Egypt retain their World Team Championship crown
Categories : Squash news around the world
Main story: Egypt defeat England again in World Team Championship final
It was far from easy for Egypt at the World Team Championship in Washington, but the hot favourites still managed to retain their title, after beating England in the final. France and surprise package Wales were co-bronze medalists.
"We came here as favourites on paper, but from the beginning it was tough and we were dropping games and matches, which shows the level of squash. Especially today, you saw the match between Dec and Karim, it was world class and I'm glad to have been part of it." said world No.1 Ali Farag after winning the deciding match in the final, against England's Adrian Waller. It was the fifth final between the two powerhouse nations in world squash since 2005, and their victory brings the number of titles won by Egypt to five, equalling the success of their final opponents. Less than 24 hours after leading England into the final with a win over Mathieu Castagnet in the semi-final decider against France, Declan James led twice in the opening match against Karim Abdel Gawad - the world No.3 whom he had never beaten before. The tall Englishman was even two points away from taking the match at 9-7 in the fourth game, but the Egyptian clawed back the deficit before drawing level. It was neck and neck throughout the fifth game, the lead changing hands several time before Gawad clinched victory after a video review of let request by James was judged to be 'no let'. After the drama of the opener, the second match was a more measured affair. Ali Farag took the first two games against Adrian Waller and reached championship-ball in the third. But Waller had more - and saved 3 match balls before taking the game to reduce the deficit. The world's number one player regrouped and closed the match in 4 games, allowing Egypt to retain their crown.
Like in Marseille 2 years ago, Ali Farag won the deciding match in the final (Photo credit: #WSFmensteams)
Boasting three players in the world top four, Egypt were surely the strongest favourites the event has ever seen, but they were tested before the final. Against Germany in the quarters, the first two games went the distance, Karim Abdel Gawad beating Raphael Kandra and Simon Rösner having the better of Ali Farag, both in 5 games. But the task was too big for Valentin Rapp in the decider and Mohamed Abouelghar clinched a predicted victory to take Egypt into the last 4. They met eleventh seed Wales - truly the dark horses of the 2019 championships - in a remake of the 1999 final in Cairo. Mere words will do little justice in describing the opening top string match between Tarek Momen and Joel Makin. The World Champion came back twice from behind, and the pair demonstrated squash of the very highest quality in the decider. Remarkably, underdog Makin came on top, making his jubilant team-mates erupt with joy. Some semblance of normality followed when Karim Abdel Gawad took the next match, beating Peter Creed in straight games before Mohamed Abouelghar, ranked more than 100 places above his opponent, defeated Emyr Evans in 4 games to put Egypt through to the final for the fifth time in a row. Welsh coach David Evans, was delighted with their third place finish and "the performance by the boys. I think that was the best game of squash I've seen in many years from Tarek and Joel.". Wales were co-bronze medalists with France, who had met England in the semi-final for the fifth time in 16 years. New top string Adrian Waller put second seeds England ahead after a 5-game victory over Frenchman Gregoire Marche. The next match saw event giants James Willstrop and Gregory Gaultier lock horns in what was their 44th international confrontation between the former world number ones since first meeting in the British Junior U16 Open semi-finals 21 years ago! Former World Champion Gaultier was making a return to the international stage after a 14-month injury lay-off, and to the sheer delight of his French team-mates ground a straight game win to level the tie for France. Then, in a remarkable turnaround, squad No.4 Declan James produced the goods for England, reversing the result of a few months ago in Nantes to beat Mathieu Castagnet in three games, to put England into the final for the fourth time in a row. An ecstatic James told the crowd later: "When I started my warm up it just flicked a switch and I wasn't even myself, I just became this other person and I just said no matter what happens I'm going to go through my process and see what happens."
Led by an impressive Joel Makin, Wales clinched a medal at the MWTC for the first time in 20 years (Photo credit: #WSFmensteams)
New Zealand, the fourth seeds who suffered a hiccup in the pool round by losing to ninth seeds Scotland, recovered to fight for fifth place with a battle against Germany. Meanwhile, Scotland progressed to a 2/1 victory over Spain in the play-off for 7th place - Scotland delighting themselves by exceeding their seeding and Spain also having much to smile about following the country's best ever finish in 14 appearances in the championships since 1985.
Source : Squash Info
Other squash news in December
--- Cameron Pilley hangs his rackets
"It feels weird to write this, but after 19 years on the PSA World Tour, I'm done". That's how 37-year old Cameron Pilley started his retirement announcement, which he published on social media a few days ago. Although he was not the most famous, the Aussie was a member of a so-called golden generation. As he said himself, the highlights of his career involved playing for his country: he got one silver medal and three bronze medals at the World Team Championships, as well as six gold medals in doubles - three at the Commonwealth Games and three at the World Champs. Nicknamed Pistol Pilley by the SquashTV commentators for the power of his strokes, he also enjoyed a successful individual career. Pilley belonged to the world top 25 from 2006 to 2018 (with a HWR of 11 in 2011) and reached two major finals in 2015/2016, at the Hong Kong Open and the World Series Finals. Pilley said he wants to "spend as much time as possible with his family (author's note: him and former professional player Line Hansen have two kids), and I have a coaching role I'd like to focus more on."
