Annie Au ensures no repeat of shock upset
Local favourite battles through in first round of Hong Kong Open
Annie Au Wing-chi had to dig deep for victory in the opening round of the Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Open at the Squash Centre in Admiralty on Tuesday.
The home favourite battled through for a 3-2 (11-9, 7-11, 11-8, 4-11, 11-2) win over Yathreb Adel of Egypt, the losing finalist in this year's World Junior Championship.
"I needed a convincing victory as I haven't done very well after clinching the Asian championship in May and I thought I did it today," said a delighted Au. "Adel is a qualifier and although she is only 17, she is one of the fast-improving players on the tour. Her attacking style made her very difficult to handle.
"In fact, I did not have too much time to prepare for her because she came through qualifying and I only knew the day before I would play against her.
"She's won the British Junior Open at under-13, -15 and -17 levels including this year, and was silver medallist in the World Junior Championships and has won many matches at challenge cup level."
Au, whose world ranking has dropped to 17th from a career-high sixth in May last year, is eager to prove herself in front of the home crowd after a shock exit last year, having become the first local player to reach the semi-finals of the biggest squash tournament in Hong Kong in 2011.
"I had a good tournament in 2011 but lost in the opening round here last year. I did not want to see the same thing happen again," she said. "I started the preparation this time a month ago and also did exercises to improve my fitness.
"I am happy I could keep focused during the match today and was able to hang in there even when I was under great pressure."
Au will now face another qualifier in the second round on Thursday after Emma Beddoes of England shocked seventh seed Low Wee Wern of Malaysia 3-2.
"On paper, it will be easier playing against a qualifier than Low [who Au beat in the Asian Championship final this year]," said Au. "But there would have been less pressure on me against Low while Beddoes did a good job today. I must pay full attention if I want to win through."
Hong Kong's Joey Chan Ho-ling, meanwhile, will start her campaign against fifth seed Jenny Duncalf of England in the opening round.
Chan, crowned East Asian champion in Tianjin in October, was confident of putting up a close fight.
"I haven't had too much time for training this year because of a lot of competitions, but there has been no major event after the East Asian Games and my form is improving due to a month-long training stint in Hong Kong," she said. "Duncalf is a quality player but the style of English players is very basic and I think I can handle her well."