The Ball’s in Our Court: Squash Boys’ Finals 2019

By Jerome Tay (20S06Q) and Valerie Tan (20A01E)
Photos courtesy of Squash

The Kallang Squash and Tennis Centre does not seem like a place used for sports at all. It is modest, unnoticeable—a small building in the middle of nowhere, overshadowed by the much grander stadiums surrounding it in the area. One looking at it would hardly imagine that tough battles of brain and brawn had been fought here, within the four-walled glass towers that housed the squash matches of Singapore’s young athletes. Perhaps that could be forgiven; squash, after all, is not a very common sport. But what it lacks in fame and prestige it makes up for in its sheer intensity, as was proven on 2 May: the day of the Squash Boys’ Finals 2019, where Raffles Institution (RI) and Anglo-Chinese Junior College (ACJC) met each other in a fight for third place.

The first match came and went swiftly—captain Tan Izhi (19S06S) defeated his opponent with ease, keeping things relaxed even when he let go of a few points. It was a good start to the tournament for RI and set the tone for the other RI players, giving them a boost for their matches ahead.

The second match, however, did not sail as smoothly, and instead pitted the two strong players against each other for a nerve-wracking four sets that refused to end. Thunderous cheers from both schools echoed outside the glass court, with a passionate “finish it off!” from an RI supporter cutting through the noise. Inside the confines of the court, the players expertly evaded each other in an attempt to hit the ball, ducking towards the corners with every shot. The atmosphere built up impossibly, the stakes getting higher by the second.

Two points—how was a two-point lead so hard to achieve?

It felt like a never-ending game, the two players constantly at war with each other, and every single person sat up straight, eager to see who would triumph. After a long battle, RI’s Tobias Khoo (19S06R) finally managed to pull away with a stunning victory, the set score standing at a close 15-13. Nestled in the shrieks of elation and joy was a tinge of relief, the tension clearing like thunderclouds after a storm.

The tournament was not over yet. The third match was equally nail-biting, sparing no mercy on both the players and the spectators. RI player Benjamin Teo (19S03E) sustained an injury in the second set from a hard hit from the racket, and a timeout was called for him to bandage his bleeding wound. The spectators held their breaths as he stepped out of the court until he re-entered once again to finish what had been started. The tension did not stop there—ACJC pushed their newfound advantage, and closed the gap for a score of 2-2 with RI. It was a deadlock, and everyone nervously anticipated the final set of the match. In the end, both players gave their all, and it was a narrow defeat with ACJC securing the victory with a 4-point lead.

The fourth match saw ACJC throwing their all into the fray. Down 2-1, RI would be declared the winners if ACJC did not manage to pull a miracle and win that game. Vice-captain Justin Goh (19S06J) was up against one of the strongest players in the ACJC team. Pitted against the tenacious playstyle of ACJC, RI relented and the opponents managed to secure another win, pulling them away from the jaws of certain defeat. Both schools were now left with two wins each.

As expected, the tie-breaking last match saw the supporters of both schools at the edge of their seats, all eyes glued on the two boys who had entered the court. Representing RI was Li Chu Wei (19S06J), carrying the passion and drive of all his members; the two consecutive defeats had not dulled his spark and determination to bring victory to RI. The set that played out before everyone was one of great intensity; neither of the players let their guard down for a single moment, constantly darting around each other to make their next shot, and the energy in the court was palpable even beyond its glass walls. Despite playing the decider match, Chu Wei admirably kept his cool, and all his hard work leading up to that point paid off. RI managed to win the fifth round, beating ACJC 3-2 and seizing third place in the overall championships.

The Squash Boys with their medals and third-place trophy, happy with their good performance.

When asked about how he felt about the games that had just taken place, captain Tan Izhi (19S06S) explained that this year’s tournament had seen the team trumping physical discomfort and overcoming mental barriers. Everyone had played their best, and the results achieved clearly reflected that. The coach of the team further asserted that the boys never took any game lightly, and even when they seemed to have the upper hand, it was never truly over for them until the referee gave the signal. The most important thing to remember was to always remain focused, and to never be too overconfident or complacent.

Indeed, it was the humility of the players and their desire to achieve a win no matter the cost that led to the victory over ACJC. It may not have been the championship title; it may not have been first place. But the sheer passion and resolve of the boys led them to keep striving for the best they could be. Having spared nothing in fighting for second runners’ up, the team was no short of elation when the referee declared the results of the final game—“Game goes to RI!”

Raffles Press would like to congratulate the Squash Boys for their excellent performance, and wish them all the best in their next interschools.

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