Hong Kong’s Annie Au was pushed all the way to five games against India’s Dipika Pallikal in the first round of the Naza PSA Women’s World Championship, but the World No.10 held firm to move through to second round in Bukit Jalil’s National Squash Centre in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Au looked to be heading to a comfortable win in straight games after a highly-consistent display saw her strike up a 2-0 advantage, but Pallikal fought back brilliantly and cut out her errors to level the match. Au rallied in the fifth though and managed to wrestle the momentum back in her favour, claiming an 11-8, 11-9, 6-11, 6-11, 11-7 victory to set up a second round clash against either British Open winner Nour El Sherbini or Australia’s Donna Urquhart.
“Despite losing my concentration in the third and fourth games, I’m really happy to get through this round,” said Au.
“I was a bit rushed, but I think that I played well overall because Dipika is not an easy player to play. She’s an attacking player and, when I gave her a lot of chances in the middle, she really can whack the ball back. I’m really happy to go through to the second round.”
Pallikal improved at the beginning of the second, with her powerful forehand drives soon seeing her seize the early initiative. However, a succession of errors with Pallikal 6-4 ahead resulted in a shift in momentum and Au got herself back on top as a scrappy end to the game went in the World No.10’s favour. The opening stages of the third game went along the same vein, but this time Pallikal held on to the lead that she had established, coming out on top of a particularly gruelling rally to halve the deficit before repeating the feat in the fourth to set up a dramatic decider.
Both players went hell for leather in a high-octane ending to the match that saw Au narrowly sneak ahead and she held on to her lead to secure her second round berth.
Result – First Round: Naza PSA Women’s World Championship
Annie Au (HKG) bt Dipika Pallikal (IND) 3-2: 11-8, 11-9, 6-11, 6-11, 11-7 (63m)
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