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View from Malaysia: Experience the key for new world champion

Alex Wan
Alex Wan is an avid squash lover who writes, photographs, plays and coaches when he is not making a living with his Finance degree.

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Brave effort by teenager Nour El Sherbini, but England now has two world champions
By ALEX WAN – Squash Mad Malaysian Correspondent

laurafrontnourLaura Massaro was crowned world champion today at the SPICE Arena in Penang. The biggest win of her career makes her the first English world champion since Cassie Jackman in 1999.

Laura Massaro was crowned world champion today at the SPICE Arena in Penang. The biggest win of her career makes her the first English world champion since Cassie Jackman in 1999.

It also means that England now have both the men’s and women’s world champions at the same time, together with Nick Matthew.

It was a befitting final to such a great event. It stretched all the way to five games, there was a strong 4,000 odd audience (which was a pleasant surprise given the fact that there was no local interest), it was graced by the ruler of the Penang state, the chief minister and many other dignitaries. Of course, not forgetting the squash itself was at its highest level.

The tall English lass halted the gallant run of young Egyptian Nour El Sherbini, who had upset the books from the first round to ejecting local favourite and world number one Nicol David yesterday in the semi final. It wasn’t anywhere near smooth sailing in her 11-7, 6-11, 11-9, 5-11, 11-9 victory, which took 68 minutes.

The match did not start out as smoothly, when someone had shouted “Come on Sherbini” right after the Egyptian served. The first game saw a very cautious Sherbini, who was not playing her game.laura

It was point for point in the first half, before Massaro managed to forge ahead at 9-6. Only then did Sherbini began going for her shots but it was a little too late. A stroke decision against the Egyptian gave Massaro the first game at 11-7.

The match saw many decisions from the referee and it’s no surprise given two very tall girls are sharing court space. Massaro seem to be the one more affected by this, as she was reacting to many decisions she did not agree with.

The second game started closely, right up to 4-4, after which Sherbini pulled away with a 2 point advantage and maintained it till 8-6. An uncharacteristic tin from Massaro followed by a backhand drop into the nick from Sherbini brought it to game ball, which Sherbini duly closed out in her first attempt to level the match.

Sherbini continued her momentum from the previous game, racing to a 3-0 lead before Massaro’s boast caught the Egyptian out to halt the run of points. The next rally was a beautifully crafted one, Massaro sending the lanky Sherbini to all four corners of the court before finishing off with a volley drop on the backhand side.

This is probably the game of the match, with both players trading winners and a couple of nicks too along the way. It was close and Sherbini had the initial upper hand, taking a 9-8 lead but a stroke brought it level again. Massaro then took the next 2 points for a 2-1 lead, hitting 2 winners in the front backhand corner.

Massaro started well in the fourth, taking a 4-2 lead. From this point, it looked like Sherbini had found her range in her shots. The Egyptian raced through, winning 7 points in a row to take a 9-4 lead. She was hitting winners at will, it was as if Massaro was goalkeeping for a penalty shootout from the way the shots came. The English woman managed just another point and ended the game when she tinned a volley.

Two games each now. The world junior champion is on a streak. She’s definitely the favourite at this point, and a chance to be both world junior and senior champion at the same time. The crowd had by now swayed towards Sherbini’s way.

There were lots of shouts of “Yala” (“Come On” in Egyptian) from the local crowd. I am suspecting the locals are in support of Sherbini as it might as well be the person who dethroned their hero to win the championship.

The final game started as the way the previous ended, Sherbini racing to a 4-0 and then 6-2 lead with her accurate shot making. Many thought she already had it in the bag. I would also be guilty of that.

But here is Laura Massaro, the very experienced world number two, who two days ago saved four match balls in her quarter final match against Low Wee Wern, working her magic once again. Her revival started with a mishit by Sherbini to close the gap to just three points.

The next rally was the rally of the match. Massaro played superb lengths to minimise attacking chances for Sherbini.

Both players were working on all 4 corners, a couple of “impossible” pick ups from both girls and it ended with the young Egyptian tinning a backhand drop shot from an open court to bring the score to 6-4.

This rally must’ve definitely rattled Sherbini to an extent. Massaro continues her run with another 3 points to lead for the first time in this game 7-6. She tins a boast in the next rally, Sherbini gets the following point too, after which she returns the favour by tinning simple drive from the front. The score is now 8-all.

It is rather unfortunate that the next two points ended as no lets to the Egyptian, and Massaro now had two match balls in hand. The next rally was a long one, ending with a length that nicked in the back wall for the Egyptian. One match ball saved.

The championship winning point ended with a stroke to Massaro, which, coincidentally, was how Sherbini won her final point against Nicol David the previous night.

Penang CIMB Women’s World Championship Final:

(2) Laura Massaro (England) beat Nour El Sherbini (Egypt) 11-7, 6-11, 11-9, 5-11, 11-9 (68 minutes) 

Picture by Lynn Khoo

 

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