Thursday, November 30, 2023

WSF: Egypt roar into semi-finals

Action: Malaysia's Nicol David and Coline Aumard of France
Australia's Cam Pilley goes forward against Saurav Ghosal


RESULTS: JSW SDAT WSF World Cup, Chennai, India
2nd qualifying round – Pool A:
Yann Perrin bt Stephen Coppinger 11-3, 8-11, 11-8, 11-8 (67m)
Camille Serme bt Tenille Swartz 11-7, 11-8, 11-9 (30m)
Mathieu Castagnet bt Clinton Leeuw 11-9, 12-10, 11-5 (35m)

[1] EGYPT 3  [9] SRI LANKA 0
Karim Darwish bt Navin Samarasinghe 11-2, 11-3, 11-7 (13m)
Raneem El Weleily bt Sharya Guruge 10-12, 11-1, 11-6, 11-2 (14m)
Mohamed El Shorbagy bt Gihan Suwaris 11-8, 11-8, 11-5 (17m)

[1] EGYPT 3  [4] FRANCE 0
Ramy Ashour bt Yann Perrin 11-8, 11-7, 11-4 (22m)
Raneem El Weleily bt Coline Aumard 11-3, 11-7, 11-5 (29m)
Karim Darwish bt Gregoire Marche 11-4, 11-2, 11-7 (21m)

Muhd Asyraf Azan bt Stephen Coppinger 13-11, 14-12, 8-11, 2-11, 12-10 (77m)
Nicol David bt Tenille Swartz 11-9, 11-4, 11-3 (28m)
Kamran Khan bt Clinton Leeuw 11-9, 10-12, 12-10, 7-11, 11-9 (55m)

Pool B:
[3] AUSTRALIA 3  [6] INDIA 0
Cameron Pilley bt Saurav Ghosal 9-11, 12-10, 11-4, 10-12, 11-5 (72m)
Rachael Grinham bt Dipika Pallikal 11-3, 11-8, 11-4 (19m)
Aaron Frankcomb bt Harinder Pal Sandhu 11-9, 11-6, 11-9 (29m)

[2] ENGLAND 2  [7] MEXICO 1
Peter Barker bt Cesar Salazar 11-3, 11-5, 11-5 (29m)
Laura Massaro lost to Samantha Teran 8-11, 10-12, 11-5, 11-6, 9-11 (63m)
Tom Richards bt Jorge Isaac Baltazar Ferreira 11-7, 11-7, 11-3 (31m)
Favourites Egypt Storm Into World Cup Semi-Finals
A fourth successive comprehensive win in the qualifying rounds of the JSW SDAT WSF World Cup takes Egypt, the top seeds, into the semi-finals of the biennial World Squash Federation mixed team event at the Express Avenue Mall in Chennai, India.

After despatching outsiders Sri Lanka 3/0 earlier in the day at the Indian Squash Academy, the favourites took on fourth seeds France in a crucial tie to determine supremacy in Pool A.  In little more than an hour of play, world No2 Ramy Ashour beat the French number one Yann Perrin, Raneem El Weleily outlasted Coline Aumard, and Karim Darwish, the world No3, defeated Gregoire Marche to consolidate Egypt’s position as group leaders.

“Our players have grown in confidence each day – and we are really enjoying the format,” said Egyptian team coach Amir Wagih.

“We are looking forward to day off tomorrow – when the whole squad will be visiting a local school to meet the children.  Then we will start preparing for our semi-final on Friday.”

Earlier in the day fourth seeds France beat South Africa 3/0, and later the eighth seeds suffered a second defeat to Malaysia – one which leaves Thursday’s final qualifying clash between France and Malaysia to decide second place in Pool A.

It was a dramatic opening match between Muhd Asyraf Azan and South African number one Stephen Coppinger which paved the way for Malaysia’s win.  In the longest match of the tournament, Azan squandered a two-game lead before finally clinching the match 13-11, 14-12, 8-11, 2-11, 12-10 in 77 minutes.

“I felt fine – but I need to improve my finishing,” confessed the Malaysian top string afterwards.  “When I’m nervous, I play well – but I can’t take advantage when I’m in front.  I won the first two games – and then fought back from 8-2 down in the third to 8-7, but couldn’t finish it off.  I just don’t understand why.

“I really need to conserve my energy for France tomorrow,” added Azan, ranked 61 in the world.  “But I’m very happy to win – I want to become a top player.”

Women’s world number one Nicol David went on to beat Tenille Swartz 11-9, 11-4, 11-3 to ensure Malaysia’s win before senior Malaysian international newcomer Kamran Khan battled to an 11-9, 10-12, 12-10, 7-11, 11-9 victory over Clinton Leeuw to make it 3/0.

In the standout tie in Pool B, squad number one Saurav Ghosal gave India a glimmer of hope in the opening match against Australia – but the hosts ended up going 3/0 down to the third seeds.

In his last meeting with Cameron Pilley, in the PSA Masters in Mumbai in December 2009, Ghosal had upset the world No14 in a 77-minute marathon.

