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02/12/2012
HONG KONG OPEN (Men) 2012
 

Ashour Shines In 'High Calibre' Hong Kong Climax

Reports
Shabana Sets PSA Record  Hong Kong IOC Inspection
  Final      Semi Finals      Quarter Finals     2nd Round    1st Round   Qualifying

Event History
2006      2007     2008     2010     2011
 
 Hong Kong Open2012
Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Open,
Hong Kong
, $150k
Men's Draw
Round One
27-28 Nov
Round Two
29 Nov
Quarters
30 Nov
Semis
01 Dec
Final
02 DEc
[1] James Willstrop (Eng)
5-11, 11-8, 11-3, 11-8 (73m)
Adrian Grant (Eng)
James Willstrop
 11/8, 11/9, 11/7
 Ong Beng Hee
James Willstrop
11-7, 11-7, 11-4 (57m)
Borja Golan
James Willstrop
11/8, 11/5, 11/9 (57m)
Karim Darwish



James Willstrop
11-8, 3-11, 11-7, 11-6 (64m)
Ramy Ashour
Ong Beng Hee (Mas)
9-11, 11-5, 11-9, 8-11, 11-5 (75m)
Miguel Angel Rodriguez (Col)
Borja Golan (Esp)
11-7, 11-5, 11-2 (50m)
[Q] Joe Lee (Eng)
Borja Golan
11/6, 11/9, 8/11, 11/9
Mohamed El Shorbagy
[Q] Ryan Cuskelly (Aus)
11-8, 11-5, 14-12 (38m)
[8] Mohamed El Shorbagy (Egy)
[6] Peter Barker (Eng)
7-11, 11-6, 11-5, 11-6 (44m)
[Q] Karim Abdel Gawad (Egy)
Peter Barker
 13/11, 11/8, 11/8 (65m)
Cameron Pilley
Peter Barker
w/o
Karim Darwish
Cameron Pilley (Aus)
11-8, 11-8, 10-12, 5-11, 11-8 (82m)
[Q] Chris Simpson (Eng)
Daryl Selby (Eng)
7-11, 11-8, 11-8, 8-11, 11-8 (95m)
Alister Walker (Bot)
Daryl Selby
6/11, 11/4, 12/10, 11/6
Karim Darwish
[4] Karim Darwish (Egy)
12-10, 11-6, 11-9 (34m)
Leo Au (Hkg)
[Q] Gregoire Marche (Fra)
11-5, 11-5, 11-5 (39m)
[3] Gregory Gaultier (Fra)
Gregory Gaultier
11/4, 11/5, 11/5 (43m)
Nicolas Mueller
Gregory Gaultier
8-11, 11-8, 11-8, 10-3 ret. (69m)
Ramy Ashour
Ramy Ashour
11/9, 11/9, 13/11 (65m)
Nick Matthew
Nicolas Mueller (Sui)
11-9, 11-7, 11-7 (50m)
[Q] Adrian Waller (Eng)
Saurav Ghosal (Ind)
11-3, 11-5, 11-4 (42m)
[Q] Max Lee (Hkg)
Saurav Ghosal
11/7, 11/5, 10/12, 12/10 (61m)
Ramy Ashour
Tarek Momen (Egy)
11-7, 11-8, 11-2 (29m)
[5] Ramy Ashour (Egy)
[Q] Mathieu Castagnet (Fra)
11-9, 11-7, 11-7 (35m)
[7] Amr Shabana (Egy)
Amr Shabana
10/12, 10/12, 11/7, 11/7, 11/7 (70m)
 Tom Richards
Amr Shabana
w/o
Nick Matthew
Tom Richards (Eng)
11-7, 11-7, 7-11, 11-2 (47m)
Olli Tuominen (Fin)
Steve Coppinger (Rsa)
8-11, 14-12, 11-8, 11-9 (69m)
Omar Mosaad (Egy)
Steve Coppinger
11/6, 11/6, 11/8 (35m)
Nick Matthew
Simon Rosner (Ger)
12-10, 12-10, 11-6 (49m)
[2] Nick Matthew (Eng)

Qualifying finals:

