PETALING JAYA: The top two national squash players, Ong Beng Hee and Mohd Azlan Iskandar, will have more Malaysians joining them in the professional circuit this year.
Four juniors – Timothy Arnold, Mohd Nafzahizam Mohd Adnan, Mohd Sharil Shahidan and Fabian Faurillo – have turned full-time professionals.
Kelvin Ho will also be out to revive his professional career after failing to make any headway in his maiden outing last year.
The Squash Rackets Association of Malaysia (SRAM) have set the target for the four rookie professionals and Kelvin to break into the top 100 in the world rankings by the end of the year.
The SRAM’s executive director, Wong Ah Jit, said that Beng Hee’s and Azlan’s standard was very much higher than the juniors and they needed to bridge the gap.
“We are glad that the NSC (National Sports Council) have approved our programme to churn out more professional players. The four selected are below 20 years old and they will be out to narrow the widening gap set by Beng Hee and Azlan,” said Ah Jit.
“We no longer have Kenneth Low and Yap Kok Four in our ranks and it is time for the juniors to move up.”
World number nine Beng Hee and the 41st-ranked Azlan are based in London and they train under Neil Harvey.
Ah Jit said that the four rookies and Kelvin would be based in Amsterdam if they reached the top 100 by September.
“The plan is for these players to be based in Amsterdam and to participate in the European circuit,” he said.
“They will be under the guidance of Australian Mike Corren (national sparring coach) and they will take part in the German, Dutch and Belgian Leagues.
“They will improve if they are constantly exposed to higher-level tournaments.
“But they will not get this exposure if they do not get among the top 100. No clubs will accept players who do not have a decent ranking.
“Of the five, I think Kelvin, Nafzahizam and Timothy have good chances to achieve this target.
“Kelvin did not have a good start in his first professional year because of several problems. We have ironed out those problems. He is more matured now and is raring to go into action.”
The current rankings have the 20-year-old Kelvin at 118th; 19-year-old Timothy at 178th; and 18-year-old Nafzahizam at 232nd. The 18-year-old Fabian and 19-year-old Sharil are not even in the top 250 bracket.
The rookies will go to Perth next month for their first assignments – the Magic Sports International (May 16-18) and Wheatbelt Open (May 23-25).
The SRAM have also drawn up plans to improve the standard of the women players with youngsters Lim Yoke Wah, Sally Looi and Delia Arnold taking part in satellite tournaments in Asia.
“Yoke Wah, Sally and Delia will be part-time pros. They will play at the regional level first and will be full-time pros next year,” said Ah Jit.
THE NATIONAL SQUADS
Under-17: Wong Kim Lee, Mohd Nafizwan Mohd Adnan, Tan Tze Hion, Mohd Azfar Azan, Ramzie Rahman, Mohd Azraf Azan, Kapil Nesan, Elvin Keo, Randy Lim, Teoh Wai Hong.
Under-15: Chong Kam Heng, Amir Shariff, Herry Foo, Ivan Yuen, Nicholas Quek, Kamran Khan, Lim In Tjun, Mohd Akram, Ahmad Aswadi, Choy Min Hon.
Under-13: Mohd Adeeb Arif, Ng Jo Wen, Mohd Khairul Al Amin, Ahmad Khirul Al Amin, Ahmad Khairul Azlan, Mohd Syawal, Winson Ng, Umaha Bershante, Darrenjit Singh, Emillio David, Mohd Zul Azri Azhar.
Part-time pros: Tricia Chuah, Lim Yoke Wah, Sally Looi, Delia Arnold.
Under-17: Fatin Balqis Suhaimi, Siti Munirah, Nabilla Ariffin, Azaliana, Shenny Ong, June Tiong, Sarah Jane Mathew, Puspha Dewi, Low Wee Wern.
Under-15: Nesserine Ariffin, Rachel Goh, K. Darshini, Nur Assila, P. Vanaja, Kimberly Chong, Serene Chee, Nadia Jihad
Under-13: Low Wee Nee, Tan Yan Yin, Heng Yi Lian, Soh Tzu Chi, Noor Shadira Saadah, K. Sabashini, Lim Sue Yan, Ooi Chwee Fern, Choy Siew Fong, Teng Xiao Jun.