Malaysia’s former World No.5 Low Wee Wern has faced a long road to recovery since seriously injuring her knee back in 2016, which led to a 20-month absence from the sport.
The 28-year-old last featured on the PSA World Tour at the 2016 U.S. Open before she made her comeback last week at the Malaysian Open – which she went on to win, defeating Japan’s Satomi Watanabe in straight-games in the final.
In 2014, Low was at the top of her game and had reached a career-high ranking of World No.5 before numerous injury lay-offs and three surgeries forced her away from the sport she loves, now she is back and looking forward to the season ahead.
“It feels a bit surreal to be honest,” said Low following her triumphant return.
“I knew I had an outside chance [at the Malaysian Open], but I would have to win six matches and I wasn’t sure how the body and knee would react to that after not competing for such a long period. 10 days prior to the Malaysian Open, I played the Malaysian Nationals and I was really struggling with my squash that week.
“I know my capabilities but being out for 20 months, I wasn’t sure what would happen. The rules have changed a bit and when I was still actively playing at the top level, I was playing on the 19inch tin.
“I struggled throughout the Malaysian Nationals just 10 days before, but I had to keep my cool and kept working on my game to improve from a disappointing week of squash. I have only passed my RTP test (Return to Performance) 10 weeks prior to that and that was all the time I had to prepare for my first tournament.”
Low admits that a lot of people questioned why she kept persevering to return to squash after struggling with so many serious injuries, however, the Malaysian was determined to take to the court again.
“I was at my best prior to my first surgery in 2015 and I have just made it to top five a few months before. Having to go through one surgery was bad enough but I ended up needing three surgeries in total!
“Many have asked me why I am still making a comeback and not move on to something new. My answer is that I still have goals to achieve but it’s no longer just about me, if I decide to walk away now, I am giving up on the people who supported me since my junior days, my family, my coach and my sponsors. They have been by my side throughout all three of my surgeries and I owe it to them to make it back out there.
“I am quite fortunate that all my surgery and rehabilitation costs are covered by Malaysia. I couldn’t compete for 20 months so that means 20 months without any prize money! I’ve lost some sponsors along the way, but I am very grateful to those who stuck by me even when I couldn’t play.
“I have a good team with me who has worked very hard to get me back on court and of course my coach, Aaron, who has to work very hard with me to get me back playing at a decent level in a very short time after clearing my RTP.”
During her time on the sidelines, Low has seen her ranking fall considerably to World No.254 and she admitted the rehabilitation process has been a long and demanding one but she can now see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“It’s been challenging to say the least. I started off without being able to walk on my own. Six weeks in a knee brace and crutches before I could put weight on my knee, followed by learning to walk on my own again.
“Just when I was getting comfortable with walking, I was due for my follow up surgery which simply means back on the knee brace and crutches all over again! Not to mention as squash players, we have to be fairly fit and I could not run at all for close to nine months! Not running for nine weeks would affect my fitness, so can you imagine me not being able to run in a straight line at a slow speed for 9 months?
“So, the rehab process was extremely long and sometimes frustrating, but I knew it had to be done in order to get back on court again. There is always light at the end of tunnel and I had to persevere through it.”