Qualifying finals:
Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) bt Martin Knight (NZL) 11-6, 11-4, 8-11, 11-3 (60m)
Max Lee (HKG) bt Henrik Mustonen (FIN) 11-6, 11-2, 11-8 (33m)
Gregoire Marche (FRA) bt Mohd Ali Anwar Reda (EGY) 11-9, 11-8, 10-12, 11-9 (67m)
Joe Lee (ENG) bt Alan Clyne (SCO) 11-9, 11-8, 3-11, 11-4 (62m)
Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt Shawn Delierre (CAN) 10-12, 11-5, 4-11, 11-6, 11-2 (48m)
Chris Simpson (ENG) bt Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS) 11-5, 11-8, 12-14, 13-11 (76m)
Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) bt Siddharth Suchde (IND) 11-6, 11-4, 11-4 (39m)
Adrian Waller (ENG) bt Marwan El Shorbagy (EGY) 7-11, 3-11, 11-7, 11-9, 11-7 (55m)

1st qualifying round:
Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) bt Cheuk Yan Tang (HKG) 11-5, 11-4, 11-8 (25m)
Martin Knight (NZL) bt Yip Tsz Fung (HKG) 11-4, 12-10, 8-11, 11-5 (40m)
Henrik Mustonen (FIN) bt Mark Krajcsak (HUN) 11-5, 11-8, 11-9 (34m)
Max Lee (HKG) bt Henry Leung (HKG) 11-6, 11-5, 11-6 (23m)
Mohd Ali Anwar Reda (EGY) bt Muhd Asyraf Azan (MAS) 11-13, 11-5, 11-8, 11-9 (56m)
Gregoire Marche (FRA) bt Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) 11-4, 12-10, 12-10 (32m)
Joe Lee (ENG) bt Hon Fung Wong (HKG) 11-3, 11-3, 11-2 (20m)
Alan Clyne (SCO) bt Yeung Ho Wai (HKG) 11-5, 11-5, 11-7 (26m)
Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt Chris Lo Cheuk-Hin (HKG) 11-4, 11-7, 11-6 (20m)
Shawn Delierre (CAN) bt Yuen Tsun-Hei (HKG) 11-7, 11-8, 11-6 (34m)
Chris Simpson (ENG) bt Wong Chi-Him (! HKG) 11-3, 11-9, 11-8 (25m)
Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS) bt Omar Abdel Meguid (EGY) 11-6, 11-7, 12-10 (57m)
Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) bt Ma Tsz Hei (HKG) 11-3, 11-6, 11-5 (27m)
Siddharth Suchde (IND) bt Alex Lau (HKG) 11-6, 11-2, 11-5 (30m)
Adrian Waller (ENG) bt Ivan Yuen (MAS) 9-11, 11-9, 11-6, 11-6 (64m)
Marwan El Shorbagy (EGY) bye

 

Final
 

Ashour Shines In 'High Calibre' Hong Kong Climax

Squash 'of the highest calibre' brought the 2012 Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Open to a magnificent climax today when Egypt's former champion Ramy Ashour beat England's defending champion James Willstrop in the final of the sixth PSA World Series event of the year to regain the title he first won in 2010.

After a rain-affected semi-final session which had to be played in the Hong Kong Squash Centre, the final was staged - as planned - on a spectacular all-glass open-air showcourt erected at the Cultural Centre Piazza on the Hong Kong waterfront at Tsim Sha Tsui.

Founded in 1985, this year's 27th edition of the championship took on greater significance than ever before as it was attended by delegates of the International Olympic Committee - 'inspecting' the event with a view to assessing the sport's credentials to join the Olympic Games programme in 2020.

Both players in the final were on top of their game. Top seed Willstrop, the 29-year-old from Leeds who has topped the world rankings for all but one month of this year, opened up an 8-7 lead in the opening game - but world No4 Ashour reeled off four points in a row to take the game.

The Englishman struck back to draw level, dropping just three points as he dominated the second game.

But Ashour upped his game in the third and fourth and after 64 minutes of stunning squash raised his hand in celebration of his second Hong Kong Open title by an 11-8, 3-11, 11-7, 11-6 margin.

"What a match - squash of the highest calibre," declared event MC Vanessa Atkinson, the former world number one and world champion from the Netherlands, as she welcomed back the players for post-match interviews.

"It's very disappointing - I was here to win the match and I didn't do that," said Willstrop. "But I wanted to give my best - and I did that.

"He forced me to play loose balls and he capitalised on that brilliantly," added the Yorkshireman after his 34th PSA World Tour final.

