Au set for battle royale against King
Annie Au Wing-chi made short work of her first-round opponent in the Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Squash Open yesterday, but knows she will have to raise her game to become the first local player to reach the quarter-finals.
Au eased past Gaby Huber of Switzerland 11-3, 11-6, 11-8 in 22 minutes, with a dizzying collection of drops and finessed cross-court shots and tomorrow faces Joelle King of New Zealand.
After a dominant first game, the match looked like it would be over in minutes, and though Au's level dropped a little in the next two games, she was always in control.
'I've never played her before, so I just told myself to concentrate and play it safe,' said the world No 7. 'I had quite a fast first game, but the second and third games she tried to speed it up a bit as the European players do. I made a couple of mistakes and gave her the chance to come back, but I just told myself to be steady.'
World No 11 King was given a fright by Japanese qualifier Misaki Kobayashi before winning in four games.
'I saw the first two games, [King] is quite a solid player,' added Au. 'Last time I played her in Hong Kong, it was 3-2 [in the final of the Crocodile Challenge Cup last November]. I was two-love down and came back to win so I'm expecting a tough match [tomorrow].
'With all the main group players, usually the first match is to get used to competition mode and warm up. She'll play better on Thursday and I'll have to prepare well.'
King was two games and two match balls up against Kobayashi, who beat Hong Kong's Choi Uen-shan in qualifying, but the Japanese player fought back to the point where she could have taken the match to a fifth game.
'It was one of those days where nothing was going right, the racquet felt heavy and I had a few mis-hits, and I think I just let that get on top of me,' said King after her 11-8, 11-6, 10-12, 12-10 win. 'I managed to sneak it so that was a relief. Annie's a class player, she's seven in the world and not for no reason. I'm sure it'll be tough against her home crowd.'
Teenager Tong Tsz-wing battled bravely against world No1 Nicol David, but was unsurprisingly outclassed 11-9, 11-4, 11-2.
'She's too fast!' said an exhausted Tong afterwards. 'She moves so well. It's something I lack, but I really felt I learned a lot today.'
There was also disappointment for Hong Kong's Max Lee Ho-yin, who lost 11-2, 11-8, 3-11, 11-6 to Cameron Pilley of Australia. 'I felt so nervous in the first game,' he said. 'I was maybe thinking too much.'
The match of the day was an 87-minute, five-game battle between sixth seed Peter Barker and Netherlands world No 11 Laurens Jan Anjema that the Englishman eventually closed out 7-11, 12-10, 9-11, 11-5, 11-9.
Both players were unhappy with the standard of the local referees, with Barker even leaving the court to remonstrate at one point.
'For three refs that I've never seen before to be reffing a match of a fairly high standard is hard to accept,' said Barker, the men's world No 7. 'Perhaps that was not the time and place for a bit of local exposure. That's as diplomatic as I can be.'
World No 1 Nick Matthew began his bid to win a first Hong Kong Open title with a routine 11-6, 11-4, 11-7 win over New Zealand qualifier Martin Knight.
Joey Chan Ho-ling starts her campaign today against Aisling Blake.