Hong Kong’s Max Lee and Annie Au are the top seeds for the 2019 edition of the HKFC International, but both face tough challenges as they aim to retain the titles they won in last year’s Hong Kong Football Club PSA Challenger 30 event.
With 48 players from 18 Nations competing, and the sixteen seeds all ranked inside the world’s top 50, there’s bound to be strong competition for the $30,000 prize funds on offer for both men and women. There’s no title corporate sponsor this year, with all the funding coming from private individuals.
Running since 2012, this will be the eighth edition of the event – the first two were men only with the women’s event added in 2014 – and will be played out on two of the club’s three all-Glass ASB courts, with capacity for 300+ spectators, between 10th and 14th September.
It looks like a close race for the men’s title, with with the top six seeds all ranked between #25 and #35 in the world. Three-time champion Max – winner in 2014 and 2015 and currently World #25 – beat compatriot and then defending champion Leo Au in last year’s final, and if all goes to seeding they will meet again in this year’s climax.
In the top half of the draw Max looks set to face fifth seeded Egyptian Youssef Soliman in the quarters, and Scotland’s Greg Lobban, the third seed and world #30, in the semis, although wildcard Matthew Lai and in-form Henry Leung will be looking to boost home interest with first round wins.
World #28 Leo’s path to the final could see him up against Egypt’s Omar Abdel Meguid in his first match, Qatar’s seventh seed Abdulla al Tamimi in the quarters, and fourth seeded compatriot Yip Tsz Fung, ranked #31, in the semis – although Yip would need to navigate a potential quarter-final against France’s world #35 Lucas Serme. There is home interest in three more first round matches as Tang Ming Hong, Wong Chi Him and Lau Tsz Kwan all look to get past 9/16 seeds.
Strong HK lineup in Women’s Draw
The seedings also predict an all-Hong Kong women’s final with Annie – ranked #10 in the world and looking for a third title after her 2015 and 2018 triumphs – set to face second seeded world #17 Joey Chan. With six HK women players ranked in the world’s top 50 there’s plenty of home interest elsewhere, too.
The top half of the draw is packed with HK hopes, Liu Tsz-Ling and Ho Tze-Lok coming in as sixth and seventh seeds, while Tong Tsz-Wing looks set for a second round against Malaysia’s former world #4 Low Wee Wern, seeded third as she continues her comeback from a long injury break.
Joey’s bid to reach a first HKFC final could see her up against compatriot Vanessa Chu, who always seems to produce an upset in this event, Canada’s fifth seed Danielle Letourneau in the quarters, and fourth seed Nada Abbas, the sole Egyptian in the women’s field, in the semis.
There’s a host of other dangers for the seeds in the first round though, with Australia’s Donna Lobban – fresh from winning a brace of Gold medals at the WSF World Doubles – and Americans Sabrina Sobhy and Reeham Sedky all capable of progressing deep into the draw.
New for 2019
Accommodation will this year be provided by the new Emporer Hotel, which even before it opened was making headlines as a World War II bomb was excavated during construction (we’re assured it’s perfectly safe now!). Organisers are also hoping there’s no repeat “Super Typhoon” which threatened to disrupt last year’s event.
Action begins at noon on Tue 10th Sep with the finals set for the afternoon of Saturday 14th. We’ll have daily onsite coverage with live scoring and streaming available throughout, all here on HKFCinternational.com.