Hong Kong Squash Open
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2018 Hong Kong Squash Open champions - Mohamed Elshorbagy and Joelle King. Photo: Hong Kong Squash

‘Time running very short’ for Hong Kong Squash Open, with government yet to give the green light

  • November’s top-tier tournament at risk of being cancelled if quarantine requirements are not confirmed by next week
  • Squash chiefs desperate not to cancel event for fourth year in a row, ‘but must have approval to start all required procedures’

Officials fear “time is running very short” to hold the Hong Kong Squash Open for the first time since 2018, with the government yet to approve quarantine requirements for November’s top-tier event.

Organisers plan to kick off the US$$329,000 tournament – a platinum event on the sport’s world tour – on November 28, a week after the Malaysia Open, with the finals to take place on December 4 at the Hong Kong Park Sports Centre.

The Professional Squash Association’s website is yet to list the event, however, because the local governing body is still waiting for the green light from government officials, with the tournament at risk of being cancelled for a fourth year in a row.

“We are very keen to have the event back after missing it for the last three years,” said Hong Kong Squash executive director Emily Mak. “It is one of the most popular events among the players and is welcomed by the fans with a top-class field.

Former Hong Kong No 1 Annie Au Wing-chi plays Amanda Sobhy of the United States at the 2018 Hong Kong Open. Photo: Dickson Lee

“Also, it’s a top-tier competition offering significant ranking points to the players. We need these points to help our players get a better draw ahead of the Hangzhou Asian Games which is our prime target next year.”

As the hosts, Hong Kong can enter two men and two women as wild cards, while other players will have to rely on their world rankings to qualify for the 48-player main draw in each category.

The official said they had been in discussions with the government since May, but must obtain approval before they can finalise the draws.

“The tournament will take place in a closed loop environment like other international events being held in Hong Kong these days, because it involves overseas players,” said Mak. “A lot of paperwork and discussions have taken place during this period, back and forth, because of the required safety measures during the pandemic.

Ho Tse-lok (right) and Chan Sin-yuk are two upcoming players aiming for next year’s Asian Games. Photo: Hong Kong Squash

“But we must obtain the government’s approval on all these measures before we can announce it to the players, so that they can decide if they want to come or not.

“The world governing body [World Squash] fully understands our situation and has been helping us in many areas to make it happen, but the players may have other thoughts as they are the ones who will have to come to play in a restricted setting.

“There are also other related health measures for spectators but it is not our priority at the moment. We must first get all of these quarantine requirements confirmed before we can open entry for the players, and time is running very short.”

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Mak said they now planned to close entry for players in mid-October, which will give them five weeks to prepare for the event.

“We must have the approval by next week so that we can start all required procedures for entry,” she said. “We do not want to scrap the tournament for the fourth year in a row.”

The Hong Kong Open was last held in 2018 when the then-world No 1 Mohamed Elshorbagy of Egypt lifted the men’s title, with Joelle King of New Zealand clinching the women’s trophy, her first title in a world series event.

But the 2019 anti-government protests stopped the tournament from happening for the first time since the inaugural edition in 1985. The pandemic then forced organisers to call off the tournament in 2020 and 2021.