David seals 7th victory in HK with panache

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 November, 2011, 12:00am


Nicol David's love affair with the city continued last night, as she took her seventh title in a row here at the Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Open last night.

David, who won the first of her six world championships in Hong Kong in 2005 and has won this event every year since, was simply too good for the 10th seed, Egypt's Raneem El Weleily, racing to a two-game lead in 13 minutes on the outdoor glass court at the Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui before winning 11-5, 11-4, 11-9.

Third seed James Willstrop, from England, won the men's title for a first time, beating second seed Karim Darwish 11-5, 11-9, 11-4.

'I always love coming back to Hong Kong - this is one of my favourite venues. I've so many good memories,' said David, who beat Hong Kong's Annie Au Wing-chi in the semi-finals.

The win caps an amazing 2011 for the Malaysian, who has dominated women's squash since taking that first World Open in Hong Kong. She won that title for an unprecedented sixth time a fortnight ago and became the first active player to be inducted into squash's Hall of Fame.

'It feels great,' the 28-year-old added. 'After winning the World Open, I just wanted to bring that top-quality game here. The feeling I had today was close to what I felt in the Worlds, it was great to approach that level again as this is such a great event and place.'

David barely gave El Weleily a look-in in the first two games, and although the third was tighter, the 22-year-old could not push David to a fourth. David will head to Disneyland today to spend some of her HK$79,560 winner's cheque, before taking the rest of the year off.

'It's been a fantastic year, a real turning point for me as I begin to hit my peak,' she added, ominously for the rest of women's squash.

A noisy contingent of Egyptian fans at the Cultural Centre suffered a double disappointment after the men's final, a much tighter affair between two players who know each other's games inside out.

With rallies routinely lasting 20 or 30 shots, Willstrop came strong at key moments, taking nine of the last 11 points in the first game and seven of the last 10 in a lengthy, desperately tight second game. And that proved the turning point.

After Darwish slipped nastily lunging for a ball at 1-1 in the third, the fight seemed to leave him and Willstrop - who didn't drop a single game in this tournament - took 10 points in a row.

Darwish admitted he feared a recurrence of a hamstring injury and was happy just to get off the court unhurt.

Willstrop has now won nine of his last 10 games against Darwish and took home HK$184,275

'It takes a lot of time to put it together in a week like I've done here,' Willstrop said.

'There's been a lot of disappointments on the way and you just have to keep learning and have faith in the way you're practising and training.

'Every player who wins a world series tournament knows how difficult it is and if I was going to win any - well, the World Open would be nice, but Hong Kong is as special as it gets after that.'