from the home crowd support and go all the way to the title.
“Besides Nur Aliah, I also expect our Penang-based Japanese player Satomi Watanabe to shine in the girls’ Under-17 category.
“Her game has improved a lot. Although Satomi is Japanese, she will enjoy good support from the Penang crowd as she lives and trains here,” said Khoo.
The other Malaysian juniors expected to pose a serious challenge for the titles in the annual tournament are Ong Sai Hung (boys’ Under-17), Kiven Shanmugam (boys’ Under-13), Andrea Lee and Zoe Foo (girls’ Under-19) and S. Sivasangari (girls’ Under-17).
“With the exception of Kiven and Sai Hung, I think our Malaysian boys will face an uphill task because of the quality of the foreign opposition,” added Khoo.
This year’s Malaysian Junior Open will be the biggest, drawing 592 players from 18 countries.
Besides hosts Malaysia, there will be players from Australia, Hong Kong, India, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Kuwait, Macau, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Bangladesh, Switzerland and the United States.
Among the notable foreign players who will be competing are the British Junior Open boys’ Under-13 champion Yehia Elnawsany of Egypt, his highly rated compatriot Sana Mahmood (girls’ Under-13), Hong Kong’s Choi Uen Shan (girls’ Under-19) and Pakistan’s leading junior player Muhammad Asim Khan (boys’ Under-19).
A total of 10 categories will be contested. They are the boys’ and girls’ Under-11, Under-13, Under-15, Under-17 and Under-19 events.
The World Squash Federation -sanctioned Tier II tournament offers a total prize money of RM10,000 and also World and Asian junior ranking points for the Under-19 players.