End of the Road for Owens ???

World number one and 2000 World Champion Carol Owens has revealed that this year's World Open in Hong Kong may be her last tournament on the WISPA tour.

"I have felt more pressure on me. It is hard staying at the top," weary women's world number told the SCMP's Alvin Sallay as the tournament got under way.

But if she goes out, she wants it to be on a high, with a second World Championship.

"This could be the end of the road for me. I might not play next year. I will see how I go at this tournament but this is probably the last time that I will play on the circuit. It will be great if I can go out on a high note by winning the World Open," Owens revealed.

Now that the tournament is at the semi-final stage, the event moves to the the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront where Hong Kong Squash's four-sided glass court will be set up outside the Cultural Centre. The prospect excites Owens, who faces Vanessa Atkinson tomorrow.

"It is fantastic that the final rounds will be played outside,' she said. 'Squash needs that sort of exposure. We have to get more into the public's eye. I'm looking forward to playing in the final rounds," said Owens.

Despite being world number one for all but one month since Sarah Fitz-Gerald retired in January, Owens has suffered setbacks in recent tournaments, failing to win the US Open, the British Open (a tournament she has never won, but dearly wanted to), and last week the Qatar Classic.

"I began the year well, winning five titles but it has not been a great latter part. Hopefully I can finish it off on a winning note."

Owens has won 26 tour titles in her 15 years as a professional, but ever since Fitz-Gerald retired Owens has felt lost.

"I have been world number one for the past 12 months. But since Sarah, my main rival, retired, I have felt more pressure on me. I would rather have someone else to chase, than be the number one player. It is hard staying at he top," said Owens.

The retirement of another leading player, Leilani Rorani of New Zealand, has also dampened her passion for the game.

"After Leilani retired I was relying on the men for competition back home. And I found that the travelling was becoming difficult and not enjoyable. Living in New Zealand, you have to travel a lot to get anywhere. All these reasons plus a back injury has made it difficult for me and I think the best thing would be to retire," said Owens.

Her passion may have dimmed, but two wins in the spectacular outdoor setting in Hong Kong would be a great way to go out, and might even rekindle the flame ...



Carol Owens





Owens in Qatar
last week




Owens holds the
trophy in 2000