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  TODAY in Hong Kong 2012
   Tuesday 27th, Day THREE                                                        Fram & Steve in HK

One upset, one home win, two top seeds through at Hong Kong Squash Centre

Qualifying complete, it was time for the 'big guns' to enter the fray, with the top half of the men's and women's draws at Hong Kong Squash Centre.

It was a long day with a past midnight finish which saw a solitary upset, a solitary home winner and both top seeds and defending champions safely through.

Men's Round One, Top Half:

[1] James Willstrop (Eng) 3-1 Adrian Grant (Eng)
              5/11, 11/8, 11/3, 11/8 (73m)
Ong Beng Hee (Mas) 3-2 Miguel Angel Rodriguez (Col)
               9/11, 11/5, 11/9, 8/11, 11/5 (75m)

Borja Golan (Esp) 3-0 [Q] Joe Lee (Eng)
               11/7, 11/5, 11/2 (50m)
[8] Mohamed El Shorbagy (Egy) 3-0 [Q] Ryan Cuskelly (Aus)
              11/8, 11/5, 14/12 (38m)

[6] Peter Barker (Eng) 3-1 [Q] Karim Abdel Gawad (Egy)
               7/11, 11/6, 11/5, 11/6 (44m)
Cameron Pilley (Aus) 3-2 [Q] Chris Simpson (Eng)  
               11/8, 11/8, 10/12, 5/11, 11/8 (82m)

Daryl Selby (Eng) 3-2 Alister Walker (Bot) 
               9/11, 11/8, 11/8, 8/11, 11/8 (95m)
[4] Karim Darwish (Egy) 3-0 Leo Au (Hkg)
               12/10, 11/6, 11/9 (34m)

Women's Round One, Top Half:

[1] Nicol David (Mas) 3-0 Sarah Kippax (Eng)
             11/2, 11/5, 11/5 (23m)
Joey Chan (Hkg) 3-1 [Q] Kylie Lindsay (Nzl)
             8/11, 11/4, 11/7, 11/9 (40m)

[5] Madeline Perry (Irl) 3-0 [Q] Amanda Landers-Murphy (Nzl)
            11/6, 11/6, 11/3 (19m)
Kasey Brown (Aus) 3-0 [Q] Lauren Briggs (Eng)
             11/8, 11/2, 11/6 (31m)

[3] Jenny Duncalf
(Eng) 3-0 Delia Arnold (Mas)
                11/9, 11/9 , 11/9 (40m)
Dipika Pallikal (Ind) 3-1 Liu Tsz-Ling (Hkg)
               7/11, 11/6, 11/1, 11/5 (34m)

[8] Natalie Grinham (Ned) 3-0 [Q] Heba El Torky (Egy)
             11/7, 11/5, 11/4 (28m)
[Q] Nicolette Fernandes (Guy) 3-2 Samantha Teran (Mex)  
             10/12, 11/9, 11/8, 5/11, 11/6 (78m)

Day Three Roundup

The first round of the 2012 edition of the Hong Kong Open kicked off at 13.30 on Hong Kong Squash Centre’s Centre Court, with 10 matches scheduled for play at 45-minute intervals, and six on the 'upstairs' court nine from 16.30. Unsurprisingly the day ran late.

The first match immediately put the schedule into disarray as Cameron Pilley became the first player through to round two after a marathon 82-minute five-game victory over England’s Chris Simpson. The tall Australian took the first two games and although Simpson, a qualifier, struck back to level, it was Pilley who dominated the fifth to progress.

In the next round he’ll meet English sixth seed Peter Barker, who came from a game down to beat another qualifier, young Egyptian Karim Abdel Gawad.

The tin was then lowered as the ladies took to the court. Third seed Jenny Duncalf edged past Malaysia's Delia Arnold in three close games, and India's Dipika Pallikal came from a game down to deny HK wildcard Liu Tsz-Ling.

On the upstairs courts Natalie Grinham beat qualifier Heba El Torky in straight games, the Dutch former world number two playing with increased confidence as the match went on.

Following on from that match, Nicolette Fernandes created the first upset of the day as the Guyanese qualifier downed Samantha Teran in a gruelling 78-minute five setter of unrelentingly tough rallies.

Back on the showcourt, Daryl Selby came through a high-quality but brutal marathon against Alister Walker, taking it in five after 95 minutes, but Karim Darwish took a third of that time in despatching wildcard Leo Au in his usual efficient early-round manner, although the fourth seed needed to save a game ball in the first.

Borja Golan was similarly efficient as he beat qualifier Joe Lee in three, and Mohamed El Shorgagy similarly despatched his qualifier Ryan Cuskelly, although the eighth seed needed extra points to clinch the third.

