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Au prefers to play down talk of winning title

Annie Au
Melanie Ho

Two years ago, once the final ball had been hit, Annie Au Wing-chi wasn't sure what to think.

'Oh, she won,' Au said of her Hong Kong teammate. But then a moment later, Au realised Chiu Ka-kei's victory meant Hong Kong had won the team event at the World Junior Women's Championship.

It was a shock - Au didn't think they could have beaten the Egyptians - but even with the win, she is still unsure whether the team can repeat their success.

'We have to try our best,' Au said. 'We have to defend and then when we have the chance, we can attack.'

Much of the uncertainty comes from the fact only Au and Leung Shin-nga return from the 2005 championship team, as the other two members, Chiu and Joey Chan Ho-ling, are now above the age limit and have been replaced by Liu Tsz-ling and Tong Tsz-wing. As the individual event began yesterday, coach Tony Choi Yuk-kwan said he wouldn't predict a repeat for Hong Kong, but said the team had prepared well and were fit enough to compete.

'Last time, we had four very mature players,' Choi said. 'If the players perform, I think we have a chance to make it into the top four, but it's not easy.'

Complicating Hong Kong's chances of success is the top team from Egypt, who also have the first seed and defending champion in Raneem El Weleily.

El Weleily, who plays on the women's senior tour, said she tried out the court at Cornwall Street Park Squash Centre in Kowloon Tong, where the early rounds are being played - the event shifts to the Boundary Street Sports Centre in Mong Kok for the semis and finals - and though she found it played slow, she wasn't bothered.

'I like any court,' El Weleily said. 'I don't really care.'

There are more than 100 athletes from 24 countries in the event which runs until August 11.

The individual event will precede the team event and as the countries won't know who they will compete against in the team event until Saturday, Choi is hoping the individual matches will help his team peak at the right time.

Choi said challenging matches and good exposure to players from teams like Egypt, New Zealand, Malaysia and England could only help and he was excited by Au's chances in the individual competition.

'Annie will have a good chance to get a medal,' he said of the Asian junior champion.

Au, however, wasn't as certain.

'Maybe to get into the semi-final, I think I have a 70 per cent chance,' Au said. 'I have to look for my performance that day and to make sure I'm not nervous because when we play we have to with confidence.'

All to play for

The number of countries taking part in the World Junior Women's Championship: 24