England overpower Aussies as Egypt battle past Hong Kong
By HOWARD HARDING – Squash Mad International Correspondent
Defending champions England and top seeds Egypt will contest the final of the WSF Men’s World Team Squash Championship for the third time in a row after prevailing in the semi-finals of the biennial World Squash Federation event in Marseille without dropping a match.
England, the second seeds, overcame arch-rivals Australia 3-0 while favourites Egypt saw off surprise semi-finalists Hong Kong China, the fifth seeds who shocked hosts France in the quarter-finals.
Despite the absence of the home side, the packed crowd at Salle Vallier fully engaged with the teams on show, particularly throwing themselves behind underdogs Hong Kong in their battle with Egypt.
The victory over perennial rivals Australia saw England secure a place in the final for the ninth time since 1983. The two countries have won the title 13 times between them, and were clashing in the championship for the 12th time since 1983, with England narrowly ahead 6-5 before today’s encounter.
The teams’ third strings took to the court for the opening match – with Aussie underdog Zac Alexander, ranked 126 in the world, facing world No.15 Daryl Selby. It was the pair’s first meeting and Alexander saved a game ball in the first game before taking the lead 12-10. But Selby soon stamped his authority on the match, taking the next three games 11-7, 11-5, 11-7 to give England the lead.
Aussie No.1 Ryan Cuskelly came into the second match after being taken to five games in a gruelling 97-minute encounter with Kiwi Paul Coll the night before. The New South Welshman faced Nick Matthew, the three-time world champion whom he had never beaten in four meetings in seven years.
World No.6 Matthew delivered a masterclass in consistent squash to beat Cuskelly, ranked eight places lower, 11-8, 11-6, 11-4 to clinch England’s place in the final.
In the best-of-three dead rubber which gave England maximum points, world No.10 James Willstrop – playing in his third successive world championship battle against Australia since 2007 – defeated Cameron Pilley 12-10, 11-6.
“We’ve got New Zealand to thank for pushing Australia hard in their quarter-final last night,” Matthew told the crowd when interviewed post-match. “I’m sorry it won’t be France, but I can’t wait for tomorrow’s final – whoever we play!”
England team coach David Campion was impressed with Alexander. “He led throughout most of the first game and it was only in third game that you could see that Daryl was getting to him.
“Nick had a plan in his match and it worked. We’ve got massively experienced players and we’ll be ready tomorrow.”
The Hong Kong players who lined up for the semi-final were the three stalwarts who silenced the crowd 24 hours earlier by denying the hosts a crack at the title – and consigned France to the lowest finish in the event for at least 16 years.
In the opening match, Egypt’s world No.5 Marwan Elshorbagy dropped a game before prevailing 11-3, 8-11, 11-4, 11-7 over the Hong Kong No.3 Yip Tsz Fung.
The second match went the full distance. Egypt’s reigning world champion Karim Abdel Gawad twice had to contend with fightbacks from Max Lee before beating his HK opponent 11-9, 7-11, 12-10, 7-11, 11-7 in 67 minutes.
Recently-appointed Egyptian national coach Ashraf Hanafi admitted afterwards: “That was hard – I have full respect for Hong Kong. They proved that it wasn’t luck yesterday. They were very tough. The quality was very high. Max never gave up. It was good for squash.”
When asked to comment on the up-coming final, Hanafi exclaimed: “England is England! All three players are very experienced. We have to prepare ourselves for them!”
Recalling the defeat to England in the previous championship four years ago, Hanafi added: “I hope we will get revenge for our defeat in 2013.”
Hong Kong national coach Chris Robertson, also a recent appointment, said: “I was very pleased with my team. They played with plenty of attack and no fear. They put in a good performance – particularly Max. I was really happy that they were able to play like this, particularly after last night.
“They looked comfortable against Egypt – they were so dynamic, so aggressive so confident. I thought we were on a par with them for a lot of the time.”
In battles for lower positions, France recovered from the shock of their quarter-final defeat to beat Scotland 2-0 to set up a meeting with New Zealand in the play-off for fifth place. The sixth seeds defeated eighth seeds India 2-1.
South African veteran Rodney Durbach, the 45-year-old who is marking his ninth appearance in the championships since making his debut 22 years ago in 1995, wound back the clock to survive his second successive five-game marathon to lead his country into the play-off for 17th place. South Africa beat 17th seeds Pakistan 2-1 and, seeded 22, will finish well ahead of their seeding.
WSF Men’s World Team Squash Championship, Marseille, France.
