PETALING JAYA: Now that she has broken into the top 40 of the world rankings, Aifa Azman is looking forward to facing some of the world’s best players regularly next year.
The 19-year-old’s shock win in the Malaysian Open saw her move up the ranks from 69th to 36th and also win the PSA Player-of-the-Month award for November.
Aifa was the wildcard in the Malaysian Open, but she surprised Egypt’s Mayar Hany in the first round and then shocked another Egyptian, No. 3 seed Yathreb Adel in the second.
Her bulldozing run did not stop there. Aifa scalped a third Egyptian, Hana Ramadan, in the quarter-final and Canadian fifth seed Danielle Letourneau in the semi-final.
Azman capped her fairytale run in the final, producing a sublime performance to claim her first-ever PSA Bronze title by stunning Egypt’s top seed Salma Hany.
Thanks to her latest rankings, she can look forward to competing in higher-level tournaments next year.
“From January to March, I’ll be competing in six tournaments in the US. As a squash player, I’ve always wanted this opportunity, and it is good that I’m getting it,” she said.
“After the Malaysian Open success, I knew that if I wanted to get better as a player, I need to play against higher-ranked opponents. That exposure is a must if you want to move forward.
“I’ve been competing in lots of 10K tournaments, but now it’s time for the big league. Fitness-wise, I feel better, technically I’m improving, but to fully realise that potential, I need to play against the best.”
Besides the Malaysian Open, she also helped Malaysia win the Asian Team Squash Championships title when they edged Hong Kong 2-1.
To cap off 2021, Aifa will be flying to Pakistan to compete in the Asian Individual Championship, which starts on Dec 15.
“Overall, it’s been a good year. My development from junior to senior has been steady, and as a player, you always look for ways to improve.
“I’m hopeful that 2022 will be a better year.”