KUALA LUMPUR: With top Malaysian men’s players Azlan Iskandar and Ong Beng Hee showing signs of returning to top form, a double victory is on the cards in the CIMB Kuala Lumpur Open squash championships next week.
The preliminary round of the second biggest professional squash event in the country, besides the Malaysian Open, will be held at the National Squash Centre in Bukit Jalil from March 3-5.
Matches from the quarter-final stage onwards will be held at the Berjaya Times Square in the all-glass court mounted at the concourse area.
And Azlan, being the third seed, stands a good chance to regain the KL Open men’s title in the absence of defending champion Mohamed Abbas of Egypt.
Azlan has been playing well recently and lifted his first title for the year when he bagged the Asian Championships individual crown in Kuwait recently, beating Beng Hee in the final.
Azlan has second seed Adrian Grant of England, the world No. 15, in his path for a place in the final.
Beng Hee, who is seeded fourth, can make it an all-Malaysian final if he lives up to his billing and dispose off top seed Australian Stewart Boswell in the semi-finals. Boswell is ranked 14th in the world.
Fresh from his victory in the Asian meet, Azlan will be inspired to go all out to bag his third KL Open title.
The KL Open was where he won his first Professional Squash Association (PSA) Tour title in 2003 before repeating the feat in 2006 by beating Beng Hee in the final.
The women’s competition, meanwhile, has attracted all the top four players in the world but current world No. 1 Nicol David should still have the edge over the others.
Nicol is the top seed and will begin her campaign against compatriot Sharon Wee. Nicol is expected to face her first real test against third seed Rachael Grinham of Australia in the semi-finals.
The other semi-final should see Rachael’s younger sister, Natalie, taking on and fourth seed Tania Bailey of England.
If Nicol triumphs next Saturday, it would be her fourth consecutive KL Open title.
The prize money for the men’s and women’s champions are US$7,600 and US$8,550 respectively.
This was disclosed at a function to announce the sponsorship of the venue by Berjaya Times Square yesterday.
Although the day of the finals coincides with the voting day for the general election, Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia (SRAM) deputy president Datuk Syed Mustaffa Syed Ali is hopeful of getting good crowd support.
“It is held in a public shopping area and the finals will only start in the afternoon (from 3pm onwards). There is time for those interested to go cast their votes in the morning and come to support our Malaysians fighting for glory.”