HK's rising squash stars hold court
Some people may be surprised to learn that the list of top-level squash players in Hong Kong goes beyond icons like Rebecca Chiu Wing-yin and Annie Au Wing-chi. Young Post talked to four young full-time squash players about their careers.
Liu Tsz-ling has been the most successful of the four so far. With her three senior teammates, she won a silver medal in the women's squash team event at last year's Guangzhou Asian Games. When she stepped on to the podium, Liu had been a full-time player only six months.
'I was lucky to have finished my A-level exams in April last year and so had plenty of time to train,' said the Form Seven graduate from Jockey Club Ti-I College. 'I won the selection matches to gain the fourth and last place for the Hong Kong women's team at the Games.'
Liu, 20, now has a new target. 'I aim to do well in the tournaments with world-ranking points. Two months ago, I won the North Coast Open in Australia and got 210 points to boost my world ranking,'
In the latest rankings, she is ranked 89, with 506points.
Her former schoolmate Carmen Lee, also 20, completed Form Four at Jockey Club Ti-I College before turning professional three years ago. She put in an incredible performance in last year's Crocodile Squash Challenge Cup in Hong Kong. She reached the semi-final before losing to Joelle King, the world number 11.
This performance, along with those in several tournaments since, lifted Lee to number 63 in the world in May. Since then she has fallen to 94 in the rankings, mainly owing to changes in tournament schedules.
Yet this has not affected her too much. 'Even last year, when I was still a junior player, I felt I wanted to challenge myself and play in more senior tournaments,' Lee said. 'I knew the other junior players, especially in Hong Kong, well. But I wanted to play more exciting matches and gain experience against stronger players.'
Both Liu and Lee will play in the forthcoming Macau Open.
Tang Cheuk-yan and Matthew Ma Tsz-hei are younger and less well-known than the two female players. Their performances in junior tournaments have been better than their results early in their full-time careers. 'We play against student players who train less than us,' said Cheuk-yan, 18, a Form Three graduate from CCC Kei Long College. 'We are expected to beat them and this is a burden.'
Cheuk-yan turned professional two years ago and was second runner-up at the recent India Junior Open. He has also achieved a more personal goal. 'I had never beaten Yeung Ho-wai, a player from Diocesan Boys' School, until a recent league competition match,' he said. 'We have a similar playing style and facing him is always tough for me. But I finally beat him in that match. I'm no longer scared of him.'
With one year to go before he is a senior player, Cheuk-yan knows he must continue to improve the mental part of his game.
His teammate and friend Matthew, 16, has improved greatly in the past year and qualified for the individual tournament in this year's Asian Junior Squash Championships.
Even though he was knocked out early in the competition, he has proved he is among Hong Kong's top junior players. 'I had a shaky start and it took me half a year to get used to full-time training,' he said. 'I used to live in the same room at the dormitory as Cheuk-yan, but now I stay with our senior player Dick Lau.
'My routine has become more regular and I've learned a lot from Dick.' He turned professional sixmonths ago after completing Form Four at YOT Chan Wong Memorial Secondary School.