• Cathay Pacific •  Sun Hung Kai Financial •  Hong Kong Open 2012 • 25 Nov - 02 Dec  • 

En Bref Issue #5   Issue #1   Issue #2  Issue #3
you didn't know you needed to know about the Hong Kong Open ...


One great thing about being a “small site that is only read by squash players, and that has no relevancy or importance in the Olympic Bid or in the Main Stream” – as we are told – is that we now realise that whatever we write won’t be reviewed
/ checked / read by the IOC!

That's excellent news.

I know, I know. We’ve got to keep looking at the wider picture, that one day
we will all be rewarded when we can finally type “SQUASH FINALLY OLYMPIC” as headlines. But jzzzzz, what a palava!!!!

You’ve got to understand that as far as the Olympics/Commonwealth Games are concerned, the Press should not be seen, heard, or even exist. Parked outside behind barriers, no direct access to players, official or refs except from behind a barrier in some mixed zone, the Press is waiting, and waiting, and waiting, to finally speak with whoever accepts to come to the mixed zone.

I lived through the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, and it was the worst experience ever I had in my short reporting life. I am famous for normally being too positive and painting a nice image of nasty things, but trust me, I had rants on that event in each and every report I wrote. And then I understood why none of the other squash journalists bothered with the event then, clever boys...

This policy is very well for big sports, where you have dozens/hundreds of journalists, you need order and discipline. But in our small sport, where we all travel, eat, laugh, cry, live together, that separation doesn’t exist. THANK GOD! I guess it may come one day, but I hope I'll have retired by then...

Now, you are aware of the way we work. I watch the whole match if I can - not like a traditional journalist that gets a story out of the day instead of a report on each and every match as we do on SquashSite.

Then I grab quickly each player - if they are willing to talk - next to the court. I then run to the press office, type the quote, if I can I make a 5m report, 10m if it's a big match, and off I am back to my seat watching the next one.

Sometimes, I can take my laptop with me next to the court - that's why working in Qatar/KW is so great, and that allows me to hear what's going on in the following one as I'm typing away quotes and reports of the previous one.

Working in the National Centre can be a bit tricky, as there are a lot of people, and it's difficult to move in and out, but I manage.

Now, when we get to the Harbour, it's a bit more complicated. The normal seats are very far away from the court, and the stairs don't allow the in and out  really. We disturb the spectators, the players and the TV when we move in and out.

So normally, the tournament
kindly and cleverly gives me a seat next to the players, which means that 1. I can speak to them as they finish, quickly done. 2, I can buzz off to the press office without disturbing anybody. 3, in the same token, I come back without been seen by the crowd, and don't disturb the play.

on this occasion, because of the IOC inspection, Olympics style had to be applied, quite logically I might stress. Meaning what?

First, no direct access to the players after the matches as we normally have – they were brought to the press room. Which takes about 10, 15m. And the matches are follow on. Ah…

Meaning also no more seat conveniently placed. In that instance, again, nobody allowed next to the court. Blast.

So. I had the choice.
Either I took the seat I was given, quite high up, and I couldn't speak with the players. Or I spoke to the players, but then, couldn't come back to watch the matches.

So I took the only logical solution. I gave the seat back to a delighted Tournament office as those seats are hot, and stayed in the Press Room, to watch the matches on TV... Oh well...

I know, I know, big picture.
But still a flipping PALAVA!!!!

Now, let's be a bit positive.

I would like to stress how quickly Plan B was put in action by Hong Kong Squash. How quickly, once the decision was taken to go back to the centre, the buses were there to take James and Karim plus the refs first, then the whole of us. National Centre opened, air con on, water for the players, everything in place, even the court cleaners that travelled with us on the bus with their brooms bless them.

I truly truly believe that it was there that we showed how Olympic we are. It's when things don't work according to plan, and that we adapt to anything. Everybody just gets on with their job. The players, the officials, the refs, the press. Off we go. And we just keep on. The Squash Show must go on, and does go on.

Such a shame the IOC didn't come back to the Centre with us. It was probably the most Olympic moment of the week....

En Bref Issue #4   Issue #1   Issue #2  Issue #3
you didn't know you needed to know about the Hong Kong Open ...

BABY BOOM!!!!!!!!!

Squash may not be a sport where money flows, but my LORD does it reproduces itself!!! There won't be any shortage of 2nd generation, that's for sure.... And I'm only looking at the players that are on the tour at the moment, or who just retired...

As you know, David Palmer has got two girls, so has Thierry Lincou and also Anthony Ricketts with Shelley Kitchen - they just got married I'm told! Plus of course, Steward Boswell and Vicky Botwright who have a little boy.... Oh, and I cannot not mention John White who has 3 boys and 1 girl!

Tommy Berden (Nat husband) with KieranAnd what about the one and only Natalie Grinham, who is back on tour with a vengeance after having her babyboy Keiran (sorry Nat, chose that photo, cause I just love it...)

What you may not know... Karim Darwish has a little boy, Omar, Greg Gaultier also, Nolan. And Legend Shabana, well, he has two girls and very very very soon - actually, he is already 4 days late - a little boy. And to finish, Daryl Selby's wife Lucie is seven and a half month pregnant!

