The Everbright Securities International Hong Kong Squash Open has returned to the PSA World Tour calendar for the first time in four years, with a quartet of local players – Tsz Kwan Lau, Tomato Ho, Lee Ka Yi and Tong Tsz-Wing – claiming wins on day one of the Platinum event.
Men’s World No.64 Lau claimed the biggest win of his career after he came back from a game down to record an 8-11, 11-8, 11-5, 11-3 victory over Egyptian veteran Mazen Gamal.
Cheered on by his home fans, 26-year-old Lau didn’t let an opening-game defeat deter him as he played at a fast pace to book his spot in the last 32 of the Hong Kong Open for the first time. Lau’s reward is a fixture with Scotland’s Greg Lobban.
“It feels amazing to win at home and get the support of the home crowd,” said Lau. “It feels so good. It’s been four years [since the Hong Kong Open was last held] and it is my first time in the main draw. I’m really looking to performing well and I hope I can get another win in front of my family and my friends. I couldn’t sleep well last night!
“I won’t be thinking about it [reaching the latter stages], I will just be trying to put my opponent under huge pressure.”
There were three other local players in action in the men’s draw today – Henry Leung, Tang Ming Hong and Chi Him Wong – with all three seeing their tournaments come to an end.
Leung came closest to a win as he took World No.67 Juan Camilo Vargas to five games, but the Colombian narrowly claimed an 8-11, 11-9, 8-11, 11-8, 12-10 victory to score his first Platinum triumph.
“I was three match balls down and mentally it was tough to stay in it,” said Vargas, who will play Spain’s Iker Pajares next. “It was very physical, the last game especially, as we both really wanted to win, but I’m glad I managed to stay composed to play better to win. Henry’s a very tough player physically and he’s very strong, so I knew it was going to be tough. Mentally, I was prepared for a long battle, and I’m glad it went my way.”
Portugal’s Rui Soares is through to the last 32 after fighting to a 3-2 win over Canada’s David Baillargeon, while Spain’s Bernat Jaume and Malaysia’s Ivan Yuen have achieved their maiden Platinum wins after beating Scotland’s Rory Stewart and Hungary’s Balazs Farkas.
In the women’s event, World No.36 Ho – the highest ranked player from Hong Kong competing in the draw – claimed her first Hong Kong Open victory since 2016 as she completed a comfortable 11-3, 11-7, 11-5 victory over compatriot Ching Hei Fung. The win means she will take on World No.1 and 2016 champion Nouran Gohar in the next round.
“Even though I’m the No.1 seed in Hong Kong, my draw is not good,” said Ho. “In the second round I will play with the World No.1. I think there is no pressure on me. I expect she will play at a high speed. She is very powerful, so hopefully I can stay longer on court and maybe hit some good rallies for the audience.”
World No.45 Lee achieved her maiden win at her home event, overcoming Egypt’s Zeina Zein in four games to set up a last 32 fixture against World No.3 Hania El Hammamy.
“It’s really encouraging because it’s my first time to enter the second round of the Hong Kong Open,” said Lee following her 11-9, 10-12, 11-5, 11-2 victory. I tried to have a better performance here on my home court for the Hong Kong people supporting me and the other Hong Kong players. I hope to have another good performance tomorrow and hopefully the crowd will support me.”
Ho and Lee will be joined in the second round by fellow Hong Kong player Tong Tsz-Wing after she ousted Egyptian Salma Eltayeb in a thrilling five game match at the end of the evening.
Elsewhere, World No.64 Katie Maliff claimed her first ever win at a Platinum event after she took out fellow English player Julianne Courtice in a gripping five-game battle.
Day Two will feature 32 second round matches across four courts at Hong Kong Squash Centre, with the seeded players entering the action.