Hong Kong ‘in the shop window for Asian squash’, says confident coach ahead of 2018 Asian Games campaign
Coach Robertson ready to ‘create history and make waves’ with Hong Kong team in Jakarta as they compete not only for medals, but for sport’s survival in the city
After winning both the men’s and women’s Asian squash team championships in South Korea earlier this year, Hong Kong head coach Chris Robertson insists it is time for his players to cement themselves as the continent’s finest at the upcoming Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia.
“We’ve put ourselves in the shop window for Asian squash,” said former world number two Robertson, who joined the set-up one year ago after seven years as England coach. “We [also] medalled at the world men’s championship and the women’s team medalled the year before – that’s good for confidence because if you can medal at the world champs, you should be a contender at the Asian Games.
“There’s nothing bigger than the Asian Games,” added the Australian. “It’s sport against sport; you’re competing not just to get medals for Hong Kong, but to be a sport in Hong Kong. It has an extra edge to it.
“We’re looking to bring success back to Hong Kong just as we did at the championships but it’s difficult [for players] not to look ahead. Our job as coaches is to pull them back and ask them to focus on their next match. I want to be practical and logical as we build up to Jakarta,” Robertson said.
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Max Lee Ho-yin, Leo Au Chun-ming, Yip Tsz-fung, Henry Leung Chi-hin, Annie Au Wing-chi, Joey Chan Ho-ling, Ho Tze-lok and Lee Ka-yi joined the coaching staff at the Hong Kong Sports Institute squash courts on Wednesday as they turn their full attention towards the Games beginning August 18.
Star siblings Leo and Annie Au, ranked 20th and 11th in the world respectively, have thrived under Robertson’s wing as he continues to instil a “quiet arrogance” in his players.
“Since the new coach started, I think my game has diversified a lot and it’s had a positive effect,” said 28-year-old Leo, who stunned the squash world after defeating title holder and three-time world champion, Ramy Ashour, of Egypt, in his opening match at the Hong Kong Open before he had to retire from his second round match with a shoulder injury.
“My target [in Jakarta] is to finish higher than last time – it was my tournament debut and I lost in the quarter finals.”
Elder sister Annie capped off an equally impressive season with a win over the legendary Nicol David of Malaysia. The 29-year-old hopes to claw back up the world rankings and re-establish squash’s popularity in the city.
“The Asian Games get a lot of coverage so if we do well, we’ll get more eyes on squash – at the moment it’s not as popular as some of the other sports,” said the former world number six, adding that she is aiming for a medal but does not want to think about the colour because “I’m worried I’ll put too much pressure on myself.”
The siblings acknowledged that Robertson would prefer his players to assert more confidence on the court, and while they “may not outright say that we’re definitely going to win a tournament”, they are learning to play with belief while maintaining the reputation of the Institute and Hong Kong Squash.
“The players need to understand how good everyone outside of Hong Kong thinks they are – that sometimes goes very unnoticed,” said Robertson. “A lot of the Hong Kong players are also very understated.
“I don’t think we’re going to have players shouting from the rooftops or being brash, but why can’t we be steely and have that quiet belief in ourselves? That quiet arrogance translates into wins and titles and I would like to think we have a bunch of players getting there.
“It’s about creating history and making waves because you’re only around the sport for a finite period of time. Grasp it now and you should be hungry to grasp it again in 2022. I really want them to have a successful Games because I want them to know that they are as good as everyone else thinks they are.”