'Amazing' Sivasangari overcomes mental block to reach London Classic final

KUALA LUMPUR: S. Sivasangari's scintillating performances at the US$108,500 London Classic have ignited excitement in the world of squash.

The Kedah-born player defeated world No. 4 Nele Gilis of Belgium 10-12, 11-7, 11-8, 10-12, 11-9 to reach the final on Sunday, a day after she eliminated seven-time world champion Nour El Sherbini from the tournament.

Sivasangari is firmly on track to realise her dream of clinching an Olympic gold medal when squash makes its debut at the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

Additionally, she has become the first Malaysian to reach a PSA Tour gold-level final since Nicol David in 2015.

World No. 16 Sivasangari aims to go one step further by clinching victory in the London Classic final against Hania El Hammamy later today, despite having lost four out of five previous meetings against the Egyptian.

Reflecting on her triumph over Gilis, Sivasangari credited her mental trainer, Jesse Engelbrecht, for helping her reset for the decisive fifth game.

"It felt like five hours on court! It was crazy. Gilis is a fighter. She fights for every point like we saw in the fourth," said Sivasangari.

"I kept believing in myself and stayed focused. I mixed things up and moved her around the court to earn the points in the fifth. I am glad that I achieved it."

The Malaysian also opened up about the challenges of returning to competition after a road accident in 2022, which almost prematurely ended her career.

"It has been tough in the last year-and-a-half since the accident, but I've had my family and coaches' support, and my sponsors too. They kept believing in me, which made me believe in myself," she said.

"There were times I doubted myself, but I tried to push hard and take it a day at a time, and the hard work is paying off.

"When the score is tied at 2-2, mental strength becomes crucial in determining who emerges victorious. While I always believed that I had what it takes to be among the top 10 players, I realised that I needed to work on my mental game.

"Thankfully, I have been working with Jessie on this aspect, and it paid off today."

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