As Beng Hee just got married to lovely Winnie, let's see how long it takes them to add their name of the long squash parent list...


It was a bit late on the first round/bottom half day, when Stephen Coppinger upset Omar Mosaad, and my blond brain - already impaired by nature - heard the South African giving credit to "Colorado" for his victory, when in fact it was of course "Orlando".

Well, it's all american, all with a lot of sun, three syllables, and ending by O, so sue me!!!!

Still, "rendons à César ce qui appartient à César", let's give credit where credit is due, and let's salute Mr David Palmer for the great work he's been doing with Steve over the last month that gave him the weapons to overcome the 11th world ranked player....

Sorry Dave...


On each and every tournament, we are surrounded by angels, who accompany us all along the event, and on this one, we have Tony, Heather, Karl, Iris, Anthea, and our Star Angel of the week, Jane Li.

Not only she's been working away in the office, printing out all our infos, even my Qatar ticket bless her, but she was also MCeeing the event at the National Centre, where she did a great job.

Plus, she just celebrated her birthday on the first day of the tournament, I just couldn't believe her age! She looks like 22!!!

Constantly smiling, always helpful and thoughtful, she is exactly the reason why we do this job. To meet people like her all around the world.





En Bref Issue #3         Issue #1   Issue #2
you didn't know you needed to know about the Hong Kong Open ...

Nick Matthew and Gregory Gaultier

The Hong Kong Open is one - perhaps the only one ? - trophy missing from Nick Matthew's impressive trophy cabinet. The second seed, who hasn't gone past the quarter-finals  since losing to Thierry Lincou in the 2004 final, to is keen to fill that gap this week

To get the chance, he'll probably have to get past third seed Gregory Gaultier, who beat Matthew in last year's quarter-finals, but has also never won the event, despite appearing in four consecutive finals from 2007 to 2010.

David & Shabana

What are your memories and impressions of Hong Kong ?

Nick: I’ve been going there since 2001, I missed 2008 and 2009 with injury, but it’s right up there in my list of top tournaments and I still have great memories of reaching the final in 2004 of course.

The first time I went to stay we were in the Renaissance Harbour View for the first tme and I was just amazed by the hustle and bustle in the city and the bright lights.

The Renaissance breakfasts, Hong Kong Football Club and the view when you drive around the top of the peak are amazing. This year I’m looking forward to finally going up on the Peak Tram.

I love the food, Sweet and Sour Chicken is my favourite, getting around on the tram is great, the only thing I don’t like are the upstairs courts at the Squash Centre!

Greg: I’ve been playing in Hong Kong since I was 18, it’s definitely one of my top three events.

It’s always a great tournament, but playing on the harbour front is just amazing. The people, the hospitality, the food, and the view from the Peak Tram are fantastic, even if the weather is a bit too humid sometimes.

My favourite food is the chicken noodles, and I use taxis to get around mostly, there’s plenty of them!

What have been your toughest matches (so far) in HK:

Nick: Last sixteen against David Palmer in 2001.
Greg: Final with Ramy Ashour in 2010.

How has your preparation been going and what are your targets for this year ?

Nick: I’ve had a good month to prepare for this and the worlds, and it’s been going really well. It’s a tough draw, but it’s tough for everyone - I’m just aiming to play well in my first match and take it from there.

Greg: My preparation has been going very well, I just need to recover from the jetlag, that’s all!

The draw looks tough as always, but I’m just looking forward to playing and to winning all my matches! Everyone will be sizing each other up for the worlds, but doing well in HK is important to take some form into Qatar.

The IOC will be there. Will they be impressed ?

Nick: For sure, the glass court on Kowloon Harbour must be one of the most spectacular sights in world sport. I haven’t played there myself yet, but I hope to one day, it looks great.

I hope the fans come and support us in mass numbers, and create an atmosphere not to be forgotten.

Greg: HK always does a great job, so I’m sure the IOC will be impressed.

We need to communicate as much as possible about our great sport, and we need lots of people to come and support the event.

Playing on the harbour feels great, but it’s very hot!

HK in three words:
 Hustle And Bustle
Warm, Crowded, Enjoyable.
En Bref Issue #2                      Issue #1
you didn't know you needed to know about the Hong Kong Open ...

Today's Identity Parade (some people just  haven't quite got the idea or the stature for it!)


James Willstrop - HK Q&A

James Willstrop became world number one at the start of this year on the back of three major tournament victories in a row, and it was here in Hong Kong where that run started.

Coming back to HK as world number one and top seed, we asked James a few HK questions ...

David & Shabana


What are our favourite memories of HK,
and what do you like about the place ?

I’ve been to HK nine or ten times, but in squash terms my best memory is winning here last year, of course. It’s also was where I first properly met Vanessa, so clearly it is a game changing place!

The food ain’t half bad, Veggie Noodles in soy sauce is my favourite, but I think it is the people and the atmosphere around the place I like the most.

I haven't even mentioned that unbelievable skyline, or the amazing venue for the glass.

