Local hope Annie Au reaches the last four at Hong Kong Squash Open
Diminutive ace too strong for towering second seed Laura Massaro of England
The diminutive Annie Au Wing-chi pulled off a David-and-Goliath act with a 3-1 win over towering second seed Laura Massaro of England at the Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Hong Kong Open on Friday.
The 1.55-metre Hong Kong ace showed great courage and skill as she wrapped up the quarter-final tie in 50 minutes, winning 11-6, 11-5, 9-11, 11-9 over her 1.73-metre opponent at the Squash Centre in Admiralty.
It is the second time Au, now ranked 16th in the world, has reached the penultimate stage of the US$220,000 tournament after losing two years ago in the semi-finals to world number one Nicol David of Malaysia.
"I never expected to reach the semi-finals, never," said a delighted Au, who has had an up-and-down year, clinching the Asian championships title in May but also losing to an unseeded mainlander in the East Asian Games in October.
"I had been planning to finish a school assignment tonight, but now I have to prepare for the next match," she said after her win.
Au's world ranking has dropped from a career high of sixth in mid-2012, but in front of a packed Squash Centre, she seemed back to her best, controlling the match after building a two-game lead. She should have sealed victory in the third, but Massaro, who defeated world number one David in a sensational British Open final in May, dug deep to pull one back 11-9.
Massaro had a couple of exchanges with the referee over a number of calls, but Au was not affected, keeping focused on the match and displaying accurate shots to send the second seed home.
Au now takes on third seed Raneem El Weleily of Egypt with the tournament moving across the harbour to Tsim Sha Tsui's Cultural Centre Piazza and a glass court.
El Weleily destroyed compatriot Omneya Abdel Kawy 11-8, 11-9, 11-4 to reach the last four.
In the men's event, top seed Ramy Ashour of Egypt had to retire from his quarter-final against Borja Golan of Spain due to injury despite leading 2-1. Ashour took the first two games 11-5, but lost the third 11-1 when he apparently strained a leg muscle. He retired when trailing 7-0 in the fourth.
Third seed James Willstrop of England and Mohamed Elshorbagy of Egypt, the fifth seed, played the longest match of the day with the Briton eventually coming out the winner after 122 minutes with a 9-11, 9-11, 11-9, 11-9, 20-18 victory.