On a dramatic day of second round action at the Hong Kong Squash Centre, the women’s Hong Kong Open lost three of its top seeds but gained a home quarter-finalist for the first time ever, not once but twice!
The men’s event went much more as expected with seven of the eight seeded players reaching the quarter-finals which will feature three Englishmen.
Men’s Round Two:
 Nick Matthew (Eng) bt Daryl Selby (Eng) 12/10, 11/7, 11/8 (65m)
 Gregory Gaultier (Fra) bt Omar Mosaad (Egy) 11/6, 4/11, 11/4, 11/6 (68m)
 Peter Barker (Eng) bt Cameron Pilley (Aus) 11/8, 11/7, 11/4 (47m)
 James Willstrop (Eng) bt Olli Tuominen (Fin) 11/3, 11/8, 11/6 (30m)
 Amr Shabana (Egy) bt Hisham Ashour (Egy) 11/5, 11/7, 12/10 (31m)
Stewart Boswell (Aus) bt Tom Richards (Eng) 11/4, 11/9, 11/0 (42m)
Azlan Iskandar (Mas) bt  Mohamed El Shorbagy (Egy) 6/11, 11/6, 14/12, 11/7 (56m)
 Karim Darwish (Egy) bt [Q] Tarek Momen (Egy) 11/3, 11/2, 5/11, 11/7
Women’s Round Two:
 Nicol David (Mas) bt  Donna Urquhart (Aus) 11/6, 11/7, 14/12 (41m)
 Laura Massaro (Eng) bt  Delia Arnold (Mas) 11/5, 11/3, 11/5 (23m)
 Annie Au (Hkg) bt  Joelle King (Nzl) 12/10, 2/11, 11/9, 11/6 (58m)
 Rachael Grinham (Aus) bt  Jaclyn Hawkes (Nzl) 11/5, 4/11, 8/11, 11/2, 11/8 (44m)
 Raneem El Weleily (Egy) bt  Madeline Perry (Irl) 11/7, 11/7, 11/8 (29m)
 Joey Chan (Hkg) bt  Kasey Brown (Aus) 11/8, 11/5, 11/8 (29m)
 Camille Serme (Fra) bt Emma Beddoes (Eng) 11/9, 11/3, 11/7 (34m)
 Low Wee Wern (Mas) bt  Jenny Duncalf (Eng) 11/7, 11/7, 11/1 (28m)
English hat-trick as seven seeds progress
In what might be the first of several English victories today, Peter Barker opened proceedings with a solid win over Cameron Pilley, taking two fairly tight first games before running away with the third against a dispirited Australian.
James Willstrop then followed suit, taking the first and third games against Olli Tuominen with something to spare and holding off the Finn’s challenge in the middle game, to set up a third meeting with Barker in just a few weeks after their US and Qatar clashes.
Nick Matthew made it three out of three for the English – although he would, given that he was playing fellow Englishman Daryl Selby. While it was never easy, with Selby flinging himself around the court in the third especially, the world champion came through in straight games.
An all-Egyptian match ensued, a repeat of Amr Shabana and Hisham Ashour’s world open shootout in Rotterdam and the style was the same, so too was the result although this time five-time HK champion won in three straight, and was poleaxed on the final point for his trouble as Ashour sent him crashing to the ground for a no let.
Meanwhile Gregory Gaultier was getting the better of a long, let-filled encounter with Egyptian Omar Mosaad, the Frenchman winning 11/6, 4/11, 11/4, 11/6 and very happy to take a stroke on the last point.
The only upset of the day came when Malaysia’s Azlan Iskandar continued his impressive form from yesterday to oust seventh seeded Mohamed El Shorbagy 6/11, 11/6, 14/12, 11/7, and he’ll face another Egyptian, second seed Karim Darwish, for a place in the last four.
Second and Fourth seeds out
but that’s not the main story …
The diminutive Annie utilised her experience on this court and her delicate shotmaking skills to good effect, only in the second game did New Zealand’s Joelle King manage to get on top.
It was the Hong Kong girl who got the better of the three close games though, despite the match being overphysical at times with Au receiving a conduct warning for blocking and being on the floor several times as King tried to get past.
The third was crucial as King missed a volley drop which would have given her game ball, and she was always playing catchup in the fourth.
If the crowd were delighted by the first match, they were stunned by the second as Malaysia’s 13th seed Low Wee Wern sent world number two Jenny Duncalf crashing out 11/7, 11/7, 11/1.