And India’s highest-ranked player of all-time took the opening game before an appreciative crowd at the Indian Squash Academy before saving two match-balls against Pilley in the fourth game to force a fifth-game decider – for the second day running.

The tall Australian stuck to his guns, however, and held off the challenge of the 24-year-old world No24 from Kolkata to record a 9-11, 12-10, 11-4, 10-12, 11-5 win after 72 minutes.

“That loss to Saurav in Mumbai was in the back of my mind,” admitted Pilley afterwards.  “I was very disappointed that I didn’t close out the match in the fourth, especially after having two match-balls.

“But Saurav played really well to win that game and I had to work hard to hold him off in the fifth – and was really pleased to come through,” added the 28-year-old from New South Wales.

A fine performance by Rachael Grinham ensured Australia’s victory when the former world champion from Queensland beat Indian teenager Dipika Pallikal 11-3, 11-8, 11-4 – and Aaron Frankcomb made it maximum points with an 11-9, 11-6, 11-9 win over Chennai-based Harinder Pal Sandhu.

“India have improved enormously and have benefitted from the momentum of the Commonwealth Games,” said Australian team manager Byron Davis.

“It’s always a challenge playing a team on their home ground – and India can be very dangerous.  Rachael played really well today after another excellent game yesterday – so she’s playing with a lot of confidence.

“So after today’s win, we can look forward to our clash with England,” added the former world No14.

India’s national coach Cyrus Poncha was not too downcast:  “It could have been so different if Saurav had won that first match.  He came so close, but perhaps he was a tiny bit flat after his massive game yesterday against James Willstrop.

“But he has shown that he will soon be a top ten player – these are the warning bells to the rest of the squash world,” added Poncha.

Second seeds England were given a scare by seventh seeds Mexico when world No8 Laura Massaro went down in five games to Samantha Teran, ranked nine places lower.

World No7 Peter Barker had put the defending champions ahead with an 11-3, 11-5, 11-5 win over Mexican number one Cesar Salazar.  Then, from 8-3 up in the first game, Massaro dropped the first two to Teran before regrouping to take the next two to draw level.

But Teran dug deep to keep her higher-ranked opponent in her sights throughout the decider before moving ahead to clinch her 11-8, 12-10, 5-11, 6-11, 11-9 upset in 63 minutes.

“I played well in the first two games – but then she began to put pressure on me and I wasn’t able to deal with it to start with,” admitted Teran, Mexico’s top-ranked woman of all-time.  “In the fifth, I gave it everything I could.

“It’s always very special to play for your country – and when I saw the England flag behind the court, I thought ‘Mexico has to do well here’ and it helped me push through.  Playing for your country is much more important than playing for money or ranking points,” added the 29-year-old from Mexico City.

A devastated Massaro, who a month ago became British National champion for the first time, found it difficult to explain the outcome – which led to team newcomer Tom Richards having to make his international debut in a decider.

“I kept thinking in the fifth game, ‘don’t let Tom have to play a pressure match’,” said the 27-year-old from Preston.

Richards duly handled his maiden appearance in an England shirt with distinction, beating Mexican Jorge Isaac Baltazar Ferreira 11-7, 11-7, 11-3 in 31 minutes.

“I was nervous before the match – but I’m always nervous before a match, so that’s a good sign,” said Richards afterwards.  “I just felt I had to play the best I can, and if I play my game, I should be OK.

“I’m pretty fit now, so I can make it pretty tough if I have to.  But overall, I’m happy to win in three without any dramas,” added the 24-year-old world No29.

Thursday schedule – 3rd qualifying round:
Indian Squash Academy
1100:  Pool A: [8] SOUTH AFRICA v [9] SRI LANKA
1100:  Pool B: [2] ENGLAND v [3] AUSTRALIA

Express Avenue Mall
1500:  Pool A: [4] FRANCE v [5] MALAYSIA
1800:  Pool B: [6] INDIA v [7] MEXICO

Malaysia Upset France To Reach World Cup Semi-Finals
In today’s final qualifying round of the JSW SDAT WSF World Cup in Chennai, Malaysia produced the event’s first upset by beating fourth seeds France to earn a surprise place in the semi-finals of the World Squash Federation mixed team championship at the Express Avenue Mall.

After early rounds at the Indian Squash Academy, matches were being played for the first time on an all-glass show court sited in the central atrium of the Express Avenue Mall, the largest shopping complex in southern India in which crowds on four floors were able to witness the world-class action.

Led by Nicol David, the 27-year-old from Penang who has topped the women’s world rankings since August 2006, fifth seeds Malaysia fell behind when Muhd Asyraf Azan went down 11-4, 11-13, 11-3, 11-0 to top-ranked Frenchman Mathieu Castagnet.

But it took David just 20 minutes to restore order for the underdogs with her 11-2, 11-3, 11-2 dismissal of Coline Aumard, the French number two who is ranked 68 places lower in the world.

But the star of the Malaysian team was Kamran Khan, the 21-year-old from Kuala Lumpur who was making his senior international debut in the event.