Back on the glass court, Joey Chan provided the last chance of home success for today, but fell behind to Kiwi qualifier Kylie Lindsay. The left-hander rallied to take the next two games and survived a nervy ending as Lindsay saved four match balls but couldn't quite catch up in the fourth.

By now we were two hours behind schedule, but the finals three women's matches alleviated things somewhat as Madeline Perry beat Amanda Landers-Murphy in 19 minutes and Kasey Brown despatched Lauren Briggs in 31.

They'll meet for a place in the quarter-finals, as will Chan and Nicol David after the Malaysian top seed eased past Sarah Kippax in 23 minutes to record a 36th consecutive win in Hong Kong, setting up what is sure to be a noisy second round on Wednesday.

That left two men's matches to go on the showcourt, starting with an all-English match between defending champion James Willstrop and Adrian Grant.

Grant took the lead in an attritional first game but the world number one bounced back to take the next tow, and to claw back from a deficit in the fourth to take the match.

Three hours after their scheduled time, at 11.15, Ong Beng Hee and Miguel Angel Rodriguez started the last match of the day, which naturally went the distance as the Malaysian prevailed in five games after 75 minutes to set up a last sixteen meeting with Willstrop.

Cameron Pilley (Aus) 3-2 [Q] Chris Simpson (Eng)  
               11/8, 11/8, 10/12, 5/11, 11/8 (82m)


What would you say if I told you that Mr Pilley is in fact a real blond? Listen to that.

First game, he is up 9/5, and finds himself fighting to win the game, 8/9, to take it 11/8. Second game, he is up 6/2, and Chris claws back to 6/7. Third, Mr Pilley now leading 2 games up, is also up in the 3rd, 5/1. Chris will catch up with him at 5/5 to clinch the game on his 4th game ball, 12/10. Fourth, Cam never showed up, letting Chris walk away with a stunning game. And in the 5th, Play it again Cam, 6/2 up, and Chris back at 6/7, only to lose the game and match 11/8 after 82m of excellent squash indeed.

Chris Simpson, I’ve known him from the juniors, and he’s got the game to really bother the Australian.

He plays tight squash, excellent length and glued to the wall drives, good lobs, and a stunning backhand drop shot that he could play on the head from the changing rooms. It took the young Englishman a few minutes to get used to the ridiculous pace Cameron plays at, but once he took the measure of his opponent/court, Chris became more accurate, more lethal, and was able to push the Australian out of his comfort zone beautifully.

This time was the first time those two play, and Cameron clinched the victory on experience “when it counts”. But Chris is asking serious questions to the top players, and I bet my keyboard that he is soon about to get some answers….

"It’s like I was playing to 6 or something!

I go on with a good game plan, I follow it for the first half of the game, and then, I think, ok, I’ve got this, I’m going to win. But then again, when a player is down, he’s bound to change something isn’t he….

I really got to learn my lesson…"

"I had a few of those recently, long 5 setters, and I need to nick of the them to get a breakthrough.

I think something, when you want something so much, you want it too much, and when it comes down to 50/50, against a player that’s been there before, that got the experience, and wants it, but not too much, it goes his way.

Of course, I’m happy to come back from 2/0 down against Cameron, but…"

[6] Peter Barker (Eng) 3-1 [Q] Karim Abdel Gawad (Egy)
               7/11, 11/6, 11/5, 11/6  (44m)


How to describe Karim to you if you never saw him. Imagine a player with Shabana’s hands, Ramy’s retrieving, and Daryl’s laid back? That’s the one. He is sooo gifted that boy, and I really enjoy watching him play, a fair player, doesn’t block, calls his double bounces.

I just like the boy, who really remind me of a young Shabana “especially the “taking the opponent to the throat and not letting go” part”, laughed Shabana himself about the young man….

And Peter was a bit surprised I guess by the speed on the court, the racquet skills and the change of angles coming from his opponent. But quickly, the Englishman started taking the game to Karim, playing shorter and shorter, more and more aggressive, and really making him work an awful lot. The fact that now Peter has more layers to his game and can attack at the front beautifully while pinning his opponent to the backwall didn’t hurt his game….

"No, I was not tired from yesterday. It’s just, well, I never played him so… I was happy with my first game, and also with the way I played up to the middle of the second, but from that point on, he changed his game and started cutting me off and volleying a lot. That really played on my mind, and I just couldn’t come back to my game plan.

