The world’s top players will once again showcase their skills in the city as the TTI Milwaukee Hong Kong Squash Open 2023, title-sponsored by TTI Milwaukee for the first time, gets underway next month, with the West Kowloon Cultural District to be used as venue for the first time.
All top 10 players in the men’s rankings, led by world number one Ali Farag of Egypt, will be featured whereas women’s top player Nour El Sherbini of Egypt, also known as ‘Warrior Princess’ and a seven-time world champion, will spearhead the women’s challenge that includes nine players in the world’s top 10.
At stake will be a total winning purse of US$380,000 (HK$2.96 million) to be evenly disbursed between the men’s and women’s players in the PSA World Tour Platinum tournament that takes place between November 27 to December 3. Organizer Squash Association of Hong Kong, China is keen to promote gender equality.
The tournament will be held at the Hong Kong Squash Centre in Central from the first round to the quarterfinals before moving across the Victoria Harbour to the West Kowloon Cultural District where a glass court will be set up in the Cultural Plaza of the Xiqu Centre for the semi-finals and finals.
Spectators will be given the best viewing experience in the astonishing setup with the Hong Kong skyline as an attractive background.
Both the men’s and women’s competitions will have a 48-player draw as the Hong Kong Open is no stranger to the world’s top players, including defending men’s and women’s champions, Mostafa Asal and Hania El Hammamy, both of Egypt.
Last year, both players needed a five-game thriller before edging out their opponents in the finals to win the prestigious tournament that was first introduced at the Island Squash Rackets Club (ISRC) in Borrett Road in 1985.
Asal beat Peruvian Diego Elias, currently world number two, to clinch the men’s title while El Hammamy stunned compatriot El Sherbini for the women’s champion.
All four quality players will return to Hong Kong for the prestigious event while other big names such as Mohamed El Shorbagy, the 2018 Hong Kong Open men’s champion, currently number four in the world and Joelle King of New Zealand, the women’s champion of 2018 and currently ranked fourth in the world.
Fans will not only be given the lavish treat of watching the performance of the world’s best players. They can also support the top home players who returned with great success from the recent Asian Games in Hangzhou.
Heading the home challenge will be Tomato Ho Tze-lok, who broke into the women’s world top 25 early this year, Tong Tsz-wing, the 2021 Asian champion, Lee Ka-yi and Chan Sin-yuk, silver medallist at the Hangzhou Asian Games. The quartet clinched a team silver in Hangzhou. The first three will enter the Hong Kong Open by virtue of their world rankings while Chan and another home player, Cheng Nga-ching will be given wild card entries.
In the men’s event, world number 47 Alex Lau Tsz-kwan will start in front of the home crowds and will be joined by two wild cards – Henry Leung Chi-hin and Tang Ming-hong.
“Not all the players can be eligible for a platinum event as it requires certain ranking level,” the Honourable Duncan Chiu, Chairman of Squash Association of Hong Kong, China said. “We are delighted to have three women’s players who can enter the tournament through their world rankings and one men’s player who also makes it.
“They will have a great chance of rubbing shoulders against the world's best players and this is one of the ways for them to secure more ranking points as they embark on the world tour again after the Asian Games. More importantly, with squash being confirmed as a medal programme at the 2028 Olympic Games, Hong Kong players would need more international exposure to sharpen their skills to prepare for the Olympics.”
Hong Kong has produced many good generations of squash players and it will be interesting to find out if the new generation players can take up the baton to meet the challenges for the Olympic Games.