Classy David stops Au's run
Annie Au Wing-chi's dream run at the Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Squash Open predictably hit a brick wall in the shape of Nicol David last night, but the world No1 insisted her beaten opponent would get better with time.
Au gave fans at the harbourside outdoor court in Tsim Sha Tsui plenty to cheer for in a four-game semi-final defeat. She even took the first game to briefly kindle thoughts of a monumental upset, before David showed why she has won this title for the past five years (six if you count the World Open in 2005), winning 9-11, 11-2, 11-4, 11-6. It was the 34th consecutive match the Malaysian has won at this event.
David stamped her class all over the match after the setback, taking the first seven points of the second game and not letting up. Au fought well, but when she seemed to be controlling rallies, David's amazing speed would invariably see her pick up even Au's best-placed shots.
But David said Au's exploits this year - in reaching No7 in the world and becoming the first local player to make the quarter-finals here - have made the sport's elite take notice.
'It's fantastic, she's come out strong even today in the semis after such a good run through the week,' said David, who faces Egyptian 10th seed Raneem El Weleily in tonight's final after she beat David's training partner, Low Wee Wern, 11-6, 9-11, 11-3, 11-9 in the other semi-final.
'With all the expectation on her and the crowd behind her I knew that I really had to come out firing, but no doubt it wasn't easy. She's still so young, so she's got time to work on her game. She'll definitely be coming on strong in the next few years. In time you get that experience and know how to bring everything together, so she'll definitely be stronger and we'll have to watch out.
'She has what it takes, so it's up to her what she wants to do.'
First, Au will take a break and does not play again until mid-January.
'I think I actually played better today than in the previous two days,' said Au. 'But [David] just picks up everything and didn't give me any chances. It's so tough, you play a great shot and she just picks it up, then you play the second and she just gets to it, and again and again.
'But I really enjoyed [playing in the outdoor court] and will remember it for the rest of my life. It's a great achievement for me and a brilliant finish to the year,' said Au, who now turns her attention to the business management course she studies part-time at Polytechnic University.
'It was great to end the year on a high, and now I'm looking forward to a break and relaxing. I'll have a few hikes in the country with my family and I've also got to give some time to my study because I've got exams.'
In the men's final, world No3 James Willstrop of England faces Egyptian second seed Karim Darwish. Willstrop beat fifth seed Gregory Gaultier 11-9, 11-9, 11-1, and Darwish beat Malaysian Mohd Azlan Iskandar, 11-3, 11-8, 11-2.