"It's been an encouraging week, though, to get to the final - and the Hong Kong Open final is a serious occasion!"

Ashour was his usual voluble self: "It's been a long week - and, as I've said before, every time it feels like five years!

"But to win my second Hong Kong Open is something of which I am very proud," added the 25-year-old from Cairo.

"James was very consistent - after all, he's been world number one for a long time.

"But things went my way tonight - and that made the difference.

"Hopefully can get back to world number one - I will do my best," added Ashour, who now has 26 PSA Tour titles to his credit.

"I want to thank everyone who has helped with this event - they've done a great job."

 

Semi Finals
 

Willstrop & Ashour Make Hong Kong Final

England's defending champion James Willstrop will face Egypt's former champion Ramy Ashour in the final of the Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Squash Open after both players triumphed in straight games in today's semi-finals of the rain-affected sixth PSA World Series event of the year at the Hong Kong Squash Centre.

Top seed Willstrop, the world number one, beat fourth-seeded Egyptian Karim Darwish 11-8, 11-5, 11-9 in 57 minutes - while Ashour, the No4 seed who won the title in 2010, recorded his second successive win this year over Nick Matthew by beating the world number two from England 11-9, 11-9, 13-11 in 65 minutes.

After taking two close first games, Ashour romped to a 7-2 lead in the third. But Matthew fought back strongly, but two unforced errors at the end cost him as Ashour prevailed to set up an England v Egypt clash for the title.

The matches were scheduled to take place on the new outdoor all-glass showcourt erected at the Cultural Centre on the Hong Kong waterfront at Tsim Sha Tsui - watched by representatives of the IOC - but rain interrupted the first semi (between Willstrop & Darwish) midway through the first game and both matches were rescheduled at the Squash Centre where earlier rounds had taken place.

Quarter Final
 

Hong Kong Beckons Anglo/Egyptian Semis

Cairo's Ramy Ashour set up two Anglo/Egyptian semi-finals in the Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Squash Open after beating French rival Gregory Gaultier in today's last quarter-final of the sixth PSA World Series event of the year at the Hong Kong Squash Centre.

But the day began with disappointing news when two of the event's leading players were forced to concede their quarter-final matches after sustaining injuries the previous day.

Seventh seed Amr Shabana, the former world number one from Egypt bidding to win a sixth Hong Kong title, bruised his rib cage, while England's Peter Barker, the No6 seed from London, strained a hamstring.

Shabana explained: "I fell during my match with Tom Richards, and didn't think much of it until I went back to the hotel after the match where I had trouble breathing. I took pain killers in the morning with no improvement, and tried to have a light hit, which was a real struggle. The injury is on the left side of my rib cage, and I don't want to risk making it worse or increasing the period of injury."

Barker was equally downhearted: "I'm really gutted. I'm struggling today, and with the World Open coming up next week, I really don't want to take any risks to pull my hamstring."

But the day's play finished in sensational style when Ashour beat France's No3 seed Gregory Gaultier in a match described by PSA SquashTV commentator Joey Barrington as one which 'produced the best squash of the tournament between two of the sport's heavyweights. Ramy dominated all the way.'

Ashour, the 2010 champion, dropped the opening game but thrilled the packed crowd with his artistry as he went on to take the next two and march on to match ball in the fourth.

Gaultier, however, fell badly when going for a ball at the front of the court and after receiving treatment on court hobbled of the court as the referee announced Ashour as the winner.

The 8-11, 11-8, 11-8, 10-3 (ret.) victory in 69 minutes takes the world No4 through to a semi-final clash with England's Nick Matthew, the world No2 who took his place in the last four after Shabana's withdrawal.

In the earlier quarter-final, a commanding performance from world number one James Willstrop saw the defending champion from England beat unseeded Spaniard Borja Golan 11-7, 11-7, 11-4 in 57 minutes.

Willstrop will now face Egyptian rival Karim Darwish, the beneficiary of Barker's withdrawal.

Finals

2nd Round
 

Golan Makes Maiden World Series Quarter-Final In Hong Kong

Nearly nine years after making his first appearance in the main draw of a PSA World Series event, Spaniard Borja Golan has made his long-awaited breakthrough into the quarter-finals of one of the PSA Tour's elite championships after upsetting Egypt's No8 seed Mohamed El Shorbagy in today's second round of the Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Squash Open at the Hong Kong Squash Centre.

