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
three finals for Greg
Early exit in 2011
C U THERE !!!
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!”
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
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
“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!”
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
record in Hong Kong is even more impressive, and longer, than
“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
“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.
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
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).
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
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
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
“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
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.”