England edge home against USA in World Teams
By HOWARD HARDING in Paris
Amanda Sobhy gained her first win over former world champion Laura Massaro as defending champions England, the No.2 seeds, were given a stern test by USA on day two of qualifying action in the WSF Women’s World Team Squash Championship in the French capital Paris before emerging with a 2-1 win over the seventh seeds.
In the opening Pool B match at the historic Jeu de Paume club, England’s world No.12 Sarah-Jane Perry had to call upon all her experience to overcome unranked Reeham Sedky, a 19-year-old from Seattle making her championship debut, 9-11, 11-4, 11-7, 10-12, 11-4 in 58 minutes.
Londoner Alison Waters put England two up after a convincing 11-8, 11-3, 11-8 victory over US No.2 Olivia Blatchford – but Amanda Sobhy then played one of the games of her life to despatch England’s Laura Massaro 13-11, 8-11, 11-8, 14-12 to record a career-first win over the world No.2 and former world champion.
“I wanted to go out and play the best I could,” said the jubilant 23-year-old left-hander from New York (pictured above in action with Massaro) after her breakthrough win. “Laura is the one player in the world top ten that I had never beaten before so I am elated to get my first win.”
US team coach Paul Assaiante admitted that his team was under no pressure: “But we didn’t come here to lie down and die. Reeham has a wonderful fighting spirit and has tremendous heart – she could be so dangerous in the future – and Amanda played really well against a number one opponent.”
England coach David Campion had anticipated a tough encounter. “I picked USA out as a major threat as soon as I saw the draw. The final match was a high quality encounter which could have gone either way.
“Amanda played really well – but whenever Laura loses it always brings out the best in her so I have no doubt that she will respond in her next match.
“The main thing is that we got the win that we needed and should top the pool. Stage one is done – and the next stage is almost like another tournament!”
The battle between the top two teams in Pool C eventually ended with result predicted by the seedings – but the 3/0 win by third seeds Malaysia belied the threat posed throughout the tie by former champions Australia, seeded sixth.
Christine Nunn had several game-balls for a 2/1 lead in the opening match, but Malaysian teenager Sivasangari Subramaniam – making her senior championship debut – held off the challenge before recording a 12-10, 9-11, 15-13, 11-8 win to put her team ahead.
Australia’s seasoned campaigner Rachael Grinham, at 39 the oldest player in the championship, was unable to repeat one of her numerous wins over Delia Arnold years ago before going down 11-9, 11-9, 11-7 to the now higher-ranked Malaysian.
In the clash between the teams’ top strings, former world number one Nicol David extended her unbeaten record in the championship over the past 12 years to beat Australian Donna Urquhart 11-8, 11-4, 11-5 to give Malaysia maximum points.
“You must always give respect to former champions,” said Malaysian team manager Major Maniam later. “This is Sivasangari’s debut at these championships – it was a very mature performance for a 17-year-old.
“And Nicol is taking it all in her stride, leading by example and motivating her team-mates – it all going pretty smoothly. For the rest of the team, having Nicol on your bench, cheering you on, is a very special feeling.”
While Rachael was battling for Australia, her younger sister Natalie Grinham was in action on an adjacent court fighting on behalf of Netherlands, the country in which she has resided since 1999.
It is the first time in the championship’s history that two siblings (pictured together above) have competed for separate nations – and Natalie duly led the 11th seeds to a 3/0 win over Austria courtesy of an 11-2, 11-5, 11-3 victory over the 10-time Austrian champion Birgit Coufal.
“So far so good,” said Hong Kong team manager Rebecca Chiu, the former world No.13. “Our aim is to finish in the top four so tomorrow is very important for us.”
The 18-year-old sensation Cristina Gomez continued her giant-killing run in the event after beating Hong Kong’s world No.29 Liu Tsz-Ling on the opening day.
Ranked outside the world top 200, the Spanish teenager today first upset higher-ranked Japanese opponent Satomi Watanabe, then later in the day defeated 25-year-old Sharon Sinclair to help 17th seeds Spain beat Germany, the 15th seeds, 2/1 in the event’s first team upset.
