From HOWARD HARDING
The spectacular – and unique – vision of three all-glass squash courts greeted capacity crowds as they poured into thePalais Des Sports in the city of Mulhouse for the 24th staging of the WSF Men’s World Team Squash Championship, held in France for the first time in its 46-year history.
31 nations from all five continents competed over the week-long championship at two venues – the Espace Squash 3000 Centre and the Palais Des Sports, where matches were played simultaneously on three ASB all-glass showcourts lined up side by side.
“This is the best set-up I have ever seen – wow!” said Scotland’s national coach Roger Flynn, while England’s world No3 James Willstrop exclaimed: “The set-up here is almost revolutionary. I’ve never seen anything like it before, with three glass courts side by side. It’s squash moving forward, proving that it can do things in different ways – something other sports can’t do.”
The championship, described by Indian number one Saurav Ghosal as “the toughest tournament in the world”, featured international TV coverage – while play on all three glass courts was streamed live throughout the week.
Willstrop clinched victory for England in a tense final decider against favourites and defending champions Egypt, giving his country the title for the first time since 2007.
Hosts France, narrowly beaten by England in a dramatic semi-final the previous night which finished just before 2.00 am – before a still packed and partisan crowd – defeated former champions Australia in the bronze medal play-off.
Event newcomers Botswana recorded an impressive 24th place finish with a squad led by world No15 Alister Walker – but also including the event’s youngest ever competitor, 14-year-old Theo Pelonomi.
Germany beat South Africa to win the play-off for fifth place – their highest ever finish – while India became the highest-placed Asian country for the first time after beating Malaysia in the seventh-place play-off.
World Squash Federation President N Ramachandran, who presented the trophy to England after the final, said: “The value of all initiatives and innovations introduced into squash over the past few years were brilliantly demonstrated in the presentation of the Championship in Mulhouse.
“The French Federation, under the inspired leadership of President Jacques Fontaine, mounted a spectacle to be hugely proud of, clearly much enjoyed by all players, managers, coaches, spectators and the media, and I congratulate and thank them very much indeed for this.”