Monday, March 17, 2014

Delia ousted as Malaysians suffer qualifying wipeout

Egyptian Habiba Mohamed (left) with a first class performance in beating national No.3 Delia Arnold in four sets. - ZHAFARAN NASIB / The Star

GEORGE TOWN: The Malaysian challenge in the 29th Women’s World Squash Championship qualifiers ended in the second round with all the nine players in action bowing out at the Nicol David International Squash Centre.

There were 20 Malaysians involved in the qualifiers’ opening round on Saturday, but all have been eliminated ahead of Monday’s third and final round to determine the eight qualifiers who will feature in the main tournament, which begins at the sPICE Arena on Tuesday.

The biggest shock of the day was national No. 3 Delia Arnold, who fell in four sets to 14-year-old Egyptian Habiba Mohamed 5-11, 11-7, 5-11, 4-11.

Delia, who admitted before the start of the tournament that she has not been competing regularly this year, seemed to be slow in covering all areas of the court against the agile Habiba.

Despite producing several noteworthy winners to take the second set 11-7, the 28-year-old Delia always seemed a step slower against her opponent, who is exactly half her age. It was Delia’s second loss to the young Egyptian, who beat the world No. 37 en route to becoming the youngest WSA Tour winner at the Malaysian Squash Tour (SSJM) Grand Finals last November.

“I am delighted to beat an experienced player like Delia in my first appearance in the world meet qualifiers,” said world No. 54 Habiba.

“I am excited to see so many top players of the world here in Penang, and my aim now is just to win the next game and make the main draw for the first time. I am reminding myself not to think about the actual tournament until I have secured a qualifying spot.”

Standing in Habiba’s way to a place in the world championship first round is Holland’s Milou van der Heijden.

Another Malaysian player to lose to an Egyptian opponent on Sunday was Aika Azman. She found the going too tough against 2012 world junior champion Nour El Tayeb and lost 3-11, 4-11, 6-11.

“It was a pity that I had to play one of the favourites in the qualifiers. I tried my best but she was simply too good,” said Aika.

“There are many young Egyptian girls here who are doing well and I will not be surprised if they go on and spring surprises in the main draw.”

Besides Delia and Aika, the other seven Malaysian players who were ousted on Sunday are P. Pushppa Devi, Teh Min Jie, S. Sivasangari, Zulhijjah Azan, Zoe Foo, Rachel Arnold and Celine Yeap.

 by Loganath Yelloo, The Star

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