Aifa prepares for new challenges in title defence

KUALA LUMPUR: Home favourite Aifa Azman (pix) is prepared to face different challenges, in her Malaysia Open Squash Championships title defence beginning tomorrow at the National Squash Centre in Bukit Jalil.

Aifa, who is expected to reach her career best ranking of 21st from current 24th spot in the Professional Squash Association (PSA) rankings, said she is not too concerned about her opponents’ ranking status in the PSA World Tour.

Instead, the 20-year-old Kedahan is fully focused on her own game and pledged to give her best games in each and every match to get closer to the title.

“Every tournament is different and the draw for this edition is not same as last year. So, I want to focus on one match at a time…I need to be mentally prepared for every game, enter the court and play the match without being concerned about rankings,” she told reporters.

Aifa added that, she needs to play more against higher seeded players to gain exposure in more competitive environment and learn to improve herself in the world stage, after winning the 2021 title by beating top seed Salma Hany of Egypt.

Fifth seed Aifa, who received first round bye, will be facing the winner between compatriot Ainaa Amani and Zeina Mickawy of Egypt in the second round on Wednesday, and will most likely face world number 12 Nele Gilis of Belgium in the quarter-finals.

The task to continue Malaysia’s victory streak in women’s singles title since 2017, also made difficult with the presence of world number nine (top seed) Olivia Fiechter of the United States.

Meanwhile, 2019 men’s singles champion Ng Eain Yow is hoping to continue his good momentum in the PSA Tour, after having stunned world number 16 Saurav Ghosal of India and world number two Paul Coll of Australia to reach Singapore Open quarter-finals last week, before losing to Joel Makin (11) of the Wales.

“I have proved last week that, if I am playing my best, I can beat anyone, so I am just really looking forward to put up a good performance this week. I need to reset myself and make sure I am focused from the first round onwards,” he said.

The world number 24 Eain Yow, who will begin the campaign against Leandro Romiglio of Argentina tomorrow, believes he can overcome Joel this time, as both are drawn to face each other in the second round.-Bernama