This is Golan's 33rd appearance in a World Series event since earning a place in the 2003 World Open in Pakistan - since when the 29-year-old from Santiago de Compostela reached a career-high world No10 to become Spain's highest-ranked player of all-time.

But he also suffered a career-threatening knee injury in 2009 - resulting in a lengthy layoff which saw him plummet out of the world top 100.

And today, now just eight places away from his best-ever ranking, Golan stunned eighth seed Mohamed El Shorbagy - beating the world No7 from Egypt 11-6, 11-9, 8-11, 11-9 to become the only unseeded player in the last eight of the sixth PSA World Series event of the year.

"When you play someone like that you have to play more than 100% - you have to fight for each point as if it was the last one," Golan said afterwards.

The Spaniard will now line up against top seed James Willstrop after the world number one from England stopped veteran Hong Kong Open campaigner Ong Beng Hee, the 32-year-old Malaysian who made his debut in the event in the 2000 championship, 11-8, 11-9, 11-7 in 68 minutes.

Beng Hee stole the hearts of the Centre Court crowd with a skilful and spirited performance that earned him a standing ovation at the end.

Willstrop is one of three Englishmen who will be in quarter-final action tomorrow. Peter Barker, the No6 seed from London, fought back from 6-10 down in the first game to beat top-ranked Australian Cameron Pilley 13-11, 11-8, 11-8 in 65 minutes.

In the final match of the day - which for the second day in the championship finished well after midnight - second-seeded Englishman Nick Matthew saw off South African Stephen Coppinger 11-6, 11-6, 11-8.

Matthew, the world No2 from Sheffield, will now face Egyptian maestro Amr Shabana, the four-time world champion who is celebrating a record 16th successive appearance in the Hong Kong Open.

But at 0/2 down to unseeded Englishman Tom Richards, it looked as if the 33-year-old from Cairo's bid for a sixth title might be over. But the seventh seed showed why he is still one of the most admired and gifted players when he fought back to take the next three games - and record a sensational 10-12, 10-12, 11-7, 11-7, 11-7 victory in 70 minutes to keep his title hopes alive.

"The best match of the tournament by miles!" tweeted England's Daryl Selby later. "What a game @TomRichards86 played, and great comeback by the ever classy @amrchabana."

It was an upbeat comment which contrasted the world number ten's earlier Twitter pronouncement: "To say I'm disappointed is an understatement..."

Unseeded Selby issued this comment shortly after extending fourth seed Karim Darwish for 65 minutes in a match which ultimately saw the Egyptian prevail 6-11, 11-4, 12-10, 11-6.

"One of my most disappointing days on a squash court today," Selby continued. "Had so much to play for and didn't quite play well enough but still could have won."

Former champion Ramy Ashour became Egypt's third winner of the day when he beat Indian number one Saurav Ghosal 11-7, 11-5, 10-12, 12-10 in 61 minutes.

"Lost a really close 3-1 to Ramy today...12-10 in the 4th!" tweeted world No22 Ghosal later. "Had game balls in the last game as well...good performance though :)"

Gregory Gaultier kept French hopes for success alive when he defeated Swiss number one Nicolas Mueller 11-4, 11-5, 11-5. The third seed from Aix-en-Provence, bidding the reach the final for the fifth time, but win it for the first, now faces Ashour in the pair's 20th Tour clash since December 2005.

 

1st Round Bottom Half
 

Shabana Marks Victorious 40th In Hong Kong

Five-time champion Amr Shabana began his quest for a sixth Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Squash Open today at the Hong Kong Squash Centre by beating French qualifier Mathieu Castagnet in straight games to provide the perfect celebration of his 40th match in the event since his debut in 1996.

The former world number one from Egypt created a record as soon as he stepped onto the court for his first round match in the sixth PSA World Series event of the year - by making his 16th successive appearance in the popular and long-established Tour event.

The seventh seed - winner of the title five years in a row from 2005 - despatched Castagnet 11-9, 11-7, 11-7 in 35 minutes and will now line up against England's Tom Richards in a bid to reach the quarter-finals for the ninth year in a row.

"Yes, I've been coming here for 16 years," the 33-year-old from Cairo added "That was the easiest record to establish ever!"

