Sunday, February 25, 2024

Mohamed ElShorbagy caps his first appearance for England with a Nations Cup win alongside Sarah-Jane Perry

‘The new scoring system is edgy and we didn’t know what to expect – but I loved it,’ says Kiwi Joelle King
By ALAN THATCHER (Squash Mad Editor) and DAVE WORSLEY in Tauranga

Here’s a couple of scorelines new to the game of squash following the launch of the Nations Cup tournament in New Zealand.

In a two-player mixed team format, England’s Sarah-Jane Perry beat Kaitlyn Watts of New Zealand B 7-5, 7-4, 7-1, 7-4, while Mohamed ElShorbagy took five games to beat Lwamba Chileshe 7-1, 3-7, 7-4, 7-1, 7-0.

Both matches lasted 25 minutes, providing a shorter, more explosive format which may be the first step on the road to attracting more TV coverage for the sport’s leading players.

On the glass court set up inside the Trustpower Baypark Arena in Tauranga, men’s world No.4 ElShorbagy earned his first cap for England since his switch of allegiance from Egypt in June.

“I’m really happy to get my first England cap with a win,” ElShorbagy said. “It was a good match – it’s very different with the format, it was quick-fire. It was a very proud day for me to be representing England officially for my first time and I hope it continues.”

England, the No.2 seeds, finished the day second in Pool B due to Team Europe (Belgium’s Nele Gilis and Sebastien Bonmalais of France) scoring more points during their match against USA.

The host nation’s Paul Coll and Joelle King are the top seeds and began their Pool A schedule with a comfortable wins over Australia’s Rex Hedrick and Jessica Turnbull.

No.5 seeds Canada top Group A after upsetting No.4 seeds Scotland in the opening tie of the day. Women’s world No.16 Hollie Naughton got them off to the perfect start after a dominant 4-0 win over world No.27 Lisa Aitken, before men’s world No.69 David Baillargeon dispatched world No.25 Greg Lobban in a thrilling 4-3 battle which lasted 61 minutes.

Canada’s David Baillargeon uses the PowerPlay to help pull off a great win over Scotland’s Greg Lobban

If shorter matches are one of the targets, then maybe that element of the scoring system needs to be tweaked, but Baillargeon was pretty stoked by his win, saying: “I’m feeling pretty good – it’s one of the biggest wins in my career.”

But he admitted feeling some pressure despite team-mate Naughton’s opening success, admitting: “That put more pressure on me because after her doing so well, I thought that I had to do it myself now – like I have to win a game or have to make it through because she did really well. I maybe put a bit too much pressure on myself in the first two and I didn’t play as well as I could have.”

Baillargeon’s use of the new Powerplay, which gives each player two opportunities per match to win two points if they win the rally they use it on, proved crucial, with the Canadian saying: “I used my two Powerplays back-to-back in the third game and I won that game to clinch our spot and the victory. Then I was more relaxed and I played way better after that.

“I knew even if I lost 4-0 and I made a good amount of points we would go through.”

New Zealand’s Joelle King in control against Australia’s Jess Turnbull

Hosts New Zealand A (men’s world No.2 Coll and women’s world No.5 King) sit second in Pool A behind Canada after amassing 61 points in total compared to Canada’s 70.

“I loved it out there today, but it makes you quite edgy,” admitted King. “The new scoring system, I think because nobody’s played it, we didn’t really know exactly what to expect. But I’m actually loving it.

“I was watching some of the matches before I played and seeing how players are using the Powerplay. I think it’s quite an exciting thing and you can’t relax for a second.

“It’s always a bit special when we play the Aussies. Today was the perfect start for us, two good wins, it was good to get a good run and I’m looking forward to the next match.

“It puts a lot more pressure on you. You actually think a lot when you think of all the scenarios you could use, they could use, it’s actually mentally tiring. It’s been interesting watching the other players with what they are doing. I think tomorrow everyone will be more on to it with what they what they’re doing.”

And King is up against a tough opponent in the next round on Friday night, Canada’s Hollie Naughton.

King added: “She beat me last time (Commonwealth Games semi-final). It will be a tough match. She’s been playing well, and I’ve been playing well. I think we’ll leave it all out there, it’s just a day-by-day, trying not to think too big or too small and just enjoying the whole thing.”

Women’s world No.13 Gilis and men’s world No.38 Bonmalais led Europe to the summit of Pool A after they beat the United States duo of Olivia Clyne and Timothy Brownell.

Nele Gilis of Team Europe against America’s Olivia Clyne

Gilis said: “We’re good friends, so we get along really well. He’s very laid back, he’s a good team-mate, and I’m actually really excited to be in Team Europe with him. We talk about stuff like when to use the power play and we’ll talk to each other in between games, so it works well.”

The Nations Cup is the inaugural tournament in the new SquashFORWARD series, which has been created to trial possible changes to the traditional competition and scoring formats used at official PSA tournaments.

The Nations Cup features eight teams, split into two groups of four, with the top teams from each group meeting in Sunday’s final. All matches are played using a best-of-seven games format, with each game being first to seven points.

The Nations Cup continues tomorrow with the second day of pool stage action, and all matches will be shown live on SQUASHTV.

2022 Nations Cup, Trustpower Baypark Arena, Tauranga, New Zealand.

Pool A, Day One:
[5] Canada 2-0 [4] Scotland: Pool A
Hollie Naughton (CAN) bt Lisa Aitken (SCO) 4-0: 7-4, 7-1, 7-3, 7-4 (21m)
David Baillargeon (CAN) bt Greg Lobban (SCO) 4-3: 4-7, 4-7, 7-1, 7-5, 6-7, 7-3, 7-5 (61m)

[1] New Zealand A 2-0 [7] Australia: Pool A
Joelle King (NZL) bt Jessica Turnbull (AUS) 4-1: 7-5, 7-1, 7-5, 5-7, 7-1 (30m)
Paul Coll (NZL) bt Rex Hedrick (AUS) 4-0: 7-4, 7-3, 7-5, 7-4 (36m)

Pool B:
[2] England 2-0 [8] New Zealand B
Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt Kaitlyn Watts (NZL) 4-0: 7-5, 7-4, 7-1, 7-4 (25m)
Mohamed ElShorbagy (ENG) bt Lwamba Chileshe (NZL) 4-1: 7-1, 3-7, 7-4, 7-1, 7-0 (25m)

[3] Team Europe 2-0 [6] USA
Nele Gilis (EUR) bt Olivia Clyne (USA) 4-1: 7-6, 7-6, 6-7, 7-5, 7-5 (41m)
Sebastien Bonmalais (EUR) bt Timothy Brownell (USA) 4-3: 7-5, 7-2, 7-2, 6-7, 3-7, 3-7, 7-3 (61m)

Day Two (November 4):
[4] Scotland v [7] Australia – Pool A
[1] New Zealand A v [5] Canada – Pool A
[3] Europe v [6] USA – Pool B
[2] England v [3] Europe – Pool B

Pictures courtesy of PSA World Tour


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