Annie Au Wing-chi loses in Hong Kong Open squash
The fourth seed and semi-finalist from last year has a disappointing exit from her home event
What a difference a year makes. Last year, Annie Au Wing-chi became the first home player to reach the semi-finals of the Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Open. Yesterday, she crashed out in the opening round.
Au suffered one of her worst results in recent times when she lost to Indian qualifier Joshana Chinappa in five games at the Hong Kong Squash Centre.
Ninth in the world and the tournament's fourth seed, she was beaten 11-5, 8-11, 11-6, 7-11, 5-11 in a gruelling 55-minute match, but made no excuses.
"My performance wasn't too bad today, although I found it a bit difficult to get into the game as this was my first match of the tournament," said Au, 23. "I still had chances to win when the match went into the fifth decider, but could not hang in there to get the crucial points.
"Chinappa had a great day. She had already played a couple of games after starting from the qualifiers and pressured hard throughout the match. Her confidence grew as the match went on."
Au admitted she had high hopes for the tournament after last year's run.
"It is natural I had expectations of the event after reaching the semi-finals here last year and becoming the fourth seed this time.
"Maybe this affected my performance on the day, but it is all over now for me and there are a lot more things I need to learn about playing at the highest level."
Head coach Tony Choi Yuk-kwan said there were no easy games since Au made the world's top 10.
"She is now a target for other players as a seeded player and always under pressure to do well against players with a lower ranking," he said. "Unlike before when she had nothing to lose against other players, it is now vice versa.
"But she has to go through all this if she really wants to become an established player."
Chinappa was delighted after losing her two previous encounters against Au.
"I only came back this year after a knee surgery in 2011 and this is a great performance against a top-10 player," the Indian said. "This is also my best result in all my four appearances in the Hong Kong Open."
Her next opponent will be Australian Rachael Grinham who beat Latasha Khan of the United States in straight sets.
An even bigger upset was the loss by second seed Laura Massaro of England in three games to Omneya Abdel Kawy of Egypt 11-9, 11-9, 11-7.
To cap a disappointing day for the hosts, men's player Max Lee Ho-yin also lost his first-round match to Indian Saurav Ghosal. Lee, who made it from the qualifiers, went down 11-3, 11-5, 11-4.
"This was a tough draw but I didn't start well from the first game," said Lee, Hong Kong's top ranked player at 32.
"I'm a bit disappointed with my overall performance and hopefully I can improve when I start in next month's World Open in Qatar."
The last home hope is Joey Chan Ho-ling, who faces a seemingly impossible task today against world number one Nicol David in the second round.