Unseeded Richards defeated experienced Finn Olli Tuominen 11-7, 11-7, 7-11, 11-2 - and will be meeting Shabana for the first time, eager to make his first ever appearance in the event's last eight!

Top-ranked Indian Saurav Ghosal ended home interest in the event after overcoming Hong Kong qualifier Max Lee 11-3, 11-5, 11-4. The UK-based world No22 will now face Egyptian star Ramy Ashour, ranked four in the world.

Making his first appearance in the championship since injury prevented him from defending his 2010 title, 25-year-old fifth seed Ashour ousted fellow countryman Tarek Momen 11-7, 11-8, 11-2 in just 29 minutes, the quickest match of the day.

The only upset came when South African Stephen Coppinger, given a last-minute place in the main draw after the withdrawal of Dutchman Laurens Jan Anjema, battled back from a game down to beat Egypt's world No11 Omar Mosaad 8-11, 14-12, 11-8, 11-9 in 69 minutes.

The Cape Town-based world No24 will now take on England's world No2 Nick Matthew. The second seed from Sheffield began his bid to reach the final for the first time since 2004 by beating German number one Simon Rosner 12-10, 12-10, 11-6 in 49 minutes.


1st Round Top Half

Selby Survives Walker Marathon In Hong Kong

Daryl Selby and Alister Walker, two of the closest-ranked players battling against each other in today's first round of the Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Open, duly produced the longest match on day one of the sixth PSA World Series squash event of the year to entertain a packed crowd at the Hong Kong Squash Centre.

Englishman Selby, the world No10 and highest-ranked unseeded player in the draw, dropped the first game to former England team-mate Walker, the world No12 who now represents Botswana, the country of his birth.

But Selby turned things round to open up a 2/1 lead before Walker fought back to draw level. And in the dramatic decider, it was the higher-ranked Englishman who ultimately prevailed, winning 7-11, 11-8, 11-8, 8-11, 11-8 in 95 minutes.

"Brutal match in Hong Kong first round against my good friend @alisterWALKER," tweeted 30-year-old Selby later. "Proper battle and lucky to win it in the end. #toughdraw."

The marathon match made a significant impact on the drawn out schedule of the day - which eventually came to a close after 12.30am when the fourth match lasting more than an hour finished, Malaysian Ong Beng Hee earning a 9-11, 11-5, 11-9, 8-11, 11-5 victory in 75 minutes over Colombian Miguel Angel Rodriguez.

The win sees Beng Hee, the 32-year-old former world No7 from Penang who made his debut in the event 12 years ago, secure a place in the second round for the first time in four years.

Selby led a trio of Englishmen through to the last 16 round. Fellow Essex man Peter Barker, the sixth seed, had to fight back from a game down to overcome Egyptian qualifier Karim Abdel Gawad 7-11, 11-6, 11-5, 11-6.

Later, defending champion James Willstrop, the world number one from Leeds, also had to recover from the loss of the first game before seeing off England team-mate Adrian Grant 5-11, 11-8, 11-3, 11-8 in 73 minutes.

Australian number one Cameron Pilley was taken the full distance by qualifier Chris Simpson before beating the Englishman 11-8, 11-8, 10-12, 5-11, 11-8 after 82 minutes.

Like his fellow first round winners, the world No17 from New South Wales will relish the day's break before having to face Barker for a place in the quarter-finals.

 


Qualifying

English Trio Make Hong Kong Main Draw

Qualifying finals:
Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) bt Martin Knight (NZL) 11-6, 11-4, 8-11, 11-3 (60m)
Max Lee (HKG) bt Henrik Mustonen (FIN) 11-6, 11-2, 11-8 (33m)
Gregoire Marche (FRA) bt Mohd Ali Anwar Reda (EGY) 11-9, 11-8, 10-12, 11-9 (67m)
Joe Lee (ENG) bt Alan Clyne (SCO) 11-9, 11-8, 3-11, 11-4 (62m)
Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt Shawn Delierre (CAN) 10-12, 11-5, 4-11, 11-6, 11-2 (48m)
Chris Simpson (ENG) bt Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS) 11-5, 11-8, 12-14, 13-11 (76m)
Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) bt Siddharth Suchde (IND) 11-6, 11-4, 11-4 (39m)
Adrian Waller (ENG) bt Marwan El Shorbagy (EGY) 7-11, 3-11, 11-7, 11-9, 11-7 (55m)

A trio of Englishmen boosted the UK entries in the Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Open to nine after Joe Lee, Chris Simpson and Adrian Waller survived today's qualifying finals of the PSA World Series squash event in its 27th year at the Hong Kong Squash Centre.

