England and Hong Kong shared the spoils in the semi-finals of the Kent Open as top seeds Chris Ryder and Max Lee won their respective matches to advance to the final of the PSA World Tour Challenger 10 event at The Mote Squash Club in Maidstone in the English country of Kent.
Second seed Lee beat Englishman Joel Hinds in the first semi-final before home favourite Chris Ryder finally put paid to the amazing giant-killing run of little Leo Au, the 5ft 2in world No 117 from Hong Kong who lit up tournament with his astonishing racket skills.
Lee beat Hinds 12-10, 11-3, 6-11, 11-3 before Au took Ryder the full distance, playing some exquisite drop shots before the world No36 from Leamington Spa finally took control of the match in the fifth game.
By then, Au looked a little tired after his fifth match in five days, after working his way stylishly through to the semi-finals from the qualifying competition.
Ryder's victory took him through to the final of the tournament he won two years ago before it became a PSA world-ranking event.
Before a packed gallery at The Mote Squash Club, Ryder finally showed why he is the higher-ranked player, dominating the fifth game to clinch victory in 65 minutes of compelling squash.
Au attacked throughout the match and made Ryder work hard for his victory. The 21-year-old from Hong Kong won the opening game and fought back solidly in the fourth as Ryder appeared to be moving imperiously to his allotted place in the final. Au won the fourth game on a tie break but Ryder recovered his composure, control and trademark quality length to close out the match 8-11, 11-3, 11-5, 10-12, 11-3.
"Au played superbly and it was a massive examination of Ryder's senior ranking," said tournament organiser Alan Thatcher. "But the Englishman rose to the challenge and his dominance of the fifth game showed just what a class act he is."
Ryder said: "I'm a little bit frustrated that I didn't play better to win in four but happy that I managed to close it out in the fifth.
"I felt in control towards the end of the fourth but Leo decided to go for his shots and they all seemed to come off. I seemed to take the role of the steady player and trying not to make any mistakes.
"It will be tough against Max tomorrow he is playing well and hitting the ball cleanly. He's a very open and attacking player, so it's going to be a tough battle."
Au said: "I played quite well today, as I have done throughout the whole tournament. I am very satisfied with my performance. Chris was just too good today. I didn't expect to get this far in the tournament, having come through qualifying. It should really help my ranking.
Au has been training all week with No2 seed Lee, who overcame fourth seed Hinds in emphatic style.
"The world No66 from Hong Kong dominated for long periods of the match with a disciplined game plan," added Thatcher. "His straight volleys, tight drops and gut-ripping boasts offered suggestions that this talented young man can climb a lot higher in the world rankings."
As the match progressed, he became more adventurous with some crosscourt volley kills rolling out of the nick.
Hinds lost the first game on a tiebreak after holding an 8-2 lead, not something you see very often in PAR to 11 scoring. Lee made a number of uncharacteristic mistakes at the start of the match and Hinds must have felt this was to be his day. But once Lee tightened up he dominated the middle of the court and pounced on anything loose.
Having won the tiebreak, he powered through the second game 11-3. Hinds must have wondered what hit him.
But in the third game the former British Under-23 champion stepped up the pace and seemed to find some success with cross courts that forced his opponent to twist and turn.
He won it 11-6 but Lee regained control in the fourth game. Hinds led 3-2 but failed to win another point as Lee forced him from corner to corner.
Now operating in an effortless comfort zone, Lee rolled in some outstanding boasts and crosscourt volley winners to show that, hiding beneath that disciplined front, lies an extravagant wealth of shots waiting to be unleashed on a more regular basis.
RESULTS: PSA Challenger 10 Kent Open, Maidstone, England
 Max Lee (HKG) bt  Joel Hinds (ENG) 12-10, 11-3, 6-11, 11-3 (62m)
 Chris Ryder (ENG) bt [Q] Leo Au (HKG) 8-11, 11-3, 11-5, 10-12, 11-3 (65m)