Leaner Azlan one step closer to winning first pro title


BY NIUH JIT ENG

KUALA LUMPUR: National number two Mohd Azlan Iskandar took a step closer towards his first professional title when he outslugged Cameron Pilley of Australia in straight sets to enter the final of the Kuala Lumpur Open squash championships at the NSC Courts in Jalan Duta here yesterday. 

A leaner Mohd Azlan, the number two seed, was however taken to deuce in each set before prevailing 17-14, 17-15, 17-14 in 70 minutes and will now take on 2001 champion Tommy Berden of Holland for the title.  

The top seeded Dutchman had earlier subdued defending champion and third seed Mike Corren of Australia 8-15, 15-13, 15-3, 11-15, 15-10 in the other semi-final. 

Malaysia's Mohd Azlan Iskandar (front) goes for the ball as Australia's Cameron Piley looks on during their semi-final clash in the Kuala Lumpur Open squash championships at the NSC Courts in Jalan Duta Saturday.

“I used to get tired towards the end (of matches) but losing weight, paying more attention to nutrition and lots of hard work have benefited my game,” said the 20-year-old Azlan, who has shed eight kilogrammes since training full-time under English coach Neil Harvey last year.  

“And I knew I could outlast him (Pilley) today because he had had two tough games before this.  

“So, I just held back, kept it tight and waited for him to make mistakes, which he did, at crucial times and I took advantage of it,” added the former Asian junior champion, currently ranked 43rd in the world. 

As for today's final, Azlan expects the match to go down the wire. 

“I think tomorrow's match is going to be longer than today's.  

“I had lost to him (Berden) twice before – at the Detroit and Milo Opens – but, with home crowd advantage, I'm confident of turning the tables on him ,” said Azlan. 

In the women's competition, Malaysia's Sharon Wee had no answer to second seeded Natalie Grinham of Australia, crashing 1-9, 2-9, 1-9.  

As expected, the Aussie world number 10 will now face top seed and world number two Carol Owens of New Zealand in the final.  

Owens overcame Hong Kong's Rebecca Chiu 9-4, 9-6, 9-2 in the other semi-final.  

SEMI-FINAL RESULTS  

Men: Tommy Berden (Ned) bt Mike Corren (Aus) 8-15, 15-13, 15-3, 11-15, 15-10; Mohd Azlan Iskandar (Mas) bt Cameron Pilley (Aus) 17-14, 17-15, 17-14. 

Women: Carol Owens (Nzl) bt Rebecca Chiu (Hkg) 9-4, 9-6, 9-2; Natalie Grinham (Aus) bt Sharon Wee (Mas) 9-1, 9-2, 9-1. 

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