Waller came from 0/2 and 3-7 down to overcome Egypt's world No27 Marwan El Shorbagy - the highest-ranked player in the qualifiers - 7-11, 3-11, 11-7, 11-9, 11-7 in 55 minutes.

The world No43 from Enfield will make his maiden appearance in the first round of the popular and prestigious Tour event against Swiss number one Nicolas Mueller.

Lee became the lowest-ranked player to qualify when he beat top-ranked Scot Alan Clyne 11-9, 11-8, 3-11, 11-4 in 62 minutes. The London-born 23-year-old will face Spanish No1 Borja Golan.

After three previous attempts to qualify, Chris Simpson will make his main draw debut after defeating Malaysian Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan 11-5, 11-8, 12-14, 13-11 in 76 minutes - and now faces the number one Australian Cameron Pilley.

Max Lee produced the most popular win when he beat Finland's Henrik Mustonen 11-6, 11-2, 11-8 to double Hong Kong interest in the main draw. The 24-year-old world No32 progresses to face the Indian number one Saurav Ghosal.

French pair Mathieu Castagnet and Gregoire Marche were also successful - and both will try their hand in the main draw for the second year in a row. Castagnet beat New Zealander Martin Knight 11-6, 11-4, 8-11, 11-3, while Marche saw off Egypt's Mohd Ali Anwar Reda 11-9, 11-8, 10-12, 11-9.

Marche's reward is an all-French clash with third seed Gregory Gaultier, four times a runner-up in the championship.

Egypt's Karim Abdel Gawad and Australian Ryan Cuskelly secured the remaining two qualifying slots in the first round.

Lee Lifts Local Hopes In Hong Kong Open

Max Lee will take domestic hopes into the qualifying finals of the Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Open single-handedly after becoming the only local player to survive the first qualifying round of the PSA World Series squash event in it 27th edition at the Hong Kong Squash Centre today.

The 24-year-old, bidding to make his third appearance in the main draw since 2007, beat 17-year-old compatriot Henry Leung 11-6, 11-5, 11-6.

Lee, ranked 32 in the world, will now face Henrik Mustonen after the Finn, ranked 21 places lower, beat Hungary's Mark Krajcsak 11-5, 11-8, 11-9.

Another Lee will also seek a qualifying slot after surviving his first round match. Englishman Joe Lee defeated Hong Kong's Hon Fung Wong 11-3, 11-3, 11-2 and will join fellow countrymen Chris Simpson and Adrian Waller in the qualifying finals.

World No43 Waller survived the longest battle, coming from a game down to see off Malaysia's Ivan Yuen 9-11, 11-9, 11-6, 11-6 in 64 minutes.


Shabana Sets PSA Tour Record In Hong Kong

With his sights on a sixth title, Egypt's Amr Shabana will set a new PSA World Tour record for the number of appearances in a single event when he celebrates his 16th successive year in the Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Squash Open, the sixth PSA World Series event of 2012 which gets underway at the Hong Kong Squash Centre today.

Founded in 1985, the 27th edition of the world-famous event reaches its climax with semi-finals and finals staged on a brand new all-glass show court erected at the Cultural Centre on the waterfront at Tsim Sha Tsui.

Shabana, a four-time world champion from Cairo, made his Hong Kong Open debut in 1996 - four years before any other player competing in this year's championship.

"I've been playing in Hong Kong since 96 - it was my first major to play after the Al-Ahram Open and British Open earlier in the year," said 33-year-old Shabana, who joined the PSA in 1995 and went on to top the world rankings for 33 consecutive months from April 2006.

"For me it is one of the best organised events in terms of how the organizers set it up," added the left-hander, currently ranked seven in the world. "I have always been - and will always be - a player who, if physically fit, the better and bigger the occasion the better I play."

Shabana won his first title in Hong Kong in 2005, when the event was also the World Open, and went on to retain the Hong Kong Open trophy for a further four years. The distinguished Egyptian now boasts 29 Tour titles from 43 final appearances.

