Silver lining for Iskander

DEAN McNULTY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:29 AM ET

Mohd Azlan Iskandar was thrust into unfamiliar territory yesterday in the $75,000 PACE Canadian Squash Classic at the John Bassett Theatre.

The 24-year-old Malaysian had never been to the quarter-final in a Pro Squash Association Super Series tournament before in his career.

But after he pulled off the upset of the young season by toppling world No. 1-ranked Amr Shabana in the round of 16, the 12th-ranked Iskandar found himself in the spotlight last night in a match against 19-year-old Ramy Ashour, of Egypt, himself a hot new squash commodity.

Like all Cinderella stories, however, that beautiful carriage always turns into a pumpkin at midnight, and last night the clock chimed for Iskandar when he fell 9-11, 11-8, 10-12, 11-5, 11-6 to the young Egyptian in a marathon five sets.

Iskandar was far from disappointed in his efforts in the tournament.

IDENTITY

"I am definitely happy with my game here," he said. "I have been trying to find my identity as a squash player and I think I found it in Toronto."

Coincidently, Iskandar's last defeat was in the first round of the Saudi Open in December by Hisham Mohd Ashour, Ramy's 24-year-old brother.

The change in Iskandar's play this week can be directly attributed to him signing on with a new coach just six months ago.

He has been working with his former playing partner Peter Genever after leaving his long time coach, Neil Harvey.

Ashour, meanwhile, has made a astronomical climb up the professional squash rankings -- he is currently sixth -- since winning his first tournament in 2004 when he became the youngest player to ever win the men's world junior squash championship at just 16 years old.

This past July, he became the first player in history to win the junior championships twice.

Ashour said last night's win over Iskandar was a payback for the defeat of his countrymen Shabana.

"It was sweet to get revenge for Amr's defeat," he said. "But with a player as talented as Mohd you can never let your guard down."


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