Reigning men’s champion, Max Lee made easy work of retaining the Buler Squash Challenge Cup on Sunday July 7, much to the delight of the Hong Kong officials and the supportive home crowd. Meanwhile, Amanda Sobhy, from the US, won the women’s title following the withdrawal of Hong Kong’s Annie Au from the Final.
Illness swept through the Hong Kong players’ camp forcing several early retirements. Lee’s successful defence of his title was all the more impressive, as he also was recovering from the hand, foot and mouth disease symptoms that the local players exhibited.
World ranked No.34, Lee, won all his matches in straight games: beating qualifier Ammar Altamimi (110) of Egypt in the first round 11-4, 11-6, 11-4; he then went on to demolish Rex Hedrick of Australia (62) 11-4, 11-3, 11-4 in the Quarter Final; Harinder Pal Sandu of India (70) 11-9, 11-8, 11-9 in the Semi-final; before taking the Final against Steven Finitsis of Australia (73) 12-10, 11-3, 11-7.
In discussing the Final with the Epoch Times, Finitsis praised Lee’s game.
“Obviously Max is a quality player and he showed that today and he played well,” Finitsis said.
Summing up his own performance Finitsis concluded that he was fortunate to reach the Final.
“Yes, good tournament,” he said. “I got further than expected and better than my seeding, so I was quite lucky to get through.”
His toughest match, apart from the Final, was his 72 minute Quarter Final encounter against the No.2 seed, Mohd Nafizwan Adnan of Malaysia.
“In the Quarter Finals I was two games to one down and clawed my way back to win in five [games] so, all-in-all, it was a good tournament – although I did not make it in the Final.”
Lee won the Final in style and after a tight first game, in which Finitsis pushed Lee to 12-10, he dominated the remaining two games to win the tournament.
Up-and-coming American athlete Amanda Sobhy, seeded at No.5, won the women’s event with straight-game wins through to the Final and then took the winner’s Cup with a walk-over, as Annie Au, Hong Kong No.1 withdrew ill.
On her way to the title she beat: Deon Saffery of Wales (48) 11-9, 11-7, 11-9; Donna Urquhart of Australia, who is just recovering from an ankle operation (17) 11-4, 11-7, 11-7; and Joshana Chinappa of India (27) in the Semi-final 11-9, 11-6, 11-5.
Discussing the tournament with the Epoch Times, Sobhy said she was very pleased with her visit to Hong Kong.
“It’s my first time in Hong Kong—it has been great, everybody has been super nice and the city is great. So much to do here. It’s a pity I have only been here for a short time,” said Sobhy.
Discussing the quality of the matches and the venue, she also sent her best wishes to the ill Au.
“Up until the finals it has been great, the venue is great, the crowds are great, the matches have been tough—it was a strong draw. It is unfortunate and sad about Annie, and I hope she has a speedy recovery.”
Sobhy said she was very happy with her game and believed she was improving with each match.
“They [the matches] have all been tough since the first round, but it’s good you know? Each match I thought I was getting better and better, so I would have liked to have played today to see how I would have played, but I am happy with my performance overall,” she said.
“Even the players that are not seeded are strong players and even the Hong Kong players coming up are really strong. I would not consider this an easy tournament at all,” she added.
The women’s tournament was marred by hand, foot and mouth disease, with both of the Hong Kong top players Annie Au and Joey Chan retiring from the tournament.
Joey Chan (22) withdrew from her Quarter Final match against Tesni Evans (45); and Annie Au (14), who beat Evans 11-6, 11-2, 3-11, 11-8 in the Semi-final, withdrew from the Final.
Twenty-year-old Sobhy is not full-time on the professional circuit as she is still studying and plays for the Harvard College woman’s team, but participates in international events during the summer period. She has just finished her second year at Harvard and has recently been crowned Harvard 2012-2013 female athlete of the year.
Sobhy won the World Junior Squash Championship in 2010 and is the only woman player to have won three professional championships under the age of 17. She has now added to this tally a number of times. She won the US Nationals by beating Natalie Grainger in March 2012, but she lost to Grainger in the Final in March 2013.
Sobhy’s world ranking is a bit variable due to her intermittent play on the professional circuit and, although she is currently ranked No.28, she was ranked No.17 in April 2011. She currently splits her time between academics, collegiate sports and the professional circuit.