Au keen to retain her top-10 ranking in 2012
Hong Kong's top player, Annie Au Wing-chi, will be looking to stay in the world's top 10 in the coming year before mounting a serious challenge against the top five players.
The 22-year-old reached a career high of seven last month, but dropped to eighth in the latest rankings released earlier this month.
'The competition is very intense at the highest level,' said Au, who became the first home player to reach the semi-finals of the Hong Kong Open last month. 'The difference is very small in terms of ranking points between the sixth and 10th positions. I would have to maintain a high level of consistency in 2012 if I am going to retain my position before I can challenge the top five.
'It won't be easy because I will face a lot of players who are ranked lower than me in the initial stages of a tournament and their sole target is to beat me. It will give me extra pressure.'
Au (pictured), who is still a student at Polytechnic University but started training full-time before the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, said she would continue to put sport ahead of her studies. 'I only take two subjects in one semester and my graduation will not be until 2015. I can focus on my training and hopefully make Hong Kong proud by winning more tournaments.'
Au will sharpen her skills by taking part in more international tournaments ahead of the next Asian Games in 2014 in Incheon, South Korea. Her toughest opponent there will be Malaysian world No 1 Nicol David.
'My target is gold at the 2014 Asian Games and to do that I must beat Nicol,' she said. 'I lost to her in the final at the Guangzhou Games, but I think my time will come in South Korea.'
Au will miss the Crocodile Challenge Cup, which starts at the Hong Kong Squash Centre today, to give other local players a chance to boost their world rankings. Joey Chan Ho-ling will head the Hong Kong challenge along with Liu Tsz-ling and Carmen Lee Ka-man, while Max Lee Ho Ho-yin and Dick Lau Siu-wai will feature in the men's event.