What was the best or toughest match you ever played in HK ?

Best, perhaps the semis and final last year, or when I beat Jonathan Power at the worlds in 2005. Toughest was against Shabana, semi final in 2006.

How has your preparation for HK been going and what’s your aims for this year ?

Preparation has bee going quite well. I can't complain. The draw is hard, as is every draw in a World Series event, but winning would do just fine!

The IOC will be in HK this year, will they be impressed ?

They absolutely will.

If the organisers can arrange for there to be no rain that would help, otherwise the squash will do the talking.

What does it feel like playing on the harbour front ?

It is staggering. In the intensity of the match, sometimes I try to remember how ridiculous it is playing in a glass box on the harbour front of one of the most visually alluring cities on the planet.

I’m looking forward to hopefully playing there again of course, and enjoying the place as usual.

HK in three words:  Vast Neon Hustle

Jenny Duncalf - HK Q&A

World number two for the best part of three years, England's Jenny Duncalf has appeared regularly in the later stages of the Hong Kong Open.

She's never won it - Nicol David has had the monopoly rights on the title - but is looking forward to another HK campaign ... 

What is your favourite memory of HK - squash ?

I’ve been to HK ten times or so, my best squash memories are reaching the final and also when I was younger getting to see the top players, PSA & WSA in action on a big stage.

What is your favourite memory of HK - not squash ?

Hmm I think probably the 1st time I came here for a small tournament when everything was new still. Heather looked after us really well & and I was taking in all the sights & experiences for the first time.

What do you like most, and least, about HK ?

I love the foot massages, the turtles in the park, 'Great' supermarket & the bright lights at night. I hate trying to open my eyes in the morning & bad memories of food poisoning twice here.

What was the best or toughest match you ever played in HK ?

Not many spring to mind actually. I can remember just losing out to Nat Grinham in five a few years ago & also beating Tania Bailey in five maybe the round before.

What is your favourite HK food and transport ?
All sorts of food, apart from chicken from the outback steakhouse! It's easy to get around, but I love taking the Star Ferry.

How has your preparation been going ?

Not bad. We've just had the World Teams so a few days at home in between has been good. I’m just looking to play well, having some good matches, good food & good fun!

The IOC will be in HK this year,
will they be impressed ?

I hope so! If they're not impressed then I really don't know what they are looking for.

The harbour front has to be one of the best settings in the world. I've played in the shopping mall before but always wished it was the harbour instead! The back drop is stunning.

HK in three words: Up and Down

Sunbathing in HK
Getting Married... Sunbathing.. It's starting to look a lot like Christmas...

En Bref Issue #1
you didn't know you needed to know about the Hong Kong Open ...


Of course, the flight to get here was long, but a new plane, a good French film - yes, there are a few, thank you - a nice young lady next to me who was visiting HK for the first time, an arrival before schedule, and it didn't feel that long. Of course, the shuttle to Hong Kong from the Airport was just about to leave, so didn't have to wait for more than 15s to get going. Of course, 24m later, I was at the main Train Station, and of course, it took me that time to get a taxi (Cubs of course, had taken a tram the day before, bless him, he is local now).

Of course the traffic was horrendous (between 5 and 6pm), of course I recognised the hotel, same as last year (I was secretly hoping for the Renaissance, but no, not this year #tearinmyeyes), and of course, they gave me a room with no window (it's bad luck in HK to see a cemetery, so they blind the windows). Of course was told I would move in a few days, here is hoping...

Of course, at 10pm I was absolutely knackered (8 hours ahead from London, and no sleep on the plane), and went to bed to only wake up at 7am - thanks Melatonine, changed my travel life. Of course, found two tables to squat and chat away at breakfast, my favourite moment of the day, and of course, found three adorable players, Aisling, Lauren B and Nicolette to share their taxi with - they never wanted me to pay bless their lovely heart.

Of course, as I stepped in the club, I went straight for my favourite place in HK, the cafeteria of the Sports Centre. And OF COURSE, the owners just greeted me with the usual "YOU... WANT TEA"!!!!!!!

Of course ever, they fed me with lovely chicken, noodles and other delicatessen. But they managed to surprise me... They actually printed out the article I did last year, and have laminated it!

Really nice to be remembered/appreciated, especially after some rather unpleasantness that happened to us recently. Oh well, as they say, "No man is a prophet in his own land" I'm told...

Of course, a big THANK YOU HONG KONG!!!!!....

by Cubs

HK Squash Centre's Court 5 is transformed each year into the Media Centre for the HK Open, and a wonderful facility it is too, fully equipped, close to the action and providing a view of what's going on.

Well, the view isn't actually that great this  year, as the "Media Centre" banner has been cunningly positioned so that it obscures the head of anyone passing - unless they're exceptionally tall or exceptionally short, that is.

We've been having great fun trying to identify those headless bodies, with, it has to be said, mixed success.

Later on in the week we'll be holding an Identity Parade so that you too can have a go at putting the right heads on ...





The egg ta(r)ts display... Before Steve Cubbins.... After Steve Cubbins...