 EGYPT v  ENGLAND
3rd place:  AUSTRALIA &  HONG KONG CHINA
5th place play-off:
 FRANCE v  NEW ZEALAND
7th place play-off:
 INDIA v  SCOTLAND
9th place play-off:
 GERMANY v  USA
11th place play-off:
 MALAYSIA v  SPAIN
13th place play-off:
 WALES v  CANADA
15th place play-off:
 FINLAND v  SWITZERLAND
17th place play-off:
 ARGENTINA v  SOUTH AFRICA
19th place play-off:
 PAKISTAN v  IRELAND
21st place play-off:
 CZECH REPUBLIC v  JAMAICA
23rd place play-off:
 AUSTRIA v  IRAQ
 EGYPT bt  HONG KONG CHINA 2/0
Marwan Elshorbagy bt Yip Tsz Fung 11-3, 8-11, 11-4, 11-7 (39m)
Karim Abdel Gawad bt Max Lee 11-9, 7-11, 12-10, 7-11, 11-7 (67m)
 ENGLAND bt  AUSTRALIA 3/0
Daryl Selby bt Zac Alexander 10-12, 11-7, 11-5, 11-7 (62m)
Nick Matthew bt Ryan Cuskelly 11-8, 11-6, 11-4 (48m)
James Willstrop bt Cameron Pilley 12-10, 11-6 (22m)
5th – 8th place play-offs:
 FRANCE bt  SCOTLAND 2/0
Lucas Serme bt Douglas Kempsell 11-7, 11-4, 11-6 (27m)
Gregory Gaultier bt Alan Clyne 11-9, 11-4, 11-6 (34m)
 NEW ZEALAND bt  INDIA 2/1
Ben Grindrod lost to Mahesh Mangaonkar 4-11, 7-11, 5-11 (29m)
Paul Coll bt Saurav Ghosal 7-11, 11-13, 12-10, 11-4, 11-1 (70m)
Campbell Grayson bt Vikram Malhotra 11-8, 13-15, 11-1, 11-4 (51m)
9th – 12th place play-offs:
 USA bt  MALAYSIA 2/1
Chris Hanson bt Addeen Idrakie 15-13, 11-6, 11-6 (36m)
Todd Harrity lost to Nafiizwan Adnan 13-11, 4-11, 11-6, 7-11, 7-11 (73m)
Christopher Gordon bt Eain Yow Ng 11-5, 12-10, 6-11, 12-10 (47m)
 GERMANY bt  SPAIN 2/1
Valentin Rapp lost to Bernat Jaume 2-11, 2-11, 5-11 (26m)
Simon Rösner bt Iker Pajares Bernabeu 11-7, 5-11, 11-13, 11-1, 11-2 (59m)
Rudi Rohrmuller bt Carlos Cornes 11-8, 11-8, 4-11, 11-4 (50m)
13th – 16th place play-offs:
 WALES bt  FINLAND 2/1
David Haley bt Jami Äijänen 12-10, 13-11, 11-7 (41m)
Peter Creed bt Olli Tuominen 11-7, 9-11, 11-5, 11-8 (49m)
Emyr Evans lost to Miko Äijänen 12-10, 1-11, 7-11 (45m)
 CANADA bt  SWITZERLAND 2/1
Michael McCue bt Roman Allinckx 11-9, 11-5, 11-3 (43m)
Nick Sachvie lost to Nicolas Müller 9-11, 4-11, 4-11 (31m)
Shawn Delierre bt Dimitri Steinmann 11-9, 17-15, 10-12, 4-11, 11-7 (99m)
17th – 20th place play-offs:
 SOUTH AFRICA bt  PAKISTAN 2/1
Rodney Durbach bt Asim Khan 9-11, 11-8, 11-7, 11-13, 12-10 (58m)
Thoboki Mohohlo lost to Farhan Zaman 9-11, 11-8, 6-11, 7-11 (39m)
Christo Potgieter bt Shahjahan Khan 11-6, 6-11, 2-11, 11-9, 11-7 (54m)
 ARGENTINA bt  IRELAND 2/1
Rodrigo Obregon lost to Sean Conroy 11-7, 11-2, 8-11, 7-11, 10-12 (67m)
Leandro Romiglio bt Arthur Gaskin 11-9, 11-7, 11-6 (43m)
Robertino Pezzota bt Brian Byrne 13-15, 11-7, 4-11, 11-6, 11-7 (67m)
21st – 24th place play-offs:
 CZECH REPUBLIC bt  AUSTRIA 2/1
Jakub Solnicky bt Paul Mairinger 11-9, 11-2, 11-6 (26m)
Daniel Mekbib lost to Aqeel Rehman 5-11, 9-11, 11-8, 11-7, 6-11 (50m)
Martin Svec bt Jakob Dirnberger 3-11, 11-1, 11-9, 11-8 (39m)
 JAMAICA bt  IRAQ 2/1
Dane Schwier lost to Hasanain Dakheel 3-11, 8-11, 1-11 (16m)
Christopher Binnie bt Husham Al-Saadi 11-9, 11-6, 14-12 (38m)
Lewis Walters bt Mohammed Hasan 14-12, 13-11, 11-6 (30m)
Pictures courtesy of WSF