But I have wanted to play against Peter for so long, it’s such a good experience for me…"

Dipika Pallikal (Ind) 3-1 Liu Tsz-Ling (Hkg)
               7/11, 11/6, 11/1, 11/5 (34m)


It was the first time I was watching this young HK player, and I really enjoyed her style. She is extremely strong physically, very spirited, and like to hit the ball close to the tin, and very hard.

Only little floor, she is soooo willing, soooo wanting to do good, she made get a bit too tight, and maybe could do with relaxing a bit and enjoying her squash a bit more. But I really think she is one to be watched for the future.

Whereas Dipika bless her, she was away with the fairies to start with, a bit of nerves, a bit of… I don’t know what goes on in gorgeous girls’ brain do I.

But thanks to her coach Sarah Fitz-Gerald and a strong support group, mum, dad and friends, she managed to pull through a match that could have easily be a 3/2 against her…

I’ve been playing Tsz Ling all our junior career, so I know her very well, and I am aware of how dangerous she can be. She is one of the up and coming player from HK, and I have to say I was a bit nervous when we started the match, to play her here, in front of her home crowd.

In the second game, I stepped up the court, and to put it like Sarah told me I “try and find the fire in your belly”!

In the third, I was lucky to get a few tins out of her, and I stayed in there and gave it a big push. I think the glass court suits me, it’s on there I won the tournament in December, and it was nice to be back here…


Not sure how long this was, but I can tell you that every minute, every second was hard fought, that we fought as hard as we could, but with the respect with both have for each other.

I’ve known Ali for years, and although I’m very happy, very very happy to win, I can’t help feeling for him. We both are working very hard, we both have been knocking at the door for a while, and we both deserve a break. We both deserve better, and yet, one of us have to go home….

Both of us dominated the game at times, I managed to control the end, but I really had to give it a bit push from 8/4 down in the 2nd.

My wife Lucie is expecting our baby and carrying it, she is working very hard in London, much more than me, the very least I can do is bringing the mortgage back home.

Today, Ali and I played as hard as we could, but in the right spirit…..

It was a good match, but it’s frustrating to think that the best chance I had all season was actually playing Daryl, world number 10. I have played James, Nick, Shabana and Karim, all first round. So, yes, a bit frustrating…

But I was a pleasure to play Daryl, we are good friends. It was a good, hard, fair game….

Daryl Selby (Eng) 3-2 Alister Walker (Bot) 
               9/11, 11/8, 11/8, 8/11, 11/8 (95m)


What a game of squash that was people. If you missed it on SquashTV, please go and buy the video!

Fair game, and yet, my GOD did they send to each other everything but the changing room sink! Played at a very fast pace indeed, extremely accurate, ridiculous retrieving, lethal attacking, a few shocking decisions, but then again, it wouldn’t be HK with them, would it, and two warriors giving it all on there, earning the respect and appreciation of the crowd, delighted that it went to a 5 setter in 95m….

I guess the turning point was when Ali was leading one game up, and 8/4 up, looking pretty good out there, as he really was putting Daryl under enormous pressure. But seven points later, it was Daryl that was walking off court, having levelled the game to 1/1….

Ali took an excellent start in the 3rd, 3/0, but Daryl wouldn’t be shaken off, and slowly clawed back to overtake his mate 9/6 then 10/7. Ali fought very hard, but on a no let lose the game 11/8. That loss didn’t seemed to have affected him neither physically nor mentally. He dominated the 4th, and from the middle of that game, the 5 setter stamp was floating in the air….

And a decider we had. An awfully bad start for the Botwana man, 1/4, but who comes back to 4/5. Still, Daryl looked the fresher on there, and “quickly” gets to match ball, 10/6, thanks to a few errors from Ali – who made very few during the first 2 games, 2 actually, but increased the numbers after that.

There was a “Kodak moment” when at 8/10, Daryl and Ali just bumped into each other, it was a match ball for crying out loud.

And they still smiled, and their friendship was lightening the court. Sorry, I’m a sucker for those moments…

Still, we needed a winner, and today, Daryl was the one. But what a great match we had. Loved every minute of it.

[Q] Nicolette Fernandes (Guy) 3-2 Samantha Teran (Mex) 
             10/12, 11/9, 11/8, 5/11, 11/6 (78m)

"That was a tough match, but it's one of my best wins, for sure.

I've played her many times, never in WSA though, we usually meet in the PanAmerican tournaments and I've taken a lot of beatings so it's really nice to win this one.

"It was close all the way, one or two mistakes at a crucial time could cost you a game, but I'm not going to overanalyse it, I'll just enjoy it and look forward to the next round!"

