Squash turns up as the saving grace for Malaysian sport

Superb form: Malaysia’s Harleein Tan (right) powered her way to victory in the US Junior Open Championships on Tuesday.

PETALING JAYA: The performance from football and badminton have been met with disappointments but one sport Malaysia still can look up to is squash.

The racquet sport continues to provide the cheers as the year winds to a close.

Fresh on the heels of Ng Eain Yow ending a 10-year drought to be crowned Asian champion, Harleein Tan is the latest to make the nation proud by winning the girls’ Under-13 title in the US Junior Open championships in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia on Tuesday.

The Negri Sembilan lass overcame Egyptian Maya Mandour 11-6, 8-11, 13-11, 11-6 in the final of the prestigious meet.

In the last four, Harleein survived a five-set thriller against American Reghan McLaughlin winning 8-11, 11-5, 11-8, 8-11, 11-9.

It was not an easy feat by any means as she had to play a total of seven matches en route to the title as it was a 128-player field for the knockout tournament.

Harleein thus continued from where she left off as she also came out tops in her last major tournament.

Harleein clinched the Under-11 title at the British Junior Open in Birmingham last year but she did not get to defend her title this year as it was not held due to Covid-19.

Harleein will be going for the Under-13 title in the 2022 edition of the British Junior Open next month and Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia (SRAM) director Major (rtd) S. Maniam believed the youngster has a bright future.

“She is fast and has a good perception of the game. Harleein has a bright future and she must continue to work hard to achieve better success,” said Maniam.

However, there was heartache for Haneesha Veera who missed out on the last eight when she lost 6-11, 1-11, 2-11 to eventual champion India’s Anahat Singh in the Under-15 category.

Harleein’s truimph marked the third time this month squash ended up on top of the podium.

Eain Yow ended Malaysia’s 10-year wait for the men’s Asian title by beating Hong Kong’s Yip Tsz Fung 11-6, 15-13, 11-9 in the final in Islamabad on Sunday.

Malaysia had not made a mark in the men’s event since Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Nafiizwan Adnan won the title in 2011.

The Asian title was certainly the icing on the cake for Eain Yow after a stellar year that saw him breaking into the world’s top 20.

The national No. 1 is ranked 18th in the world and is based in Bristol.

He also played a pivotal role in leading the nation to the men’s title in the Asian Team Championships on Dec 4.

Meanwhile, Yasshmita Jadishkumar finished runner-up in the Boston Open on Dec 12 after losing to top seed Julianne Courtice of England 1-11, 6-11, 4-11 in the final.

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