IT will be Aifa Azman’s big day as she joins para powerlifter Bonnie Bunyau Gustin as Malaysia’s flagbearer at the opening ceremony today.
And to add to her excitement, the squash player has also received good news as the individual draw, which was released yesterday, has been kind to her.
The world No. 24 Aifa is expected to play Hollie Naughton of Canada, ranked 20th in the world, in the last 16 and if she can cause an upset, she will be presented with a quarter-final clash against fourth seed Joshna Chinappa of India.
This is probably the easiest quarter of the women’s draw and Aifa should be waiting to pounce on the opportunity to make an impact in the tournament.
Aifa, who received a bye in the first round, will play India’s Sunayna Sara Kuruvilla of India in the second round before the Naughton clash.
Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia (SRAM) director of coaching Major (rtd) S. Maniam, who is also the Commonwealth Games team manager, said Aifa was all fired up.
“Aifa will probably face Hollie (in the last 16) and is looking forward to it if she gets there. There is a slight advantage in Aifa’s favour but it’s hard to predict (the outcome),” said Maniam.
“Against Hollie, Aifa is the underdog as the Canadian is much higher ranked. However, Aifa is looking to give her best there.”
Aifa has never played Naughton before and the skillful Malaysian has shown marked improvement in recent times and is capable of securing an upset.
Her other opponent and fourth seed Joshna Chinappa of India, 35, is at the tailend of her career, and as the reigning world doubles champion with Deepika Pallikal-Karthik, her focus will be on women’s doubles gold. The duo secured gold at the 2014 Glasgow Games.