"Shabana is one of the greats of the game and we are lucky to still have him competing at such a high level after being on the Tour for such a long time," said Alex Gough, CEO of the Professional Squash Association. "He is many squash fans' favourite and to see him do well again in Hong Kong again this year would be fantastic for the game."

This year's Hong Kong Open has been chosen as the inspection event for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to determine which of the shortlisted sports should win a place on the programme for the 2020 Olympiad.

"Having the IOC come to Hong Kong will show them what a great squash experience it is watching the world's best squash. Squash players are some of the strongest, if not THE strongest, athletes in this world."

Seeded seven this week, Shabana opens his latest campaign in Hong Kong tomorrow (Wednesday) against French qualifier Mathieu Castagnet - and is expected to meet English rival Nick Matthew, the world number two, in the quarter-finals.

Hong Kong Open 1st round draw:
[1] James Willstrop (ENG) v Adrian Grant (ENG)
Ong Beng Hee (MAS) v Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL)
Borja Golan (ESP) v [Q] Joe Lee (ENG)
[8] Mohamed El Shorbagy (EGY) v [Q] Ryan Cuskelly (AUS)
[6] Peter Barker (ENG) v [Q] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY)
Cameron Pilley (AUS) v [Q] Chris Simpson (ENG)
Daryl Selby (ENG) v Alister Walker (BOT)
[4] Karim Darwish (EGY) v Leo Au (HKG)
[3] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v [Q] Gregoire Marche (FRA)
Nicolas Mueller (SUI) v [Q] Adrian Waller (ENG)
Saurav Ghosal (IND) v [Q] Max Lee (HKG)
[5] Ramy Ashour (EGY) v Tarek Momen (EGY)
[7] Amr Shabana (EGY) v [Q] Mathieu Castagnet (FRA)
Tom Richards (ENG) v Olli Tuominen (FIN)
Omar Mosaad (EGY) v Stephen Coppinger (RSA)
[2] Nick Matthew (ENG) v Simon Rosner (GER)

 

Hong Kong Squash Open Prepares
For IOC Inspection

Since 1985, when world-famous airline Cathay Pacific first sponsored the Hong Kong Squash Open, the international event has regularly attracted the world's very best players.

But this week's 27th edition of the Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Open - which will reach its climax with semi-finals and finals staged on an all-glass show court erected at the Cultural Centre on the waterfront at Tsim Sha Tsui - takes on additional significance as the event chosen by the International Olympic Committee to judge the sport's credentials to join the Olympic Games programme in 2020.

The men's championship will be led by world number one James Willstrop, the defending champion from England, and features 19 of the world's top 20, including six former world number ones - while the women's field will be led by Malaysian superstar Nicol David, the world number one since August 2006 who is expected to win the title for a record eighth time in a row since 2005.

"The Hong Kong Open is an event that Squash cherishes and we are delighted that the IOC have chosen to come to it to evaluate our sport," said World Squash Federation President N Ramachandran. "It shows off so much of the essence of professional squash and what we mean by the ability to showcase host cities.

"We look forward to them seeing this for themselves, along with the strong international broadcast output, first class sports presentation - and some great squash matches too!"

Men's title-holder James Willstrop is also pleased that the IOC chose Hong Kong: "It's a wonderful backdrop for the IOC delegates to see - there are few that could be more exciting and spectacular as this Hong Kong location. As a player, when you're on the court and peer through the glass walls, it's a staggering view.

"It's unbelievable how far we've come as a sport in such a short time."

Distinguished Egyptian Amr Shabana, the former world No1 and four-time world champion who is making a record 16th appearance in the event and has his sights on a sixth Hong Kong title, added: "Having the IOC come to Hong Kong will show them what a great experience it is, watching the world's best squash. Squash players are some of the strongest, if not THE strongest, athletes in this world."

Borja Golan, the top-ranked Spaniard, said: "As a sport, squash is one of the most complete ones: physically you need to have resistance, power, speed, balance and reflexes. Mentally you have to be so focussed all the time - and we can compare every match with a gladiator fight because only the strongest will win.

The Australian number one Cameron Pilley pointed out: "The Hong Kong Open is one of the longest running and biggest events on Tour, not only for prize money but because of the history behind it.

"The full glass court down on the harbour is an amazing venue with a great backdrop."