Mall venue is top value, says champ Shabana

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 November, 2007, 12:00am

It is not only a shopper's paradise, but Plaza Hollywood in Diamond Hill is also turning out to be a haven for the world's top-ranked man and woman - Amr Shabana and Nicol David - who won their second successive Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Open crowns yesterday.

Egypt's Shabana defeated Frenchman Gregory Gaultier 3-1 in the men's final, while Malaysian David scored a more straight forward 3-0 victory over Natalie Grinham of Australia in the women's final.

For the second successive year, the semi-finals and finals have been staged in a glass court inside an atrium at the shopping mall. Hundreds of onlookers, doing what Hong Kong people do best - shopping - got a chance to watch the world's best players in action this weekend and the players loved it.

'Hong Kong should be an example to the rest of the world on how to stage a tournament. All squash events should be held in public places like this,' said a smiling Shabana.

And he had every reason to be happy. His 11-13, 11-3, 11-6, 13-11 win over Gaultier, which earned him HK$136,500, also saw him cut the gap on Gaultier, who went into the match having a 7-4 win advantage.

Perhaps the tide has changed in favour of the left-handed Shabana, for last week at the Qatar Classic, he trumped Gaultier in the final, too.

But the fiery Frenchman was determined not to read too much into the defeat.

'My goal is the World Open in a fortnight's time. Hong Kong was not my objective. I'm not worried about this loss for I know how to beat him,' Gaultier said. 'It might have been different if I had managed to push him to five games.'

But Shabana was not in the mood to prolong the game. After dropping the first game, the Cairo-born player was determined to keep his foot down and push for victory. Gaultier saved two match points in the fourth game, but that was only postponing the inevitable.

Shabana said: 'He is an amazing player. He never gives up and I had to fight for each point. But my strength is that I didn't panic when the pressure was on.

'I am playing my best squash at the moment and this is good with the World Open coming up.'

Like Shabana, yesterday's triumph was the third in a row for David in Hong Kong - the last two at the Plaza, and a World Open victory in 2005 when the event was held at the piazza outside the Hong Kong Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui.

'Hong Kong organises these events so well,' said David. 'Playing in such an atmosphere is great and I always feel comfortable in Hong Kong. It is almost like home to me.'

The Penang-born David had beaten Grinham six times out of seven in the past 12 months. She extended her dominance yesterday with a 9-5, 9-5, 10-8 victory.

'The scoreline might suggest a straight-games win. But it wasn't easy. With Natalie, every rally is of high intensity,' explained David who used her superior stamina and staying power to wear down her opponent yesterday.

'This is the last tournament of the year for me. I will now stay two days in Hong Kong to do some shopping,' added David, who won HK$99,450. Now she can afford to go on a spending spree.