The inaugural winner was Sarawakian June Tiong (1999). Since then, Penang players have won it every year except in 2005 and 2006 when Tan Yan Xin and Yong Sue Ann, both from Selangor, captured the trophy.
I first met Vanessa two years ago. In 2006, I took up squash to fulfill my co-curriculum requirements. USM imposed a regulation to complete certain unit of co-curriculum activities for undergraduates, ranging from archery, badminton, swimming, tennis and lots more. Failing to meet this requirement would exempt us from graduating.
I am no stranger to squash. I was MSSM Malacca under 15 silver medallist in 2000, and won gold medal in the team event the same year. In 2003, I was made captain to lead KMK in KAKOM...in which I won every match, only dropping a set against a KMJ player. The rest, I won with straight set.
When I arrived in USM, I faced a harsh reality. There was a hell of good players here. I struggled to keep up, and finally resigned from taking squash too seriously.
I subsequently lost interest in squash...the game which I once regarded as " The Beautiful Game"
It was not until one late afternoon, when I decided to stay back after the class had dismissed. I played alone...trying to recapture my lost stroke. Squash is a game of art...a very beautiful art. If we hit the ball correctly, the ball will keep bouncing beautifully until it came back to us.
An Indian family entered, a woman with her daughter and son.
Feeling tired and worn out, I took a rest.
The woman asked me to be his son's sparring partner...an offer I couldn't refused. A young boy in his fifteen's, I thought I could teach him some lessons. After all, I have 5 years experience in squash, and had competed in numerous high-level tournaments.
But, in the end, it was him who had taught me some painful lessons. He crushed me 9-0, 9-0...without dropping a single point. I was sparring with a monster, albeit a young one.
He was non other than Brian...then a rising 13 year old squash prodigy. He is the elder brother of Vanessa. Fresh from winning the under 15 title, he was on a break before embarking on another tournament. Personally, I was not quite pleased with his somewhat arrogant attitude. But he was an incredible player...the reason (for me) it was OK for him to be a bit arrogant.
Vanessa was then an innocent ten year old girl. She constantly refused to strike the ball...citing she was tired as an excuse. Her mother asked her to have me as her sparring partner. She hesitated at first, but accepted her mother's request later on.
As a 20 year old boy, I was certainly stronger and faster than her. But she constantly outwitted me with her excellent shot. She has a very good stroke...and excellent technique too.
But whenever she failed to strike the ball properly, she would throw out her racquet and sat at the center of the court all alone. After all, she was only ten. Her emotion got the better of her almost all the time...something that her mother was trying really hard to fix.
When squash classes ended, I rarely went to the squash court. The last time I saw her, she was already about my height. She'd grown up rapidly...and she keeps improving up to this day. Gone are the days when I was able to bully her around in the court. She certainly can humiliate me at ease nowadays...the way her elder brother did to me.
It's not long before she could succeed Nicol David as the world number one. And I'm quite sure she can.