MEML HKFC International  International 3's  23-29 May 2016

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Annie and Leo lose out as
Coll and Chinappa win thrillers

A dramatic semi-final day saw both home favourites lose out in front of a packed crowd at Hong Kong Football Club.

In the women's semis top seed Joelle
King overcame a ferocious challenge from Donna Urquhart while Joshna Chinappa got the better of defending champion Annie Au in a tense five-setter.

Malaysia's Nafiizwan Adnan ended home hopes as he beat Leo Au in three close games, and Paul Coll denied an all-Malaysian final as he came back from match ball down in the third to end the run of qualifier Ivan Yuen.

Reports and quotes below results ...

 Watch replays on Periscope

HKFC International - Semi-Finals  

[1] Joelle King (Nzl) 3-1 [8] Donna Urquhart (Aus) 
                 11/8, 10/12, 11/6, 11/6 (49m)
[3] Joshna Chinappa (Ind) 3-2 [2] Annie Au (Hkg)
                  8/11, 11/9, 13/11, 7/11, 11/9 (60m)

[3] Nafiizwan Adnan (Mas) 3-0 [2] Leo Au (Hkg)
                 11/8, 11/8, 12/10 (44m)
[5] Paul Coll (Nzl) 3-2 [Q] Ivan Yuen (Mas)
                   5/11, 9/11, 12/10, 11/5, 11/3 (82m)

In the first semi-final top seeded Joelle King got off to a great start as she stormed into a 10-3 lead over eight-seeded Donna Urquhart, but the left-handed Aussie made a spirited recovery, reducing the deficit to 8-10 before King finally took the lead.

Urquhart went 3-0 up in the second but King struck back to lead 5-3 and then 10-5 as Urquhart served out. That sparked off another Aussie comeback as Urquhart reeled off seven points in a row to level the match 12-10.

Those comebacks weren't to be repeated though as King pulled clear from 6-all in the third to retake the lead 11-6 and held the advantage throughout the fourth, closing out the match 11-6.

"Donna's always a tough player to come up against," said Joelle, "out matches usually go to at least four games but I think I probably should have won that one three-nil! I was maybe off court before I'd actually won them in the first two, that's where I've been good in earlier rounds so lesson learnt.

"It's good to know I'll be back again tomorrow, it's been a while since I played four matches in a row!"

If that match was a hard-hitting battle between two willing runners, the men's match that followed was a much more tactical affair, with plenty of long, slow-paced rallied and lob-drop exchanges galore.

That's Leo Au's game of course, especially as he's still troubled by a shoulder injury that restricts his hitting power, but Nafiizwan Adnan played him at that game well, injecting pace when he could while being willing to engage in the slow game too.

The Malaysian got the better start in all three games - 4-1 in the first, 4-2 in the second and 5-3 then 7-4 in the third, and Au could never quite close those gaps as Adnan took the match 11/8, 11/8 and 12/10 on his second match ball.

"You know what it's going to be like when you play Leo," said Adnan, "and I knew he was struggling a little with his shoulder, but it was still a very tough match. I just had the edge at the end of each game, and it's good to be able to finish in three so I'm hopefully a little fresher for the final."

Leo's sister Annie, the defending women's champion, plays a similar game, but India's Joshna Chinappa was making determined efforts to keep the pace of the match as high as possible throughout their five games.

All five were close, Annie taking the first from 7-all, Joshna levelling from 9-all in the second, and edging ahead from 9-all in the third before Annie pulled away from the middle of the fourth to set up a decider.

Annie was always a couple of points ahead in the fifth, Joshna getting unsettled by some of the decisions going against her. At 9-7 Annie was awarded a stroke which was amended to a let, and that seemed to spur Joshna on to take three points in a row to move to match ball. Annie put a simple ball into the tin and her run of 3-2 wins and grip on the title was over.

"That was such a tough match, every point was fought to the max," said a delighted Joshna. "When she nearly got that stroke at the end of the fifth it looked like it was over, but I got a few points in a row, I was just so relieved to win it.

"This is the biggest final I've ever made, I'm really excited for tomorrow ..."

The final match of the day was again the longest, although Ivan Yuen was so close to finishing off another impressive upset in three games. The Malaysian qualifier was - by his own later admission - playing some of his best squash ever as he more than held his own with fifth seeded Kiwi Paul Coll, but it was Yuen who was able to find the winning shots at the end of a series of long punishing rallies.

He stormed through the first, then from 9-all in the second fired in two outrageous backhand crosscourt volley nicks to double his lead. The third was equally close, 7-all 8-all then 9-all. Yue hit another leaping volley nick to reach matchball, and Coll saved it with a trademark dive during a ferocious rally. Two more fierce rallies and it was the New Zealander clenching his fist as he closed out the 24-minute game.

Try as Ivan might, that was the end of his challenge as Coll controlled the next two games, winning them 11-5, 11-3 to move into his second $25k final.

"He was just awesome in the first two games," admitted Coll. "I had to try to get more positive and apply more pressure myself, I tried to push but he was hitting some great shots.

"After taking the third I knew I still had to make it physical, I couldn't afford to get sucked into a slow game so I tried to step it up and got the momentum going into the fifth.

"Delighted to be in the final, hope we can make it a New Zealand double!

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