Local Hero Arnold Celebrates Biggest Career Final At Malaysia Cup
10 Nov 2023
No.5 seed Rachel Arnold has booked her place in the final of the Ace Malaysia Squash Cup to mark the biggest Tour final of her career after battling to a five-game win over Egypt's Malak Khafagy at the S2 Sports Complex in Seremban on home soil.
The Malaysian No.3 will take on top seed Nour El Tayeb for the title after completing an 8-11, 11-7, 11-4, 6-11, 11-4 victory over the unseeded Khafagy, who was appearing in her first PSA World Tour Bronze semi-final.
It was a back and forth contest which saw Khafagy give Arnold a stern test but, in front of her home fans, she pulled through in a one-sided decider to seal a place in her 16th PSA final.
"I can't believe it," said Arnold afterwards. "I was close to giving up in my first match in the fifth game, so I'm proud to get to the final and I'm pretty happy with how I've been playing this week.
"I've got nothing to lose now, so I'm just going to give it my best tomorrow. Everyone here has been great and really supportive. It's nice to see familiar faces around."
El Tayeb will appear in her 29th PSA final after she overcame the other Malaysian woman in action - Sivasangari Subramaniam - by a 10-12, 11-3, 11-9, 11-6 scoreline.
Subramaniam started on the front foot, but El Tayeb unleashed her trademark racket skills from the second game onwards to earn her second final spot of the season following her South Western title win last month.
"It was a tough game to back up after yesterday's match," El Tayeb said.
"I am over 30 now and I can feel the recovery is slowing down big time, so it was hard at the beginning of the match. Siva was very smart today and it took me a while to get used to her game, but I'm glad I managed to get into the match quickly and play well towards the end."
Eain Yow was the only Malaysian man remaining in the men's draw, but fell victim to a classy performance from Gawad, who has made it back-to-back finals after his win at the Grasshopper Cup in October.
"We haven't played for so long," said Gawad, anticipating the final.
"We've played twice, once when he was so young and once when I was injured, so I wasn't playing my best squash. He's been playing well and he's near the top of the rankings, I'm looking forward to it and hopefully it will be a good final tomorrow."
Top seed Mostafa Asal will line up in his 16th PSA final after he ended the superb run of Ramit Tandon, who was appearing in his biggest PSA event in over four years following his upset win over No.3 seed Victor Crouin in the previous round.
However, Asal put in a masterclass of a performance to win in straight games and he will take on Gawad for the first time since 2021. It's currently one win apiece between the two World No.1s and Asal will be making his first final appearance of the season.
"I'm just trying to enjoy it out there," said Asal.
"I didn't enjoy it the last couple of years, there were lots of fights as well, but I've started enjoying my squash again, and changing my attitude is the main thing. I'm still 22 years old and I need to fix lots of things, but I'm loving myself like this and the changing of my attitude."