King & Queen of HK

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

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The King and Queen of Hong Kong

All the players love coming to Hong Kong, but when you regularly leave clutching the trophy and a sizeable winner’s cheque it can only make the bond stronger.

That’s certainly been the case for Amr Shabana and Nicol David who have taken home the titles more often than not in recent years, and can surely be called the King and Queen of Hong Kong!






three finals for Greg



Early exit in 2011


King Shabana

Shabana’s love affair with the city began with his first senior appearance in 1996, and he hasn’t missed an event since, but it wasn’t until his 8th appearance in 2004 that he made it past the second round, losing out in the quarter-finals to Thierry Lincou who went on to become the champion.

“I’m thinking I’ve been to Hong Kong more than 15 times,” recalls the 33-year-old Egyptian. “It’s a fantastic place with a million things you.

“I particularly like going up the peak tram and dining in a restaurant there overlooking the harbour, the seafood is amazing. There just isn’t enough time to see or do everything you want to in a week!”

Then in 2005 he captured the World Open title, his second, with a series of blistering performances which left rivals Lee Beachill, Peter Nicol and David Palmer trailing in his wake on the harbourside, all beaten 3-0 in under 40 minutes ... and his reign began.

Over the next four years the ‘Prince of Cairo’ extended his unbeaten run to 25 matches as he retained the title in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. In the first of those finals he beat his young compatriot Ramy Ashour, and in the next three it was France’s Gregory Gaultier who finished runner-up behind the King.

“I have great memories of winning matches in Hong Kong,” he smiles, “but there have been so many I just can’t pick one as the best or most memorable!”

In 2010 two more wins followed taking him to 27, but the run was finally broken, perhaps fittingly by Gaultier, in the quarter-finals. Another quarter-final defeat in 2011 at the hands of Azlan Iskandar did nothing to deter Shabana’s enthusiasm and determination, and 2012 saw the four-time world champion, five-time Hong Kong champion, emerge from his summer training looking as lean, fit, and eager as he ever has.

“My aim this year is to win the tournament again, it’s high on the list of my top three events on the calendar and to win there again would be special,” he says, adding “it would also build up my confidence for the World Championship the following week in Qatar.”
Queen Nicol

David’s record in Hong Kong is even more impressive, and longer, than Shabana’s.

“I've been playing in HK since I was 11 years old during the Hong Kong Juniors. It's a lot of years!

“Hong Kong is my top venue,” she adds. “The great shopping malls to explore and so many restaurants -the Barbecue pork with rice is simple but so tasty - and I love Using their MTR system that connects everywhere.

“The only problem is that everyone walks too fast and it's hard to keep up!”

After a first round exit in 2001, her first appearance in the senior event, and a world open semi-final defeat in 2003, the Malaysian, then 22, returned for the World Open in 2005, which the history books record as the first of her record six - and counting - world titles.

Nicol has been the dominant force in women’s squash since capturing that world crown in 2005 - she became world number one at the start of 2006 largely on the back of that win and has been there ever since.

There has been the odd reverse as world, commonwealth and other titles have slipped from her grasp, but not many, and few are those that can claim to have beaten her once, let alone twice, in that period.

But no-one has beaten her in Hong Kong, not since Cassie Jackman in that 2003 semi-final.

Champion in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011, Nicol is now unbeaten in Hong Kong for a mighty 35 matches, and only one of those has gone to five games, back in 2006.

Her victims in the finals have been Rachael Grinham, (twice) Tania Bailey, Natalie Grinham, Omneya Abdel Kawy, Jenny Duncalf and Raneem El Weleily, seven finals in which she has dropped just two games (both to Rachael).

The Queen of Hong Kong ? You bet.

“Winning the World Open in 2005 on the glass court at the harbour front by the Arts and Cultural Building is still my best memory,” she recalls, “and it was the toughest too, having to beat both Vanessa Atkinson and Rachael Grinham to take the title, both of them were seeded higher than me at the time. ”

Just as for the men, the World Open comes shortly after Hong Kong, but the girls go to the Cayman Islands. “My personal target is like every other year, focusing on working towards my seeding and taking it one round at a time,” she says.

“It will be the best tournament to build up for the World Open as all the top players will be playing it too.”
The IOC are coming

Of course, the IOC will be there this year to see David and Shabana in action as part of the process to determine which sport should be added to the Olympic programme for the 2020 games. Both are certain that Hong Kong will deliver what’s needed:

“As long as everyone, players, fans and organisers, just do what they’ve been doing for the last 20 years there would have to be something wrong with them if they aren’t impressed,” says Shabana with typical honesty.

As one of the leading figures in the bid, Nicol is equally convinced: “It will certainly be a showcase like no other in the world for squash because Hong Kong knows how to give a spectacular show!

“The players love coming to HK for the very reason that HKSRA does such a fantastic job with running a squash event every time. We play our best squash in HK, and they get a lot of media and live coverage needed to promote squash throughout HK and the rest of the world.

“They will continue to outdo themselves always - their recent Flash Mob in Causeway Bay and other events for World Squash Day were great - and other countries will follow their lead on their efforts in backing the bid.”

Back to the Harbour

Both will obviously be eager to make the semi-finals so that they can perform again on the spectacular harbourfront setting.

“It’s a really cool setting,” says Shabana. Nicol adds: “I get goosebumps every time I'm back at the glass court on the harbour front overlooking the HK skyline. It’s truly breathtaking playing at such a location.

“After talking about Hong Kong, I can't wait to go back there now!”

Hong Kong in three words?

“Great Big Lights,” says Shabana.

For Nicol it
“Feels like home!”

Shabana insists on getting in the final three though:

“C U there.”

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King & Queen of HK

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