Annie Au
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Choi looks ahead as HK take world title

Annie Au

The Hong Kong girls' team triumph in the world junior championships at the weekend has left coach Tony Choi Yuk-kwan eager for even better results when the territory hosts the same event in 2007.

The SAR girls' team won their first-ever world junior title in Herentals, Belgium, pulling off a major victory over top seeds and pre-tournament favourites Egypt in the final.

Comprising Annie Au Wing-chi, Joey Chan Hoi-ling and Chiu Ka-kei, Hong Kong, the second seeds, defeated the pre-tournament favourites 2-1 in a three-rubber match and finished first out of 18 teams.

'Although Egypt was the better team on paper, our girls played one of their best games to win the title from them. It was just marvellous,' said Choi from Belgium yesterday.

'Hong Kong will be hosting the next world event in two years and I will start preparation for the event shortly after we return to the territory,' he said.

Of the three members, both Au and Chiu will not be available for the next world event as they will pass the age limit of 19 by 2007, but the coach has contingency plans.

'We have had a lot of young players coming through the ranks over the last couple of years and what we need to do is to give them sufficient international exposure so that they can reach the world standard,' said Choi.

'Our current squad has spent quite a long period playing in Europe against some of the best players before the world event. And the result speaks for itself.'

The coach paid special tribute to Au, who recovered from a disappointing individual event and steered the team to victory.

'She [Au] was our leading player but failed in the early stages of the individual event. However, we have never lost our confidence in her and kept our faith with her in the team event. And she lived up to the expectations and made improvement as the event progressed,' said Choi. 'Although she lost her tie in the final, she had performed well enough throughout the entire team competition and led us to victory.'

In the first rubber, Chan beat individual semi-finalist Sara Badr 10-9, 9-6, 9-0 to give Hong Kong a perfect start.

Individual champion Raneem El Weleily then levelled the match with a 9-3, 9-3, 9-0 victory over Au.

Chiu, a 9/16 seed in the individual event, then faced Egypt's Lina El Tannir, the 5/8 seed. The Hong Kong girl trailed after three games but rallied to win 10-8, 5-9, 6-9, 9-4, 9-3 to give Hong Kong victory.