Well-earned places in the quarter-finals of the Hong Kong Squash Open Platinum event for both Paul Coll and Joelle King, but it gets very difficult from here if they are to progress further in the tournament.
Women’s world No.7 King utilised her experience to see off Egyptian teenager Hania El Hammamy in four games. Winning the first game 11-8, before her opponent battled back in the second to draw level.
The New Zealander was able to regain control though as she took a 2-1 lead before comfortably closing out in the fourth to win 11-8, 7-11, 11-7, 11-3 in 41 minutes.
"It was a tough match the whole way through,” said the 30-year-old from the Waikato. “Hania had a great win the previous round and I have been watching her improve over the months, so I knew it was going to be a tough one so I’m really happy to come away with the win and that I came through a tough match well.
“We play quite a similar game, we both like pace and to make the game physical so I think I had to use a bit of experience in patches. You can’t really say it was easy through any point in the match, even the last game which was 11-3. Against someone who fights the way she does you have to play right until the last point and I think experience was what got me through today.
“The crowds here in Hong Kong always turn out and they seem to appreciate both men’s and women’s squash, so I hope we give them so good matches and I’m looking forward to playing another day.
King will now face Egypt’s world No.3 Nour El Tayeb in the quarter-finals. El Tayeb leads 4-3 in head-to-head matches, including the two times they played this year, one of which was in straight games and the other in five games in the final of the Windy City Open
“Nour and I played a lot last year but this season we have only played in an exhibition. At this level it is really a case of on the day who plays their best level on court. They have both been playing well and getting through the tournament seedings.”
World No.8 Coll was pushed all the way by England’s No.1 Declan James to book a place in the men’s quarter-finals for the first time.
Coll was forced to come from behind in each game as James took the lead with the New Zealand player forced to dig deep and call upon the best shots in his arsenal.
James consistently got off to the better start in each game but was unable to convert the big chances in the match with higher seeded Coll – who is known as one of the fittest players on the Men’s Tour – being able to utilise his experience to win 13-11, 11-9, 11-9 in a 60-minute battle.
The Kiwi will now face World No.1 and defending champion Mohamed ElShorbagy in the quarter-finals.
“He’s playing some great squash,” said the 26-year-old from Greymouth. “It was a bit stop-start which isn’t always the game I like but I’m happy I kept my game intact and was able to close out in three because he was playing well. His forehand was ripping it in today and he was keeping it short and I’m really happy to win in three and be through to my first quarter-finals here.
“I knew what I had to do but I felt like I would get onto it and then there would be a stoppage, so I just had to keep telling myself that once there was a stoppage that I would keep playing my game and not get sucked into just hitting it down the side wall and I had to inflict my own game.
“Every time there was a stoppage I felt like I could lose that momentum and he would put the ball away sharply. I felt mentally it was a tough test for me and I’m glad I passed it.”
His next match is as tough as it gets as he faces the top seed ElShorbagy next.
“We played at the U.S. Open [against Mohamed ElShorbagy] and I felt pretty good on court and it was a tight battle, he really dug in at the end and closed it out like he does at the end. I’m going to have to be consistent throughout the entire match and not really have any bad patches because if I drop off mentally or anything then he will make me pay for it.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge, he’s the best in the world and it will be a good test for me.”
Both King and Coll play their matches on Friday evening New Zealand time.