Au, Chan score historic victories
Hong Kong's players made history twice over yesterday as Annie Au Wing-chi became the first local player ever to reach the quarter-finals at the Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Squash Open, only to be followed into the last eight by Joey Chan Ho-ling.
Au beat New Zealand world No 11 Joelle King 12-10, 2-11, 11-9, 11-6 at the Squash Centre, and a few hours later her achievement inspired Chan to a superb 11-8, 11-5, 11-8 upset over Kasey Brown, the Australian world No 6.
'I think this is a great breakthrough for Annie and me to prove that the Hong Kong girls can make it into the top class,' said Chan, 'especially to do it in Hong Kong - hopefully we can inspire lots of local youngsters.'
Chan, who faces Egypt world No 8 Raneem El Weleily today, admitted Au had inspired her: 'Annie proved to me that it could be done and that gave me lots of confidence, I thought I can do it, too.'
The 23-year-old dominated a player ranked 15 places above her, moving her to every corner of the court and killing points with beautifully deft backhand volleyed drops.
'I know Kasey's a very good, top-class player so the pressure was all on her.
'I had nothing to lose and I am very happy to go through, it's the first time I've made it to the quarters in a gold-level event.
'Getting through to the quarters is already a bonus, I'm just going to enjoy it tomorrow, this is already the best achievement in my squash career.'
Au takes on Rachael Grinham, the veteran Australian world No 5, for a chance to play in the outdoor show court at the Cultural Centre piazza in Tsim Sha Tsui.
In a tough-fought, occasionally bad-tempered match, Au had just enough to see off the challenge of the tall, powerful King in 58 minutes, recovering from an error-strewn second game in which she gifted her opponent point after point. It caps a superb year for the 22-year-old, who broke into the world top 10 for the first time in May and is currently ranked No 7.
'I feel very happy,' she smiled. 'I think today I played okay, but I put a bit too much pressure on myself.
'All my shots were hitting the tin and I made too many mistakes and let her come back into it after the first game. I just told myself to be relaxed, 'You've still got the chance to beat her just don't give up,' and then I came back.'
Grinham edged a topsy-turvy five-game match against 12th seed Jaclyn Hawkes of New Zealand. In their two meetings this year Au has won one and lost one, while Chan has only faced El Weleily once before, losing in 2009.
'She's one of the toughest players to play really,' said Grinham of Au. 'It's hard to get into rallies with her, she's really choppy and doesn't like to mess around and play rallies at all, she's just chopping them near the front as soon as possible.'
Au believes she has 'a good chance' and added: 'I really want to make it to the outdoor court at the Cultural Centre.'
For Hong Kong head coach Tony Choi, the results are 'the pay-off for the last 10, 15 years of our development programmes, these players have come through those programmes for the last 10 years - I'm so pleased.'
Elsewhere, world No 2 Jenny Duncalf made a shock 11-7, 11-7, 11-1 exit to Malaysian Low Wee Wern to open Chan's half of the draw. She plays Camille Serme today.
Nicol David kept on course for a sixth consecutive title with a 3-0 win over Donna Urquhart and faces Laura Massaro in Au's half.
The men's quarters see world No 1 Nick Matthew v Gregory Gaultier in a rematch of this month's World Open final, the winner to face Peter Barker or James Willstrop. In the bottom half of the draw, four-time Hong Kong winner Amr Shabana faces Mohd Azlan Iskandar and Stewart Boswell plays Karim Darwish.