This wild card’s an ace!

Fairy-tale ending: Aifa Azman posing with her trophy. Right: In action in the final against Egypt’s Salma Hany at the National Squash Centre in Bukit Jalil yesterday. — IZZRAFIQ ALIAS/The Star

PETALING JAYA: After dominating the local Professional Squash Association (PSA) circuit throughout the year, national squash player Aifa Azman has announced herself to the world.

And she did it in emphatic fashion, as the 19-year-old wild card and world No. 69 defied the odds to beat world No. 8 and top seed Salma Hany 12-10, 11-8, 11-4 in the women’s final of the Malaysian Open squash championships at the National Squash Centre in Bukit Jalil yesterday.

Hany started strong in the first set by leading 9-4, but Aifa showed remarkable resilience and determination to pull back to 12-10.

In the following two sets, Aifa got her game plan right and made sure to frustrate Hany with her brilliant shots and impeccable movement.

“It was tough to come back, but I told myself to be patient and stick to the game plan. She was going behind most times, so I made sure to reduce that, and my game plan started working,” she said.

“I’m just a wild card, but to beat a world No. 8 certainly feels amazing. I haven’t had any big tournaments this past year but to win it on my first outing feels good.

“I obviously want more of this. For me, this is the first step to further success. I am in this game to achieve more. First up is to get my ranking back on track again, with the top 50 in mind.”

This is her first win in a Professional Squash Association (PSA) World Tour bronze event, and Aifa will take home US$50,000 (RM209,000) for her success.

Next up, Aifa will be representing Malaysia in the 20th Asian Team Championships, which will be held from Nov 30 to Dec 4 at the National Squash Centre.

“The aim is to keep the form that I’m in right now and help the team do well. I’m looking forward to a good time in the tournament.”

Meanwhile, in the men’s final, India’s Saurav Ghosal beat Colombia’s Miguel Rodriguez 11-7, 11-8, 13-11.

Ghosal said it wasn’t easy to face someone of Rodriguez’s stature, but he felt his game plan was right and it got him the win.

“Some of his returns were unbelievable and random, but my goal was to control the intensity and execute my moves well.

“It’s the first international event in Malaysia since the pandemic, so it’s good to be back and a big round of applause to the people in the tournament. I’m happy to play, be here and win the tournament as well.”

n MENSaurav Ghosal (Ind) bt Miguel Rodriguez (Col) 11-7, 11-8, 13-11

n WOMENAifa Azman (Mas) bt Salma Hany (Egy) 12-10, 11-8, 11-4

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