Oman edge past Malaysia in thriller

MUSCAT, FEB 6 – Oman edged out Malaysia 2-1 in a closely-fought opening tie against Malaysia in the Fed Cup Asia/Oceania Group II tournament in Bahrain on Monday. The deciding doubles rubber went to the wire as Omani pair of Fatma al Nabhani and Sarah al Balushi beat Malaysian pair of Jawairiah Noordin and Theiviya Selvarajoo 6-4, 7-6(4), 7-5 in two hours 41 minutes at the Bahrain Tennis Federation courts in Isa Town. The Malaysian pair came back well after losing the first set and though Fatma and Sarah kept fighting till the end they missed out in the tie-breaker. In the third set, the Omani pair raced to a 4-1 lead but the Malaysian girls staged a great comeback and the scores were level at 5-5. Then on the Omani girls stepped up their game and won many tight points and kept cool till the finish to give a first win for the Sultanate.
Earlier, in the first singles, Sarah went down to Theiviya Selvarajoo 6-1, 6-2 in 58 minutes as Malaysia took 1-0 lead.
Star player Fatma pulled one back for Oman when she defeated Suhana Sofia 6-2, 7-5. The Malaysian girl fought hard in the second set but could not succeed over the experienced Fatma. The match ended in 1 hour 15 minutes.
Fatma said the Malaysian players were good contenders.
“We went into the match with some confidence as we had beaten Malaysia in Islamic Solidarity Games. But they were improved a lot and are ranked third in the tournament.”
Commenting on her singles win, Fatma said: “I had comfortably won the first set. In the second, Malaysia’s Suhana played very well but I could control the game.”
“In the doubles, we were put to test by the Malaysian girls. However, we kept calm and were able to get the important win.”
The ace Oman player said the fast hard courts in Bahrain was little new to her and Sarah as they found it difficult to adjust in the beginning.
“The courts are really fast here and at first we were not able to adjust to it. Now we are prepared and we hope to get a good result against Pacific Oceania, who are very tough opponents.”

Oman’s Sarah al Balushi in action in Bahrain.

Sarah said it was a close contest and she was relieved to end the match in the winning side.
“We were leading in the third set 4-1, but the Malaysian girls caught up to took lead 5-4. But we kept out cool and prevailed to get the 2-1 win.”
Sarah said she will put out all efforts in the next “tough match against Pacific Oceania.”
Oman team manager Salman al Balushi congratulated the players for their opening win.
“We are just continuing with what Oman Davis Cup team had done in Muscat. It was a tough contest today but our players came out victors. Hope we continue with same attitude and form throughout the tournament,” Salman said.
Salman said the girls deserve credit for the thrilling win against Malaysia.
“We played a thrilling game to beat Malaysia who have some good players. Especially our players kept their cool to claim the doubles rubber.”
Oman are placed in the Pool C along with Pacific Oceania, Malaysia and Iran.
In the other match of Pool C, Pacific Oceania blanked Iran 3-0 to top the pool after the first round of matches.
On Wednesday, Oman will play Pacific Oceania in a key match of Pool C.
Pool A consists of Uzbekistan, New Zealand and Lebanon. Pool B includes Philippines, Kyrgyzstan and Singapore; Pool D features Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and hosts Bahrain. In Pool A, Uzbekistan thrashed Lebanon 3-0. In Pool B, Philippines edged Kyrgyzstan 2-1. Hosts Bahrain lost to Indonesia 3-0 and Pakistan beat Sri Lanka 2-1 in Pool D matches.

Anuroop Athiparambath