One title lost, but Aifa wants two before her exit

Aifa Azman is into her last few tournaments at junior level and she was planning to exit with three titles – the British Junior Open, Asian Junior Open in Qingdao, China, from June 29 to July 3 and World Junior Open in Australia’s Gold Coast from July 19-29.

But the Kedahan will have to settle for a less stellar exit. She failed to lift the Under-19 title in the British Junior Open, losing to top seed Jana Shiha of Egypt in the final in Birmingham early this month.

She had won the girls’ Under-13, Under-15 and Under-17 titles in the Open before this.

Aifa now wants to make sure she does not fail in her other two outings.

She said she was pushing herself hard in training to be physically and mentally well-prepared for the two challenges.

“I am sparring with the men to improve every aspect of my game.

“This is my last year in the junior category and I want to finish it with a bang. My first goal is to win the Asian Junior title, ” said Aifa, who lost to teammate Chan Yiwen in the Asian Junior Open final in Macau last year.

The icing on the cake will obviously be winning her first world junior title.

“Egyptian players like Jana and Farida Mohamed will be the main threat again but I have vowed to turn the tables on them this time, ” said Aifa, who will be featuring in the Indian Tour in Jaipur, India, from Jan 30.

Aifa, who received a bye in the first round, is again expected to face Jana in the semi-finals in Jaipur.

“I hope to get the better of Jana in Jaipur, ” said Aifa, who had also lost to Jana in the semi-finals of last year’s World Junior Open in five sets in Bukit Jalil.

Aifa said she had defeated Jana twice in the British Junior Open finals to win the Under-15 and Under-17 titles but had lost in their last two meetings.

“It was quite frustrating to lose to Jana in straight sets at the British Junior Open this month. I was eyeing a fourth title in the championships but I failed to play well in the final and made a few silly errors.

“The defeat against Jana is a wake-up call for me. My backhand game was a letdown as I could not retrieve the shots and she used that to her advantage.

“I really have to train much harder and work on my backhand if I wish to win the other two titles, ” said Aifa after training at the National Squash Centre in Bukit Jalil yesterday.

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