Ranked ten places behind French opponent Gregoire Marche, Khan recovered from a heavy defeat in the fourth game to beat the former European Junior champion 5-11, 11-9, 11-3, 2-11, 11-4 in a 71-minute marathon.

“I’m really happy to help my team get to the semi-finals,” said the jubilant Malaysian.  “It’s my first time at a team event.”

Khan paid tribute to his illustrious world No1 team-mate:  “I’ve learned a lot from being around Nicol – she’s not only a very nice person but she has helped me a lot with my game.

“Greg is a good player – I’ve watched him a lot on the PSA Tour, but I haven’t played him since we were about 15.  I knew it wouldn’t be easy – but I just tried to play my game.

“I won the third game easily – and then relaxed too much.  I really wanted to win it for Malaysia,” added Khan.

Malaysian team coach Raymond Arnold knew the encounter would be close.  “It was even close with South Africa the other day – both ties could have gone either way.

“But I’m really pleased for the players – and it was a massive game for Kamran.”

On hearing that Malaysia will now face defending champions England for a place in the final, Nicol David added:  “I’m really pleased get to the semis – Kamran was really strong.  I look forward to playing England – but whoever we got would have been tough.”

In the evening match at the Mall, hosts India were taken the full distance by seventh seeds Mexico in the battle for third place in Pool B.

Indian number one Saurav Ghosal thrilled the packed and partisan crowd as he defeated his Mexican counterpart Cesar Salazar 11-4, 11-6, 11-8.

But Dipika Pallikal, the 19-year-old world No23 from Chennai, failed to capitalise on an early game lead against Samantha Teran – going down 7-11, 14-12, 11-9, 13-11 to the higher-ranked Mexican to level the tie.

After a hard-fought first game in the deciding match, it was a delighted Indian number two Siddharth Suchde who fought off Jorge Isaac Baltazar Ferreira 11-9, 11-1, 11-3 to celebrate a long-awaited Indian victory in the event before an exuberant crowd.

“We played two of the biggest countries in the sport – England and Australia – in the earlier pool ties, so to get this win tonight is very satisfying,” said national coach Cyrus Poncha.

“I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved over the past few years – this is really something amazing.

“This venue is a spectacular place to show off our sport.  I was delighted to hear earlier this evening that the average usage of the Mall car park on a Thursday is 65%, yet today it is 95% – and the owners tell us this is entirely down to the appeal of the World Cup.

“The Indian success this week has given us a great platform to build on – so that when the event comes back to Chennai in two years, we will be one of the top countries,” Poncha concluded.

Saurav Ghosal, now the highest-ranked Indian player of all-time and a respected force on the world tour, was also upbeat about the new sport’s newest location:  “Playing in a venue like this is a fantastic idea – the crowds are brilliant and it’s great that they having the chance to see a good level of squash.  It would be nice to think that some will be inspired to take it up.

“It’s always good to play in places around the world that aren’t dedicated squash venues, so that the sport is seen by people not used to it.

“I really like it when you’re playing in front of a big crowd – that’s what you play sport for.”

But the Kolkata-born 24-year-old was also thrilled with the unique two-men-one-woman team concept:  “It’s a brilliant format.  In many ways I think it’s better than the normal events we play – and it actually gives a better reflection on how good a country is at squash, mixing both men and women.

“For me, it’s been especially good playing alongside Joshna and Dipika – it’s been great having them around.”

Earlier in the day, the final clash at the Indian Squash Academy saw second seeds England confirm their status as the top team in Pool B by beating long-time rivals Australia, the third seeds, 3/0.

England number one James Willstrop extended his career-long unbeaten run over Cameron Pilley – but, after taking the first two games, the world No4 dropped the third and was behind in the fourth before fighting back to record his 11-6, 11-7, 7-11, 12-10 victory over the tall 28-year-old from New South Wales.

The next match went the full distance, but again the English player Jenny Duncalf pulled out all the stops in the decider to beat long-time rival Rachael Grinham 11-5, 8-11, 11-4, 9-11, 11-9 and reduce the Queenslander’s head-to-head advantage to 9-7.

A consummate performance by Londoner Peter Barker gave England maximum points when the left-hander despatched Hobart’s Aaron Frankcomb 11-5, 11-6, 11-6.

“The manner of the win was very good,” explained England coach Chris Robertson later.  “James had to play some really good stuff to go two-love up.  Then he was challenged a bit – but it was good to see the passion he displayed in coming through.  The first rubber was pretty crucial.

“Jenny played a high quality game – she responded to the task in the best possible way.  It was really pleasing to see her beat Rachael, an experienced opponent,” Robertson continued.

“And in the final game, Peter was very sound in making it a 3/0 win.

“From the team perspective, it was a job well done.  After all, Australia came here to win – which you’d expect.

“Overall, it sets us up nicely for the semi-finals,” Robertson concluded.

Friday schedule – Express Avenue Mall

1600:  [1] EGYPT v [3] AUSTRALIA
1800:  [2] ENGLAND v [5] MALAYSIA


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