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BJO debut an eye-opener for Jessica

Published on: Thursday, January 16, 2014

Kota Kinabalu: It was a lesson well learnt for squash player Jessica Kheng after her recent debut at the British Junior Open (BJO) which was held from Jan 2-6 in Sheffield, England.

The 11-year-old who came home in sixth place in the Under-13 category which was won by fellow Malaysian Aifa Azman said the appearance in the prestigious tournament that featured the world's best has definitely opened her eyes.

"It was a very good experience for me as the standard was so much higher than the tournaments that I am used to compete in.

To be able to watch some of the top juniors from all over the world in action was a bonus and it also enabled me to learn and to improve my game as well," she said when met at the Likas squash courts on Wednesday for her first training session since her return.

On the match itself, she said she could have done better and cited tiredness as the main reason that she did not finish higher than the sixth position.

She said she had earlier upset her Egyptian opponent Farah Shehata, who is the 3rd/4th seed in five sets 5-11, 11-9, 9-11, 11-8,12-10 that lasted 45 minutes in the second round match.

However, the match took a toll on her and she failed to recover fully for her next round match where she lost in another five-setter 7-11, 13-11, 11-9, 4-11, 6-11 against Janila Tammer also from Egypt in 36 minutes.

"The Egyptians were just too powerful and I had a hard time trying to contain their strokes and it used up a lot of my energy."

"Although I managed to beat Meghna Sreedhar in the following round in four sets 8-11, 12-10, 11-9 and 11-7, I was not able to produce my best in the play-off for fifth/ sixth place as my right knee was also hurt by then and I lost in straight sets 5-11, 8-11, 8-11 to another Egyptian Farida Mohamed."

She said she has since recovered and promised she will train harder and try her best to win the tournament next year as many of the players in this year's event will be overaged by then.

Her coach Munir Khan believed the experience will make her a much better player despite only finishing in sixth place.

"For her age it was an achievement by itself and if she can stay focused and set herself a higher target this coming season, there is no reason why she cannot make it to the top."

The Pakistani coach said he will work on Jessica's backhand as well as her balance when retrieving shots which he reckoned are the two weaknesses that need to be rectified.

Meanwhile, Jessica had won her first Under-13 title on English soil in the Pontefract Junior Open, which was played on Dec 27-30 last year, a week before the British Junior Open.

The final saw her defeating another Malaysian Amirah Rusdina in straight sets 11-1, 11-8, 13-11.