At just 19 years old, Chan Sin Yuk is already regarded as a future star to watch in squash. The Hong Konger is ranked World No.65 and is projected to continue to rise, in spite of beginning her professional career in the midst of a global pandemic and balancing her sporting career with studying at one of America’s top universities.
After being introduced to squash by her older brother, Chan wasted no time in coming through the ranks, reaching the qualifying final for the 2016 Macau Open aged just 14.
“I followed my brother in primary school and quickly loved squash, so I just kept going as I wanted to play pro,” Chan explains
Since then, she has progressed rapidly through the ranks and enjoyed a breakout year in 2021, winning three titles in succession on the PSA Challenger Tour: The second Chairman Cup, The Hong Kong Football Club PSA, and the Hamilton Open.
It was at the Hamilton Open, in Pennsylvania, USA, that Chan really announced herself to the wider squash world, with the unseeded Hong Konger downing Latvian No.2 seed Ineta Mackevica in the semi final and Finnish No.1 seed Emilia Soini in straight games in the final to capture her first senior title outside of Hong Kong.
Despite her early success, Chan admits that progress has not already been plain sailing. Since turning professional in late 2020, the 19-year-old has had to deal with a sporting calendar in pandemic flux all the while balancing studying economics at one of the USA’s top schools, the prestigious Columbia University.
“Balancing studies with sport is very tough. Especially after returning from a gap year where I just focused on playing, to then going back to having academics,” she explains.
Chan, though, is confident she has the discipline to excel on court and in class. Besides the occasional post-tournament guilty pleasure of a milkshake or fries, Chan’s focus is unbreakable, with the Hong Kong No.5 unwinding after a match by stretching and watching squash. “As long as I manage the time, I can both study and play,” she explains.
One of the things that has helped Chan see a viable career in the sport is squash’s growing reputation as a women-friendly sport.
“Squash is a friendly sport to women, things are equal. Since the prize money [for women] became the same as the men’s prize money, it makes for women who are great players. I think squash is friendly to women,” she says.
Unsurprisingly, Chan herself is aiming to be one of these great players, which can perhaps be in part attributed to her lifelong admiration for legendary Malaysian player Nicole David: “When I was small, I didn’t really know how to watch squash. But even then, I remember seeing how she would never give up on court. She would just pick everything up. I hope I can perform as well as she did.”
While the next tournament on the horizon for Chan is the Karachi Open, which begins next week, there is a new challenge awaiting her soon.
On April 5, Hong Kong will send its first team to the WSF World Doubles Squash Championship since 2004. Underlining the esteem Chan is held in by Hong Kong Squash, Chan will be there in Glasgow, competing alongside World No.50 Tsz-Wing Tong in the women’s event.
While Chan admits that doubles is a relatively new venture for her, she is confident that the game suits her style of play.
“I haven’t played a lot of doubles, it was only during my gap year that I played doubles consistently. But there’s more focus on doubles now, with Glasgow and the new doubles event for the 2022 Asian Games. So it’s great to be getting to experience the World Doubles, and I’m looking forward to playing with players from other countries and getting more experience,” she says.
She adds: “I think doubles suits me; the court is bigger and we have more space to hit the ball. With the lower tin, we can really attack a lot. Of course, covering the larger space is exhausting, but it’s fun!”
Just as Chan enjoys playing aggressively on court, off it, she is unashamedly ambitious, and she explains that emulating the achievements of her idol David and reaching the pinnacle of the game is something she’s hoping to do. “I would love to be the World No.1 in the future,” she concludes.
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