By MICHAEL CATLING
WORLD number two Laura Massaro crashed out of the quarter-final stage at the Hong Kong Open, as local favourite Annie Au sent the Hong Kong Squash Centre into raptures with a 11-6, 11-5, 9-11, 11-9 victory over the British Open Champion.
Massaro struggled to contain the diminutive Au’s incredible front-court coverage and despite a series of bellowing cries of encouragement, the 30-year-old Englishwoman became the most high-profile casualty of the tournament so far.
Au, who despatched fellow Brit Emma Beddoes with consummate ease in the second-round, began her last eight encounter with real purpose and spurred on by her home crowd, unleashed a succession of volleyed winners to take the opening game.
The second continued in a similar vein as Massaro’s hopes of a third WSA Tour title this year began to evaporate amid the number 12 seed’s unrelenting winner count.
With a 2-0 lead and perhaps recognising the enormity of the situation, Au’s earlier finesse at the front of the court began to diminish and with the scores tied at 9-9, Massaro won the next two points to half the deficit.
At 9-8 up in the fourth game and seemingly set to level matters, an untimely tinned boast by Massaro swung the momentum in favour of Au again. Two drop shots later and the Hong Kong number one was left to celebrate making the semi-final stage for the second time in three years.
A beaming Au (pictured right) said: “This is a bonus for me as I didn’t expect to win, especially since Laura is world number two and in top form.
“This match was one of my best games and it proves I have the ability to compete at the highest level and it’s definitely a confidence booster.
“When I was getting close to winning, I just had to shut everything out of my mind and keep concentrating on the next point. Now I just want to enjoy tomorrow and show my best to the home crowd,” added the 24-year-old.
Au, who has not won a tournament on the WSA Tour circuit since April 2011, will now face world number three Raneem El Weleily for a place in Sunday’s final, after the Egyptian stormed past fellow compatriot Omneya Abdel Kawy in straight games.
El Weleily needed five games to beat Kawy at the US Open in October, but rarely looked troubled as she raced to a 11-8, 11-9, 11-4 victory in half an hour.
Defending champion Nicol David also wasted little time in defeating former world number Jenny Duncalf, as she romped to a 11-4, 11-3, 11-3 victory in just 24 minutes.
Duncalf barely scraped past Nicolette Fernandes last time out and seemed to be suffering the after-effects of their 76 minute encounter as she lost the opening game 11-4.
Sensing her opponents weariness, David ruthlessly started to extend the lengths of rallies and eased through the next two games to increase her winning streak to 25 matches.
However, world number four Alison Waters ensured there will be English representation in the semi-finals of the women’s draw, after overcoming yesterday’s giant-killer Joshna Chinappa in four tough games.
The 29-year-old lost a nail-biting tie-breaker in the opening game, but quickly recovered her composure to dominate proceedings and prevail 12-14, 11-7, 11-3, 11-6.
 Nicol David (Mas) v  Alison Waters (Eng) – 18:45pm
 Raneem El Weleily (Egy) v  Annie Au (Hkg) – 18:00pm
 Nicol David (Mas) v  Jenny Duncalf (Eng) 11-4, 11-3, 11-3 (24m)
 Alison Waters (Eng) v Joshna Chinappa (Ind) 12-14, 11-7, 11-3, 11-6 (41m)
 Raneem El Weleily (Egy) 3-0  Omneya Abdel Kawy (Egy) 11-8, 11-9, 11-4 (30m)
 Annie Au (Hkg) 3-1  Laura Massaro (Eng) 11-6, 11-5, 9-11, 11-9 (50m)
To read a comprehensive review of all the action at the Hong Kong Open, click here.
Pictures by Steve Cubbins (SquashSite)