THE Philippines absorbed a stinging 2-3 setback to Singapore in the mixed team event semifinals of the 5th Southeast Asian Squash Cup Championships at the Kerry Sports courts inside the Shangri-la Hotel at the Fort in Taguig City late Friday Night.
With the best-of-5 tie knotted at 2-all, David Pelino suddenly lost his grip to Singapore’s Benedict Chan, who fashioned a come-from-behind 8-11, 11-2, 13, 11-11-2 win in the deciding fifth and final match, booking a ticket in the finals scheduled later yesterday in the tourney organized by the Philippine Squash Academy.
In a rematch of Group B semifinalists, the Singaporeans were to tangle with the Malaysians in the competition supported by the Philippine Sports Commission, Philippine Olympic Committee and the MVP Sports Foundation.
It was a heart-breaking end for the Kayod Pilipinas campaigners, who had scrambled back into contention on the heroics of Robert Garcia and men’s individual champion Reymark Garcia after dropping the first two women’s singles matches.
The Singaporeans opened the series with Sneha Sivakumar blanking Yvonne Alyssa Dalida, 11-7, 11-5, 11-4 after which compatriot Aue Yeong Wai Yhan took down ailing Jemyca Aribado 11-3, 5-11, 13-11, 11-6 to give them a 2-0 lead.
But Garcia kept their championship hopes alive in rallying past Timothy Leong 12-14, 11-5, 11-3, 11-3 then Begornia outlasted Chua Man Chin 9-11, 11-6, 118-11, 11-2, 11-4, equalizing the count at 2-all in the meet also backed by Alaska, Smart, PLDT, Meralco, Salming and Dunlop, the official ball.
This left Pelino with the task of completing what his teammates began, but, sadly, he was not up to the task as he unraveled in the face of Chen’s all-around display of skill and crafty play from the second to fourth sets following his first-set defeat.
“Pelino lost his discipline and mental toughness so when Chen figured out his game and pressed him, our athlete had no answer for it,” rued PH squad coach Manu Yam after his charge’s collapse. “But this is not the end for him because our real target is the Southeast Asia Games.”
The Filipinos, however, still salvaged a bronze medal in the mixed team finals, their second in the six-nation tournament, to go with the gold that Begornia won in the men’s singles.
Meanwhile, Malaysia’s Mohammad Azlan Iskandar was unanimously voted as the new president of the Southeast Asian Squash Federation during its annual general meeting held the Shangri-la Hotel Kamagong Room. PSA president Robert Bachmann retained his position as SEASF vice president.