SQUASH

10 in a row – but can Nicol David do it again at this year’s Hong Kong Squash Open?

Former world number one faces stiff challenge from younger aggressive brigade, including Egyptian Nour El Sherbini, at the star-studded Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Hong Kong Open on August 21-28

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 July, 2016, 6:40pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 July, 2016, 10:34pm

Can she do it again? Squash superstar Nicol David of Malaysia has won Hong Kong’s annual open 10 years in a row – but she faces a daunting task to keep the magic going against a star-studded line-up next month.

Now aged 32 and her world ranking down to No 4, David’s impressive unbeaten run in the city will be under serious threat at the Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Hong Kong Open on August 21-28.

In 2005, she won the World Open title in Hong Kong, which sparked her 10 in a row, but now the challenge comes from a bunch of aggressive younger players from Egypt headed by world number one Nour El Sherbini.

“Before it was easy to predict the women’s final as it’s always been between David and another player, but it may not be the same story this year,” said Annie Au Wing-chi, Hong Kong’s leading player who ranks 11th in the world.

“David is not young any more and will face many high quality players. But the Malaysian always brims with confidence when playing in Hong Kong and will not easily surrender her crown without putting up a fight. It will be interesting.”

The women’s competition features all the top-10 players in the world while nine out of the top-ten men’s players will be here vying for a slice of the HK$2.06 million purse.

Au is drawn to take on top seed El Sherbini in the second round after meeting a qualifier in the opening stage, while Joey Chan Ho-ling takes on seventh seed Amanda Sobhy of the United States. Ho Tze-lok, a wild-card entry, will meet former world number two Jenny Duncalf of England.

In the men’s draw, Max Lee Ho-yin, the world number 18 and the highest ranking player from Hong Kong, starts his campaign against a qualifier and is likely to take on eighth seed Ali Farag of Egypt in the next stage. Leo Au Chun-ming will meet last year’s finalist, Cameron Pilley of Australia, the world number 14, with Yip Tsz-fung to meet fourth seed Miguel Rodriguez of Colombia.

Unbeatable: Nicol David proves she's still queen of the Hong Kong Open

“The women’s draw is not easy compared to the men’s,” said Hong Kong coach Tony Choi Yuk-kwan. “But the Hong Kong Open is the first major event kicking off the new season and we will have had a break of two months to prepare for it. A summer training programme has been under way to get [local players] ready for the season and hopefully they can pull off some good performances in front of the home crowd.”

The qualifying stages will take place at the Football Club in Happy Valley before moving to the Hong Kong Squash Centre in Admiralty for the main rounds. A glass court will be set up at the Hong Kong Park Sports Centre from the quarter-final stage.