Kasey Brown (Aus) 3-0 [Q] Lauren Briggs (Eng)
             11/8, 11/2, 11/6 (31m)


It was a bit of an up and down game for English girl Lauren Briggs today. Great spells of superb squash, beautiful lobs that die in the corners, nice volleying millimetres from the tin, accurate squash that really put the Australian Kasey Brown under a heck of pressure, and suddenly, length gone, going for a bit too much, too complicated, and from too far back, opening the court to a very grateful Kasey!

Frustration grew quite rightly in Lauren’s, as Kasey was dominating more and more the middle of the court. At 7/2 down in the 3rd, a good reaction from Lauren that came back to 5/7, but again, a bit too much from too far back, and Kasey “déroule”, finishes it off nicely, 11/6 to win comfortably 3/0.

Lauren is one of those players to whom you can never take an inch to, because she’ll grab it! I’ve tried to stay away from her backhand volley, she can do a lot with it, and she got a few winners there at the start of the match. After that, she granted me a few errors, and I’m very happy to win in three.

Happy that that boast is working fine, I’ve been working a lot on it, I think it suits this court very well, and I hope it’ll keep on working for my next match.

[8] Mohamed El Shorbagy (Egy) 3-0 [Q] Ryan Cuskelly (Aus)
              11/8, 11/5, 14/12 (38m)

It’s the first time I was playing Ryan, and I had heard how talented he was. I didn’t know how to play him, so I asked my brother who had played him last year in Qatar, and he told me to stay ahead from his forehand volley, and keep it to the backhand, which is generally the game plan when you are playing against a lefthander. I think I stuck to that for most of the match.

In the third game, I started a bit slow, and he got a good lead. And at 10/8, I remembered the error I was making when I was playing top guys when I was younger, I was so eager to win the point I was going for too much. And I feel that’s what happened today to Ryan, he went for too much, and handed me the game. But that’s experience, and once he’s got a bit more of that, he’ll be very dangerous indeed.

It was a good first round, very happy to have a 3/0 win, a good day of rest tomorrow, and after that, Borja. We always have very tough matches together, but very fair, and we are actually good friends. So looking forward to our encounter…

On a personal note, I would like to thank the organisers for putting on such a great tournament, and we all hope that the IOC is going to be impressed with us, with the settings. Thanks to the efforts of everybody, WSF, PSA, WSA, the media – squashsite in particular, we hope that we’ll get to the 2020 Olympics. And I’ll be 28, 29 by then, the moment when players normally reach their peak, so I really, really want it badly, maybe more than anybody else!!!!

I played a couple of silly shots at the end, I’m trying to change a few things, but the “old me” came out there…

He played at a very fast pace, I was feeling a bit slow, but I guess it was more about him playing really fast.

I had a busy month, I went to Dayton, then won the tournament in Toronto, and flew straight here. So, happy to qualify, but a bit flat really, and I really had to be at the top of my game to be somebody like Mohamed….

[1] James Willstrop (Eng) 3-1 Adrian Grant (Eng)
              5/11, 11/8, 11/3, 11/8 (73m)
Ong Beng Hee (Mas) 3-2 Miguel Angel Rodriguez (Col)
               9/11, 11/5, 11/9, 8/11, 11/5 (75m)


As I’m starting to write those last words on the page, it’s 12.30 am, so here are the two shortest reports I’ll probably ever write in my life!

First, James versus Adrian. Adrian, after not such a good season, had decided to trim down and get fitter. Hence, instead of losing his normal two first games, just played remarkable squash at a very fast pace to take the first game. He kept on putting pressure on the W1 up to 6/2 in the second.

But James just kept his cool, as I’m sure he was prepared for a battle (the last one those two played was last year in the British Grand Prix, where Adrian beat James in 83 for only 4 games), and slowly, reverse the pressure to force a few errors out of his opponent.

The ball was dead as it comes – very cold court – and James’ superb attacks just made immense damage, although Adrian found a few great short game of his own. It all came down to a few errors here and there from Adrian, really not much between the players. But it’s James today that takes the cake…

To be noted that I’m still trying to understand the line the referees took for the numerous no lets they gave against Adrian. I’m sure there is a logic there, I just didn’t find it….

And now for Beng Hee China Man against Miguel Rubber Ball. I think Miguel would have been more at his ease on court 9, with warmer conditions. But my lord did those two worked hard to get each and every point. Ridiculous pace, lovely angle, great spirit on court…

Beng Hee hit the self destruct button a few times – he wouldn’t be BH otherwise – but in the end, managed to take a great start in the 5th, against a Miguel a bit tired from retrieving the irretrievable again and again, and again on a dead court, with a dead ball, and kept his lead up to the end….

A great finish to a loooooong day.

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