Draw devoid of HK players
THE Pak Fah Yeow World Women's Squash Championship gets into full swing at the Hong Kong Squash Centre today without a single Hong Kong player in the main draw after the territory's last hope bowed out of the qualifying competition yesterday.
Up-and-coming Rebecca Chiu, who is more accustomed to local and regional competitions as Asia's top-ranked junior player, was no match for England's Donia Leeves' who scored a 20-minute 9-0, 9-1, 9-2 thrashing.
It was a case of David meeting Goliath as five-foot-10-inch Leeves ran 16-year-old Chiu ragged with her powerful strokeplay.
Leeves' imposing frame was also too much for petite Chiu, who was never allowed to play her game and could only offer token resistance to the big 20-year-old.
Hong Kong's number one Chiu last met Leeves in the World Junior Championships in Kuala Lumpur two years ago where she was also dealt a 3-0 defeat.
Leeves will have her hands full against Australia's Sarah Fitz-Gerald, the world number four, whom she is drawn to meet in the first round tomorrow.
As this year's British Open semi-finalist, Fitz-Gerald should get the better of world number 26 Leeves.
Hong Kong's former champion Dawn Olsen, who has done credit to herself on the professional circuit in the past, would have been the territory's best hope in the tournament but she withdrew citing back injury.
With Chiu out and no wild cards awarded to local players in the main draw, Hong Kong are without a player despite the territory hosting the world's premier women's tournament.
Other qualifiers earned their passage through to the main draw without too many worries. American Amy Milanek, South Africa's Carla Venter, England's Tracey Shenton and Wales' Tegwen Malik all won comfortably in straight games but will take on their more fancied opponents in the main draw over the next two days.
Meanwhile, two-time defending world champion Michelle Martin is a woman on a mission when she starts her campaign this afternoon on Centre Court against New Zealand's Sarah Cook.
World number one Martin lost to fellow Australian Liz Irving in last Saturday's Malaysian Open final and will be looking for a good start as she aims for her third successive world title.
Cook is no pushover and as a former world junior runner-up and world number 32, the New Zealander should provide ample opposition to the world's top-ranked player, who is also the reigning British Open champion.
Martin should retain her top ranking even if she loses in the early rounds as she is more than 900 points ahead of world number two, England's Suzanne Horner.
England's Cassie Jackman is the next highest seed in tonight's first-round action as the world number three opens her campaign by taking on compatriot Linda Charman.
Today's first-round schedule (top half of draw).
5.30pm: Centre Court - Sue Wright (England) v Natarsha Tippett (Australia); Court Nine: Jane Martin (England) v Carla Ventre (South Africa).
6pm: Centre Court: Michelle Martin (Australia) v Sarah Cook (New Zealand); Court Nine: Vicki Cardwell (Australia) v Tegwen Malik (Wales).
7pm: Centre Court: Cassie Jackman (England) v Linda Charman (England); Court Nine: Heather Wallace (Canada) v Sabine Baum (German).
7.45: Centre Court: Carol Owens (Australia) v Meeghan Bell (Australia); Court Nine: Philippa Beams (New Zealand) v Hugoline van Hoorn (Holland).