PETALING JAYA: Joint third seed Aira Azman faces a tough Egyptian test in the World Junior Championships in Nancy, France, beginning on Thursday.
The Egyptians have taken total control of the girls’ event since 2003 where they have won the last 13 of the 14 titles with American Amanda Sobhy the only player to break their monopoly in 2010.
Egypt’s depth is evident through the seedings where they have five players in the top eight. Kenzy Ayman and Amina Orfi are the top two seeds while Fayrouz Abouelkheir shares the third seed with Aira.
Aira, the Asian junior champion, is expected to meet joint fifth seed Salma El Tayeb of Egypt before a likely showdown with favourite Ayman in the semi-finals.
The Malaysian defeated El Tayeb to win her first professional title, the Tunku Muhriz trophy in Seremban last month, and this would give her the confidence ahead of their rematch. Ayman, the world No. 60, reached the second round of World Championships in Cairo in May before losing in four games to eventual champion and compatriot Nour El Sherbini.
Yee Xin Ying and K. Sehveetraa, the joint 16 seeds, face tough hurdles in the preliminaries.
Xin Ying is expected to face British Under-23 champion Saran Nghiem in the fourth round and if she survives, she will be up against Ayman.
Sehveetraa will possibly cross swords against teammate Goh Zhi Xuan in the third round and Aira in the fourth.
U. Thanusaa may have to face joint ninth seed Asia Harris of England in the third round before a possible fourth round meeting against Ayman.
“As expected, it’s a tough draw. The players will have to be prepared for every match,” said national assistant head coach Andrew Cross, who is currently with the players in Birmingham.
Cross will leave Birmingham tomorrow to join the juniors in Nancy on Wednesday.
In the boys’ event, Pakistan’s Mohd Hamza Khan and Nour Zaman are the top two seeds while Malaysia’s highest ranked player is Joachim Chuah, the joint fifth seed.
Hamza and Nour Zaman will be trying to become the first Pakistani champions since Soheil Qaier (1982) and the legendary Jansher Khan (1986) but will face the challenge from Egyptian Kareem El Torkay and England’s Finnlay Withington, the joint third seeds.
Joachim will be Malaysia’s best bet where he is expected to meet either joint ninth seed Sam Osborne-Wylde of England or Egypt’s Omar Azzam in the last 16 before a likely quarter-final clash against Withington, the European junior champion.
The other Malaysians in the fray are C. Ameeshanraj, Andrik Lim, Hi Jia Rong, Harith Daniel Jefri and Low Wa Sern.
Malaysia have won the boys’ crown twice through Ong Beng Hee (1998) and Ng Eain Yow (2016) while Nicol David won the girls’ title in 1999 and 2001.