Shabana marches past exhausted Darwish
Egyptian Amr Shabana took a major step towards successfully defending his title at the Cathay Pacific Gale Well Hong Kong Open yesterday after he outclassed compatriot and world number one Karim Darwish in the semi-finals.
The left-hander's emphatic 12-10, 11-8, 11-4 victory over Darwish on a glass court set up in Diamond Hill was his first against the player since relinquishing his world number-one ranking to his rival in January.
Should Shabana, the third seed, beat second-seed Gregory Gaultier, of France, in today's final of the HK$16 million tournament, it would be the 30-year-old's fourth straight Hong Kong Open title and his fifth title in Hong Kong after his World Open crown in 2005.
The match will be a repeat of last year's final, which Shabana won after five gruelling games. 'Hong Kong is always the place I enjoy playing,' said Shabana, who made his first appearance in the city at the age of 16.
'I had a good match today and any time you beat the world number one, it is a happy occasion.'
Darwish, who had won a punishing five-game quarter-final the previous day, seemed to lack the stamina necessary to win the match and faded quickly after putting up a strong fight in the first game.
'I took the opportunity and tactically it was a sound match as I did not give him too many chances,' said Shabana. 'It was not so much the quarter-final that did the damage to Darwish, but rather the fact that he has played a few more matches than I have recently. Mentally, he was very strong because he knew he lacked the energy, but I beat him on a number of important points.'
The women's final will also see a familiar face, after world number one and defending champion, Nicol David, of Malaysia moved into the title decider with a 3-0 win over Laura Massaro of England. But third-seed Rachael Grinham of Australia - the losing finalist last year - lost in three games to Omneya Kawy of Egypt.
Kawy's path to the last four had been made easier by the second-round withdrawal, through illness, of Rachael's younger sister and second seed, Natalie Grinham, who plays for the Netherlands.
'I can play better, but it was her day,' said Grinham after the match.