Squash’s Azman sisters can’t wait to get back into action after long layoff

Raring to play again: The Azman siblings (from left) Aifa, Aika and Aira will be playing in their first tournament after almost a year of inactivity.

PETALING JAYA: Malaysian squash will return to action after almost a year of silence and the Azman sisters – Aika, Aifa and Aira are ready to make the loudest noise.

The sisters from Kedah will take part in the SRAM PSA 1 tournament from April 9-12 at the National Squash Centre in Bukit Jalil. It’s the first competition since the Covid-19 stopped all activities in March last year and left the squash players stranded.

The 20-year-old Aifa, who is the highest ranked among the trio at 61st spot in the world, wants to get off to an explosive start.

“Finally, we get to play again after so long. It’s also the first time after a while that all three of us are playing in a tournament, so it’s kind of exciting, ” said Aifa, the 2019 World Junior runners-up.

Aifa’s younger sister Aira is in the national team but her elder sister Aika, 24, is not.

“Aira has showed the most improvement. She turned professional last year and has joined the national team... she is good, ” said Aifa.

“Sometimes, she gives me tips too. We do share about the sport and support one another but when we are on the court, it’s about winning.”

Aifa, who turned professional when she was 15 and won seven titles, wants to improve her stature in squash this year.

“I’ve won pro titles in small-tier tournaments. This coming SRAM PSA is offering US$10,000 prize money and I’ve never won a tournament at that level. I’m challenging myself to win it this time, ” she said.

“The highest world ranking I’ve achieved is 59. It has dropped because I did not compete in any tournaments last year compared to the Europeans. They have played since late last year, so their rankings have moved up.”

In Malaysia, Aifa is currently ranked fourth behind world No. 24 Low Wee Wern, S. Sivasangari (39) and Rachel Arnold (43).

Aifa last won two PSA tournaments in Australia at the North Coast Open in New South Wales and Melbourne Open in 2019, which earned her the right to play in her first major tournament at the World Championships in Cairo, Egypt, the same year.

“I still have a long way to go to catch up with Datuk Nicol David but squash is my priority right now. Hopefully, I can make my way up in the world ranking and compete in bigger tournaments, ” she said.

In the SRAM PSA 1 meet, Aifa has a first round bye, and if all falls into place, she may meet 17-year-old Aira in the quarter-finals. Both are in the same half with second seed Rachel.

In the top half with top seed Wee Wern are Aika, Ooi Kah Yan and Yee Ying Xin. Sivasangari will be the notable absentee as she is currently in the United States.

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