Hong Kong hero beats Egyptian giant-killer
By NATHAN CLARKE in Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s Max Lee sent the home crowd wild as he delivered a masterclass performance to defeat Egypt’s Fares Dessouky and book a berth in the semi-final of the Hong Kong Open – becoming the first male home player in over 30 years to reach the last four of the PSA World Series event.
Having never progressed beyond the first round of his home event previously Lee followed up his impressive second round win over Ali Farag with a scintillating display inside Hong Kong Sports Centre, playing with precision and control to secure his first ever PSA World Series semi-final berth.
The World No.18 had a packed out crowd behind him as he took on the dangerous Egyptian, who yesterday conquered World Champion Gregory Gaultier, and he lifted the roof off the Hong Kong Sport Centre when he came through in four games, winning 11-6, 8-11, 11-9, 11-8 in just over an hour.
“To play in the quarters here on the glass court was such a good feeling and to win, and reach the semis here in Hong Kong – that make me very, very happy,” said Lee.
“At the end, when I turned around and the crowd were all cheering, it was so good. They were so loud throughout – the atmosphere was amazing and I’m so excited to be in the semi-finals now where I’ll pay Ramy Ashour – who’s pretty good – but hopefully I can play well.
“The third game was crucial today. I was getting a bit nervous in towards the end because he changed his rhythm so well and it was very difficult to get points off him. It was a 50-50 game so I was very pleased to take it and then the match.”
Lee will now face three-time World Champion Ramy Ashour for a place in the final after the maverick Egyptian saw off the challenge of German Simon Rösner while Ryan Cuskelly produced an equally impressive perfomance to defeat former World No.1 James Willstrop 11-9, 11-8, 9-11, 11-7 after 74 minutes.
“James beat me here last year so it is good to get a bit of revenge for that,” said Cuskelly.
“I started the tournament well with a couple of good wins and I felt like I got off to a string start today as well. I could see he was struggling a bit after the first two games so I just tried to up the pace and not allow him to control the ball – because if you let him do that then he has the ability to just kill you off.
“I got my foot in front and took my chances when they came so I’m happy with that and I’m looking forward to the semis tomorrow now.
“There’s a few new faces in the last four so it’s there for whoever plays better on the day.”
In the women’s event Malaysian Nicol David celebrated her 33rd birthday in style as she saw off the threat of French World No.6 Camille Serme 3-1 to reach the semi-finals and keep her title defence alive.
The former World No.1 has been undefeated in Hong Kong over the past decade, not having lost since claiming the 2005 World Championship, and after stuttering in her first two matches against Tesni Evans and Joelle King she looked back to her best and she controlled the match against Serme, winning 11-8, 13-11, 7-11, 11-2.
“I think the last few matches really spurred me on to try and lift my game and up my performances,” said David.
“And playing on the show court today, in front of a big crowd, was a great feeling. The crowd here make it special for me and push me in those close moments – every time I’m in Hong Kong the fans really get behind me. They support fellow Asians in all sports and I have my team, Liz, Ronald and Michelle, here with me as well and that is all helping things come together.
“In the first tournament of the season you want things to come together from the off but it’s all about adjusting and finding the way to win. I had to get in there and be sharp from the word go because Camille is a top player and I really had to be on my game until the end.
“I managed to do that and I’m happy to be through to another semi-final here.”
David will take on World Junior Champion Nouran Gohar (right) for a place in the final after the 18-year-old knocked out World No.2 Laura Massaro in a brutal five-game thriller.
“To be in the semi-finals here is amazing,” said Gohar. “I played the World Junior Championship just a few weeks ago and to win that again was really pleasing but I worked hard to prepare for this tournament because it’s a massive event.
“She kept coming back really strong – it was so hard to finish it off. She was attacking everything and I was having to defend – you can’t switch off against her at all.
“It was really hard to stay strong and keep pushing in that fifth game. But I think at the beginning of the match my attacking was sharp and at the end I started to get my drop shot working and it worked.”
2016 Hong Open.
Men’s Quarter-final Results:
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt Cameron Pilley (AUS) 3-1: 11-3, 7-11, 11-6, 11-7 (52m)
Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) bt James Willstrop (ENG) 3-1: 11-9, 11-8, 9-11, 11-7 (74m)
Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt Simon Rösner (GER) 3-1: 12-10, 7-11, 11-4, 11-9 (52m)
Max Lee (HKG) bt Fares Dessouky (EGY) 3-1: 11-6, 8-11, 11-9, 11-8 (64m)
Men’s Semi-final Draw:
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) v Ryan Cuskelly (AUS)
Ramy Ashour (EGY) v Max Lee (HKG)
Women’s Quarter-final Results:
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt  Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY) 3-0: 11-6, 11-7, 11-5 (20m)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt  Nour El Tayeb (EGY) 3-0: 11-6, 11-4, 11-8 (27m)
 Nicol David (MAS) bt  Camille Serme (FRA) 3-1: 11-8, 13-11, 7-11, 11-2 (49m)
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt  Laura Massaro (ENG) 3-2: 11-8, 11-9, 8-11, 8-11, 14-12 (80m)
Women’s Semi-final Draw:
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v  Amanda Sobhy (USA)
 Nicol David (MAS) v  Nouran Gohar (EGY)
Pictures courtesy of PSA