With his sights on a sixth title, Egypt’s Amr Shabana will set a new PSA World Tour record for the number of appearances in a single event when he celebrates his 16th successive year in the Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Squash Open, the sixth PSA World Series event of 2012 which gets underway at the Hong Kong Squash Centre today.
Founded in 1985, the 27th edition of the world-famous event reaches its climax with semi-finals and finals staged on a brand new all-glass show court erected at the Cultural Centre on the waterfront at Tsim Sha Tsui.
Shabana, a four-time world champion from Cairo, made his Hong Kong Open debut in 1996 – four years before any other player competing in this year’s championship.
“I’ve been playing in Hong Kong since 96 – it was my first major to play after the Al-Ahram Open and British Open earlier in the year,” said 33-year-old Shabana, who joined the PSA in 1995 and went on to top the world rankings for 33 consecutive months from April 2006.
“For me it is one of the best organised events in terms of how the organizers set it up,” added the left-hander, currently ranked seven in the world. “I have always been – and will always be – a player who, if physically fit, the better and bigger the occasion the better I play.”
Shabana won his first title in Hong Kong in 2005, when the event was also the World Open, and went on to retain the Hong Kong Open trophy for a further four years. The distinguished Egyptian now boasts 29 Tour titles from 43 final appearances.
“Shabana is one of the greats of the game and we are lucky to still have him competing at such a high level after being on the Tour for such a long time,” said Alex Gough, CEO of the Professional Squash Association. “He is many squash fans’ favourite and to see him do well again in Hong Kong again this year would be fantastic for the game.”
This year’s Hong Kong Open has been chosen as the inspection event for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to determine which of the shortlisted sports should win a place on the programme for the 2020 Olympiad.
“Having the IOC come to Hong Kong will show them what a great squash experience it is watching the world’s best squash. Squash players are some of the strongest, if not THE strongest, athletes in this world.”
Seeded seven this week, Shabana opens his latest campaign in Hong Kong tomorrow against French qualifier Mathieu Castagnet - and is expected to meet English rival Nick Matthew, the world number two, in the quarter-finals.
Hong Kong Open 1st round draw:
1 James Willstrop (ENG) v Adrian Grant (ENG)
Ong Beng Hee (MAS) v Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL)
Borja Golan (ESP) v [Q] Joe Lee (ENG)
8 Mohamed El Shorbagy (EGY) v [Q] Ryan Cuskelly (AUS)
6 Peter Barker (ENG) v [Q] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY)
Cameron Pilley (AUS) v [Q] Chris Simpson (ENG)
Daryl Selby (ENG) v Alister Walker (BOT)
4 Karim Darwish (EGY) v Leo Au (HKG)
3 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v [Q] Gregoire Marche (FRA)
Nicolas Mueller (SUI) v [Q] Adrian Waller (ENG)
Saurav Ghosal (IND) v [Q] Max Lee (HKG)
5 Ramy Ashour (EGY) v Tarek Momen (EGY)
7 Amr Shabana (EGY) v [Q] Mathieu Castagnet (FRA)
Tom Richards (ENG) v Olli Tuominen (FIN)
Omar Mosaad (EGY) v Stephen Coppinger (RSA)
2 Nick Matthew (ENG) v Simon Rosner (GER)