The Englishwoman didn’t look comfortable against HK youngster Lee Ka-Yi yesterday, and after losing two close first games today she visibly wilted as Low pressed home her advantage.
“Jenny wasn’t 100%, I know she’s not been well over the last couple of days,” said Wee Wern. “The first two games were close then I got a good lead in the third, I knew I had to keep on pressing as Jenny has all the experience and even at 7/0 I couldn’t afford to relax.
“It’s good to be able to carry on my good form from in the worlds last week, it’s the last tournament of the year, so come on !!!”
Losing one top seed is careless, losing two would be, well, sensational, but Rachael Grinham managed to sneak home against Jaclyn Hawkes on the upstairs courts.
“I got a good start but then from 4-all in the second she just ran away with it,” said the Australian third seed.
“I was trying to make her run but was taking it in short too much and she was just feeding off it, so I had to change game plan and keep it at the back more.”
That change of tactics did the trick, but a lead of 9/4 in the fifth was seriously threatened as the Kiwi refused to go quietly.
“She never gives in, so I knew I had to keep on pressing, but in your mind you think you’ve got it won so it’s difficult when she starts coming back, in the end I was just grateful to get to 10-8 rather than 9-all, that would have made it very difficult.”
Grinham faces home favourite Au next.
“She’s always one of the most difficult to play,” admitted Grinham, “it’s tough to get any rallies going as she’ll chop it in as soon as she can – if she wants to chop it into the tin that’s fine of course!
“It should be good playing with a big crowd, that doesn’t get to me at all and for her it might help or it might make her nervous. We’ve played a couple of times this year and won one each so we’ll see how it goes.”
Camille Serme put an end to the run of England’s Emma Beddoes, the seventh seed winning 11/9, 11/3, 11/7 in just over half an hour.
“I was able to play the right game at the crucial times,” said the French number one. She’s a very spirited player, but I think I was able to make her work hard, to grind her physically, as in the third, I could see she was struggling to pick up my attacks.
“Tomorrow, revenge time against Wee Wern: it will be a big battle!”
Madeline Perry wouldn’t choose to spend as much time at the front of the court as she did tonight, but against Raneem El Weleily on a court like this she didn’t have much choice.
Looking cool, calm and composed, the Egyptian, who won her second world junior title here in 2007, was in charge for all but a brief spell in the third as she produced a second major, if not entirely unexpected, upset of the day in the women’s draw.
“I felt pretty calm on there tonight,” confessed El Weleily, “sometimes I can get too calm but I’m happy that I stayed composed tonight. I started to rush things a little in the third and hit a few tins but stuck with it and managed to turn it around.”
She may be going for a seventh straight HK title to go with her six World Open crowns, the first of which was won here back in 2005, but Nicol David didn’t have it all her own way against Donna Urquhart today.
The tall Australian stuck with David until 6-all in the first, fell behind early in the second but then extended a close third game, even getting a game ball at 11/10, but eventually the relentless pressure that Nicol exerts paid dividends as she went through 11/6, 11/7, 14/12.
David’s quarter-final opponent will be England’s Laura Massaro, who was in no mood to become another seeded casualty as she eased past Delia Arnold 11/5, 11/3, 11/5, leaving the court 9 stage free for the final act as Hong Kong’s Joey Chan aimed to join Annie Au in the quarters, and how she rose to the challenge.
The 23-year-old who won the Macau Open just days ago looked supercharged on court, and the pace and accuracy she showed proved too much for sixth seed Kasey Brown as the Australian went down 11/8, 11/5, 11/8 in just under half an hour to the delight of the packed crowd.
“It’s definitely my best ever win,” said a delighted Joey, “and it’s fantastic to reach the quarter-finals along with Annie. The pressure was all on Kasey and I could sense she wasn’t moving as well as she can so I kept going for my shots and it worked.”
Head Coach Tony Choi was delighted too:
“To have two players in the quarter-finals for the first time, this is payback for some of the work we’ve put in over the last 10 to 15 years.
“It just goes to show that if you want to progress at the world level you have to have the commitment – Annie and Joey have been full time for three years now, and this is Joey’s first big breakthrough, we’re all delighted for her.”
So, the second and fourth seeds are out, but the big story is that not only does Hong Kong have its first ever women’s quarter-finalist … it has two of them!
Full reports, quotes, photos and videos available on TODAY in Hong Kong: www.squashsite.co.uk/hk/today.htm