August 15, 2022
SINGAPORE – Some of the world’s top players such as Ali Farag and Joelle King will be in town in November as Singapore hosts a Professional Squash Association (PSA) World Tour gold event for the first time.
The Nov 15-20 Singapore Open will be held at both the Kallang Squash Centre and nearby OCBC Arena. The US$220,000 (S$301,000) tournament offers equal prize money for men and women, while the top male and female Singaporean player – currently Samuel Kang and Au Yeong Wai Yhann – will each earn a wildcard.
The last international squash event here was the 2019 Singapore Open, then part of the lowest-tier Satellite Tour.
Singapore Squash Rackets Association president Patrick Thio told The Straits Times on Saturday (Aug 13): “We want to use this opportunity to spur interest in our sport. We’re bringing one of the top events in the world and this will elevate not just the squash community but also the country.
“We’re also trying to get the community down to watch a world-class event in their backyard and support the local players, that’s the passion we’re trying to instil.”
Gold events on the PSA are just below the highest tier Platinum ones, of which there are four in the 2022-23 season – Qatar Classic (men), Egyptian Open (men & women), US Open (men & women), Tournament of Champions (men & women, in New York).
Including the Singapore stop, other Gold events this term are South Western Women’s Open, Grasshopper Cup (men & women, Zurich) and Houston Open (men).
World No. 102 Au Yeong, 23, is relishing the opportunity to compete against and learn from the best in the business.
She said: “It means a lot because these are the top players and I dream of being in the top rankings as well. This will help because I would know what these players play like, how hard they hit and what it takes to get there.”
The Singapore Open contract is for three years and Thio acknowledged challenges ahead as the Kallang Squash Centre is slated for demolition at the end of 2023 to make way the Kallang Alive project.
Burghley Squash Centre has been proposed as the new national training centre but SSRA are appealing to national agency Sport Singapore to remain in Kallang.
The Kallang Alive project, announced in 2019, will see new developments including the Kallang Football Hub, Singapore Tennis Centre and a redevelopment of the Kallang Theatre. In a first for Singapore, a velodrome has been proposed and will be part of the Youth Hub.
Meanwhile, local squash great Zainal Abidin was conferred the SSRA Lifetime Achievement Award at Saturday’s SSRA’s Squash Ball, while Ong Zhe Sim of Methodist Girls’ School and Justin Yap of Anglo-Chinese-School (Independent) were named SG Squash Junior Athlete of the Year in their respective categories.
Zainal, 64, was absent from the ceremony – originally scheduled for 2020 to celebrate the association’s 50th anniversary but postponed due to the pandemic – at the Shangri-La Hotel as he contracted Covid-19 but said he was honoured to receive the award.