Aifa gets thumbs up, ready to do battle in US

PETALING JAYA: Aifa Azman (pic), having recovered from her right thumb injury, will make her first appearance in the US Open squash championships after missing out last year due to visa issues.

The US Open is one of the most prestigious tournaments on the Professional Squash Association (PSA) world tour and this year’s edition will be held in Philadelphia from Oct 8-15.

“I’m really looking forward to it after last year’s disappointment,” said the world No. 24, who picked up the thumb injury at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.

“I have two weeks to prepare and I’ll be taking on Julianne Courtice (England). I hope to cross my opening hurdle.”

Teammate Rachel Arnold will open her campaign against another English player, Grace Gear.

After the Open, Aifa will be heading to Cheongju in South Korea for the Asian Team Championships (Oct 31-Nov 4) followed by the Singapore Open (Nov 15-20) and the Malaysia Open (Nov 22-26).

While Rachel and Aifa’s spots confirmed for the Asian Championships, several players will be out to stake their claim in the four-member squad.

Leading the list is Malaysia Games (Sukma) women’s individual champion Chan Yiwen, Aira Azman, Ainaa Amani Ampandi and Yee Xin Ying.

Sukma served as one of the trials for the Asian team and Yiwen, who defeated Aira in last week’s final, is in the driver’s seat to claim one of the two spots.

Aira, who won the doubles gold with sister Aifa in the Sukma, also wants a piece of the action.

“I will have to fight it out with Ainaa and Xin Ying for the remaining spot.

“I hope I can join my sister in the team,” said Aira.

Meanwhile, world No. 22 Ng Eain Yow and Ivan Yuen (No. 55) are assured of their spots in the men’s team while the two remaining slots will be a battle between Sukma champion Ong Sai Hung, Syafiq Kamal and Addeen Idrakie.

Th trials start at the National Squash Centre in Bukit Jalil today and conclude on Saturday.

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