KARIM DARWISH SET TO FOIL AMR SHABANA'S FOURTH TITLE BID IN HONG KONG

The $145,000 Super Series Platinum event - established in 1985 and one of the longest-running events on the men's world squash circuit - gets underway at the Hong Kong Squash Centre tomorrow (Wednesday) following two days of qualifying.  Semi-finals and final action will take place on an all-glass court at the Plaza Hollywood Shopping Mall.
 
Darwish, the world number one from Cairo, is seeded to win the Hong Kong Open crown for the first time - while Shabana, his predecessor at the top of the PSA world rankings, is the event's third seed and hoping to win the title for the fourth successive year. 
 
Success would take Shabana ahead of fellow three-time winner Peter Nicol, and make the 30-year-old the event's second most successful player - behind eight times champion Jansher Khan.
 
And, after jointly celebrating one of the most rewarding successes of their careers when Egypt secured the title at the world team championships last month, Darwish and Shabana are expected to go head-to-head in the Hong Kong Open semi-finals. 
 
Shabana, who is marking his 12th successive appearance in the event since 1996, takes on a qualifier in the opening round and is predicted to meet England's No7 seed Peter Barker in the quarter-finals.
 
Darwish arrives in Hong Kong fresh from victory in the Sky Open, also a Super Series Platinum event, in his home city last month.  But the 28-year-old has yet to progress beyond the quarter-finals in six Hong Kong appearances since 2001.  He also meets a qualifier in the first round - and is scheduled to meet 2001 champion David Palmer, the fifth seed from Australia, in the last eight round.
 
But Gregory Gaultier will also be hungry for success in Hong Kong after finishing as runner-up for the past two years.  The Frenchman, ranked two in the world, is the second seed - and begins his 2009 campaign against a qualifier before a likely quarter-final clash with compatriot Thierry Lincou, the sixth seed who won the title in 2004.
 
Hong Kong Open, Men's 1st Round Draw:
[1] Karim Darwish (EGY) v Qualifier
[11] Laurens Jan Anjema (NED) v Omar Mosaad (EGY)
[5] David Palmer (AUS) v Qualifier
[15] Cameron Pilley (AUS) v Mohd Azlan Iskandar (MAS)
[3] Amr Shabana (EGY) v Qualifier
[14] Mohamed El Shorbagy (EGY) v Farhan Mehboob (PAK)
[7] Peter Barker (ENG) v Qualifier
[16] Olli Tuominen (FIN) v Daryl Selby (ENG)
[13] Stewart Boswell (AUS) v Qualifier
[8] James Willstrop (ENG) v Ong Beng Hee (MAS)
[10] Alister Walker (ENG) v Hisham Mohd Ashour (EGY)
[4] Ramy Ashour (EGY) v Qualifier
[12] Aamir Atlas Khan (PAK) v Qualifier
[6] Thierry Lincou (FRA) v Dick Lau (HKG)
[9] Adrian Grant (ENG) v Joey Barrington (ENG)
[2] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v Qualifier
 
Issued by Howard Harding on behalf of the PSA

Amr Shabana's bid to become the second most successful player ever in one of the longest-established events on the PSA World Tour could be scuppered by fellow Egyptian Karim Darwish in this week's Cathay Pacific Gale Well Hong Kong Open.