KUALA LUMPUR: Hafiz Zhafri and Aira Azman clinched the boys and girls’ Under-19 titles at the Redtone KL Junior Open Squash Championships on Sunday.
The 18-year-old Hafiz put a stagnated two years well behind him to beat South Korea’s Park Seung-min 11-4, 4-11, 13-11, 11-7 in the final at the National Squash Centre, Bukit Jalil.
It was a spirited showing from the left-handed player who dug deep to save three-game balls in the third game before stepping up to seal the four-game victory.
The win capped a great week for the joint ninth-16th seed, having beaten top seed Ishant Shah in the third round and joint fifth-eighth seed Joachim Chuah in the quarter-finals earlier.
More importantly, the win also saw the once highly-rated Hafiz pick up his first title since winning the Under-17 at the KL Junior meet two years ago.
“I didn’t play a lot of tournaments this year because my performance hasn’t been good which resulted in me not getting selected,” admitted Hafiz.
“But this is my last-ever junior tournament, so I’m really glad that I finished on a high.
“After struggling for results earlier, I believe this win has given me some renewed confidence as I look towards the Professional Squash Association (PSA) Tour next year.”
In the girls’ event, the 15-year-old Aira punched well above her weight as she defeated a host of seniors to take her first Under-19 crown.
Aira, the younger sister of national No 4 Aifa, was a class of her own as she downed former British Junior Open winner Jessica Keng 11-8, 11-9, 11-5 in the final.
It was the Kedah-born’s second notable win.
“I thought I played well today as all my shots went in. But I was still lucky to win because Jessica is quite good,” said Aira.
“Of course, I’m happy to beat all the seniors to win the title.
“This is definitely a very good experience for me and it’s also a very good preparation for the British Junior Open next month,” added Aira who has been seeded No. 1 for the prestigious British Juniors that is held in Birmingham from Jan 2-6.
Meanwhile, it was a good finish for Malaysia by winning 10 of the 12 titles at stake.
The only two titles that got away were the girls’ Under-9 and Under-13 events, won by Hong Kong’s Chung Ka Yau and Alyssa Ho respectively.
Results (Malaysians unless stated)
Boys’ Under-9: Jayden Loo bt Lokkhesh Wigneswaran 11-3, 6-11, 8-11, 11-9, 11-4;
Under-11: Jayden Oon bt Umair Arif Muhammad (Pak) 7-11, 9-11, 11-7, 11-5, 12-10;
Under-13: Wong Lee Hong bt M. Kreethi Pillay 11-5, 11-9, 11-4;
Under-15: Harith Danial Jefri bt Tse Jat (Hkg) 11-7, 11-7, 11-9;
Under-17: C. Ameeshenraj bt Hii Jia Rong 11-5, 11-7, 11-7;
Under-19: Hafiz Zhafri bt Park Seung-min (Kor) 11-4, 4-11, 13-11, 11-7.
Girls’ Under-9: Chung Ka Yau (Hkg) bt Choo Yi Xin 11-2, 11-2, 11-4;
Under-11: Harleein Tan bt Agatha Cheng 11-5, 11-7, 13-11;
Under-13: Alyssa Ho (Hkg) bt Whitney Isabelle Wilson 11-7, 12-10, 11-8;
Under-15: Chen Yu Jie bt Anrie Goh 11-5, 11-2, 11-3;
Under-17: K. Sehveetrraa bt U. Thanusaa 11-6, 11-3, 11-6;
Under-19: Aira Azman bt Jessica Keng 11-8, 11-9, 11-5.