[15 March 2014]
GEORGETOWN: Asian Youth Games (AYG) gold medalists Rachel Arnold and Celine Yeap led the way as a total of eight Malaysians cleared the first qualifying round of the Penang-CIMB Women’s World Championships at the Nicol David International Squash Centre (NDISC) in Bukit Dumbar yesterday.
Rachel, who turns 18 on April 16, put in a solid performance to see off a gutsy challenge from compatriot Sara Chew.
The younger sister of Malaysian No.3 Delia, won her match 14-12, 11-3, 11-2 in 20 minutes.
“This is the biggest event for me this year and my career as well so I was a little nervous in the beginning,” said the world No.70.
“I struggled a little but I managed to bring myself back in the second game and I pretty much settled down after that.
“I will be facing Egypt’s Heba (El Torky) next, so it’s not the best draw for me. But I will try my best and hopefully aim for a shot at making the main draw,” added Rachel.
The 23-year-old Heba who is the world No.31 and third seed in the qualifiers, received a first round bye.
Local lass Celine who along with Rachel, played a crucial role in winning the team gold for Malaysia at the AYG last August, also looked sharp as she edged out another Penangite – Lim Jee Nee, 11-6, 11-8, 11-7 in 25 minutes.
Celine who is ranked No.115 in the world will go on to meet world No.35 Tesni Evans of Wales next.
The other Malaysians who made it past the first round include British Junior Under-15 champion S. Sivasangari, Aika Azman, Zulhijjah Azan, Zoe Foo, Teh Min Jie and P. Pushppa Devi.
The highlight of the day was certainly the performance of 15-year-old Satomi Watanabe who nearly upstaged the more experienced Zulhijjah before going down in five sets.
Watanabe who hails from Japan but trains in Penang was a handful for the 23-year-old world No.64 Zulhijjah, before eventually losing 8-11, 11-7, 11-6, 6-11, 11-13 in 54 minutes.
Top seed Emily Whitlock of England and second seed Nour El Tayeb of Egypt both received first round byes.