“I’m really happy,” said Gomez (pictured above, left, with Watanabe), who relocated to Madrid three years ago to focus on her squash. “I want to be one of the best players in the world.”
WSF Women’s World Team Squash Championship, Paris, France.
2nd Qualifying rounds – Pool A:
 EGYPT bt  NEW ZEALAND 3/0
Omneya Abdel Kawy bt Emma Millar 11-9, 11-9, 11-7 (21m)
Raneem El Welily bt Amanda Landers-Murphy 11-5, 11-8, 11-2 (39m)
Nour El Sherbini bt Megan Craig 11-6, 12-10, 11-3 (22m)
 INDIA bt  MEXICO 3/0
Sunayna Kuruvilla bt Dina Anguiano Gomez 11-9, 11-9, 11-7 (21m)
Dipika Pallikal Karthik bt Luz López Dominguez 11-4, 11-7, 11-7 (22m)
Joshna Chinappa bt Diana Garcia 11-7, 11-8, 11-8 (25m)
 ENGLAND bt  USA 2/1
Sarah-Jane Perry bt Reeham Sedky 9-11, 11-4, 11-7, 10-12, 11-4 (58m)
Alison Waters bt Olivia Blatchford 11-8, 11-3, 11-8 (28m)
Laura Massaro lost to Amanda Sobhy 11-13, 11-8, 8-11, 12-14 (49m)
 CANADA bt  WALES 2/1
Danielle Letourneau bt Lowri Roberts 11-3, 11-3, 11-8 (17m)
Samantha Cornett bt Hannah Davies 11-9, 11-5, 11-6 (23m)
Hollie Naughton lost to Tesni Evans 12-10, 11-7, 3-11, 4-11, 2-11 (50m)
 MALAYSIA bt  AUSTRALIA 3/0
Sivasangari Subramaniam bt Christine Nunn 12-10, 9-11, 15-13, 11-8 (51m)
Delia Arnold bt Rachael Grinham 11-9, 11-9, 11-7 (36m)
Nicol David bt Donna Urquhart 11-8, 11-4, 11-5 (27m)
 NETHERLANDS bt  AUSTRIA 3/0
Tessa ter Sluis bt Sabrina Rehman 11-5, 12-10, 11-6 (21m)
Milou van der Heijden bt Sandra Polak 11-2, 11-6, 11-3 (18m)
Natalie Grinham bt Birgit Coufal 11-2, 11-5, 11-3 (15m)
 HONG KONG CHINA bt  GERMANY 3/0
Tong Tsz-Wing bt Franziska Hennes 11-2, 11-3, 11-6 (27m)
Joey Chan bt Sharon Sinclair 11-9, 11-7, 11-4 (27m)
Annie Au bt Sina Wall 11-7, 11-4, 11-5 (20m)
 JAPAN bt  SPAIN 2/1
Risa Sugimoto bt Marina de Juan Gallach 11-8, 11-4, 11-8 (32m)
Satomi Watanabe lost to Cristina Gomez 7-11, 5-11, 11-4, 3-11 (41m)
Misaki Kobayashi bt Xisela Aranda 4-11, 13-11, 11-6, 11-6 (42m)
 FRANCE bt  JAPAN 2/1
Laura Pomportes bt Mami Sakai 11-3, 11-5, 11-4 (19m)
Chloe Mesic lost to Risa Sugimoto 9-11, 11-2, 3-11, 4-11 (33m)
Camille Serme bt Misaki Kobayashi 11-4, 11-4, 11-6 (21m)
 SPAIN bt  GERMANY 2/1
Marina de Juan Gallach lost to Franziska Hennes 13-11, 8-11, 11-6, 10-12, 3-11 (59m)
Cristina Gomez bt Sharon Sinclair 11-5, 11-8, 10-12, 11-2 (36m)
Xisela Aranda bt Sina Wall 5-11, 11-7, 10-12, 11-7, 11-0 (46m)
Pictures courtesy of WSF