Shabana & David Claim Hong Kong Crowns
23 Oct 2006
World number ones Amr Shabana and Nicol David kept their unexpected opponents at bay in the finals of the Cathay Pacific Swiss Privilege Hong Kong Open at the Hollywood Plaza to repeat the successes they both enjoyed at the same location last December when Hong Kong hosted the World Open Championships.
Malaysian star Nicol David, the women's event favourite, reached the final after a tough five-game semi-final battle with Australian rival Rachael Grinham - while England's seventh seed Tania Bailey arrived at the climax after creating upsets over second seed Vanessa Atkinson and fifth seed Vicky Botwright, but without dropping a game in the event so far.
David, the reigning world champion with 21 successive WISPA World Tour wins behind her, swept to a convincing first game win and, after being extended to eight-all in the second, recovered her authority to clinch the match 9-1, 10-8, 9-5 after 41 minutes to claim her fifth WISPA title in a row, and the 15th of her career.
"I made a good start, but if you gave Tania any room she'll take advantage, which is what she did in the second," explained the 23-year-old from Penang to www.squashsite.co.uk afterwards.
"I thought I played a good match, felt really good and with a good rhythm, I just pushed on to the end of the match."
Bailey, showing signs that she has finally overcome the injury and illness woes which have disrupted her career since her career-high world No3 ranking in March 2003, was celebrating her first ever appearance in a WISPA Platinum event final.
"I was a bit overmatched at the start, but managed to get into it in the second," said the 27-year-old British National champion from Stamford in Lincolnshire. "After I got to 8-1, I couldn't win the next point and after that she just didn't make any errors. She's done that to me a few times, but I did expect to win that game. At 2/0 down instead of one-all, you're definitely up against it!
"Her pace is so much more than the other girls and she takes everything so early. But it's great to come through five matches - that's a big bonus, and I've got lots of good things to take back with me."
Shabana also had a battle on his hands in the men's semi-finals, twice needing to come from behind before beating England's fourth seed James Willstrop in a 76-minute five-game clash.
His opponent, however, arrived on an almighty high: Unseeded, 19-year-old Ramy Ashour despatched world No10 John White; world No3 Thierry Lincou; world No23 Peter Barker and then world No2 David Palmer, the world champion from Australia, in successive rounds to reach the first Super Series final of his brief career to date.
Ashour, who only three months ago made history by becoming the first player to win the world junior men's title for the second time, was far from overawed by Shabana, his Egyptian compatriot.
The teenager led 7-3 in the first game, but Shabana came back to take the opener before Ashour clinched the second to draw level. It was Shabana who had the upper hand in the third, but Ashour was unable to convert two game balls in the fourth before the favourite finally claimed victory 11-10 (3-1), 3-11, 11-5, 11-10 (3-1) after 48 minutes.
"It was such a close match, like you saw in the third, just one point in it," said Shabana afterwards. "It was attacking squash, but that's how we're taught to play back home, it's the only way we know to do it.
"It's the first time two Egyptians have been in a Super Series final, we're proud of that and we're glad we put on a good show," added the new Hong Kong Open champion.
"Ramy is only just 19, world junior champion - but we can't think of him as a junior anymore - and he has a great future in the game, a future world champion, for sure."
A tired, but elated, Ashour said: "I lost to the world number one, I played well throughout the tournament, and I'm happy for Amr that he will still be number one, it's a great honour for our country.
"After a week like this, I'm so tired."