Annie Au determined to toughen up mentally
Top Hong Kong squash player Annie Au Wing-chi is seeking help from sports psychologists in a bid to mentally toughen up for the Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Open.
Ranked 15th in the world, Au has battled inconsistent form this year but is determined to put it all together. "After breaking into the world's top 10 two years ago, my expectations were too high and this affected my performance," said Au, who reached a career high of world No 6 in May last year.
"There has been a lot of mental pressure, especially in the pre-tournament period. After discussion with coaching staff, we think it would be better if I seek assistance from sports psychologists.
"There is a month before the Hong Kong Open starts in early December … hopefully the problem can be resolved by that time."
Head coach Tony Choi Yuk-kwan said his charge had gone through a lot of ups and downs this year and it was time to try something new to help her.
"She clinched the Asian championships in May, but can also lose in the first round of a tournament," Choi said. "She needs to get over it if she wants to stay competitive."
Yesterday's draw of the HK$1.6 million Hong Kong Open, to be held on December 1-8, was a boost for Au who was drawn to play a qualifier in the first round. If she wins, she will likely meet Malaysian Low Wee Wern of Malaysia. Au beat her in the Asian Championships final earlier this year to clinch Hong Kong's first ever Asian title.
"I won't think too much about the opponent at this stage," Au said. "Even a qualifier is of unknown quality as I lost to one of them in the Hong Kong Open first round last year. All I want to do is to stay focused, seek advice from a sports psychologist and get myself mentally ready for the tournament."
Joey Chan Ho-ling, the newly crowned East Asian Games champion, was drawn to take on sixth-seed Jenny Duncalf of England in the first round, while compatriot Liu Tsz-ling, who is on a wild card, faces a tough match against Raneem El Weleily of Egypt, the world No 3.
"We hope our players can gain sufficient international exposure as we are preparing for next year's Asian Games, which is our major target," Choi said.
In the men's draw, Leo Au Chun-ming, who beat compatriot Max Lee Ho-yin in the Hong Kong Closed Championships to win a wild card for the hosts, faces a difficult match against world No 6 Mohamed Elshorbagy of Egypt.