One of the highlights of Cameron Pilley's career was his gold medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games alongside cousin Donna Lobban in their home country (Photo credit: World Squash)
--- Sam Todd and Marina Stefanoni both make history at the US Junior Open
The 2019 U.S. Junior Open Squash Championships produced a historic slate of results as Team USA’s Marina Stefanoni became the first three-time U.S. Junior Open GU19 champion, England earned its maiden BU19 title courtesy of Sam Todd and Egypt dominated the lower age divisions with six champions and six runners up at Harvard’s Murr Center. Nearly 750 players representing 44 nations competed in the tournament, which took place across four days and four venues: Harvard, Northeastern, MIT and Andover. The BU19 final yielded another tournament first in the form of an all-English final between top seeds Sam Todd and Max Forster. Todd clinched his fourth career U.S. Junior Open title in emphatic fashion, defeating his teammate 11-6, 11-2, 11-3. At just sixteen years old, Todd now holds four US Junior titles since 2014—one in each age division from U13 through U19. Todd is also the first English BU19 champion since the tournament’s founding in 1993. “It feels good to make history at the U.S. Open and good to win all of the age groups. It was my goal to win the U19’s ever since I played the U13’s. I’ve always loved coming over here, they always put on a great tournament.” Stefanoni extended a six-year title streak spanning the 2014 U13 division, a U15 double in 2015 and 2016, and now her third consecutive U19 tile. The 17-year-old completed her title run with a decisive three-game final against Barbados’ six seed Meagan Best, 11-7, 11-8, 11-3. “The whole tournament was tough so it was great to get a win today,” Stefanoni said. Egypt dominated the scene in the U17, U15, U13 and U11 divisions as a result of the Egyptian federation’s first official delegation to the tournament ever. Across the bottom eight divisions, Egypt produced six champions, six finalists and three third place finishes. The two other outliers, representing Pakistan and Malaysia, needed to defeat Egyptian opposition in the finals..
Source: US Squash
Marina Stefanoni and Sam Todd won the US Junior Open at Harvard (Photo credit: US Squash)
January squash hotspots
--- World's top youngsters head to Birmingham for Dunlop British Junior Open
Over 800 players from 56 nations will be across four Birmingham venues from 2-6 January to compete for 10 titles from the boys and girls U11s to U19s. Strong contingents of representatives from Egypt and Malaysia will feature among the tournament favourites, but hopes will also be high for home successes, with seven English players seeded at three or above. In BU19, current World Junior bronze medallist Lewis Anderson faces a potential semi-final encounter against reigning U17 champion Yahya Elnawasany of Egypt, ahead of Elnawasany’s compatriot, and top seed, Moustafa El Sirty in the final. The top two players in GU19 have contrasting BJO histories – with top seed Jana Shiha from Egypt hoping to capture a maiden title, and second seed Malaysia’s Aifa Azman, looking for a fourth having already been crowned champion at U13, U15 and U17. Two-time BJO champion Sam Todd is hot favourite to lift the BU17 trophy and seeded to meet Malaysian Muhammad Amir Amirul Azhar in the final. The GU17 competition, similar to the U19s predicts an Egypt-Malaysia final between top seed Malaysian Aira Azman - looking to add to the U15 title she won two years ago - and former U13 champion Sana Ibrahim. An all-English boys’ U15 final between two former U13 champions could be on the cards with Jonah Bryant as top seed and Abdallah Eissa seeded 3/4. Standing in their respective paths will be India’s Yuvraj Wadhwani and Pakistan’s Muhammad Humza Khan. Eygptian trio Fayrouz Abouelkheir, Salma Elsheikh and Noor Megahed are seeded to meet in the girls U15 semi-finals but will have to overcome Malaysian top seed Sehveetrraa Kumar, who triumphed over Abouelkheir in the 2018 U13 final. And it is a similar potential semi-final mix in BU13 – albeit with Lee Hong Wong from Malaysia, seeded four. Mohamaed Zakaria, a quarter-finalist in 2018, heads the top three Egyptian seeds. Reigning GU13 champion Amina Orfi from Egypt has the chance to retain her title and add a third to her collection. The final could be a repeat of the 2018 final in the lower-age category against second-seeded compatriot Janna Galal. In BU11, Malaysian Jayden Oon has the opportunity to go one step further after bowing out in the 2019 semi-finals. The top seed could face Yassin Kouritam from Egypt in the final. Local hopes in GU11 will rest with ten-year-old Mariam Eissa, Abdallah’s sister seeded two who could face two Egyptians in the latter stages.
Source: PSA World Tour
Lewis Anderson will be one of the biggest local hopes at the British Junior Open (Photo credit: Squash Mad)
--- Gaultier to make PSA comeback against Mosaad at Tournament of Champions
Former World No.1 Gregory Gaultier will take on Egypt’s Omar Mosaad in a repeat of the 2015 PSA Men’s World Championship final when the Frenchman makes his first PSA appearance for 15 months at J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions between January 9-17, 2020. 36-year-old Gaultier hasn’t competed on the PSA Tour since October 2018 due to a knee injury, but he will make his highly-anticipated return at the first PSA Platinum event of the new year, where both he and Mosaad receive a bye into round two. Elsewhere, current World Champion Tarek Momen faces a tricky second round tie as he competes with World Championship semi-finalist Marwan ElShorbagy, while the last 32 also pits Peru’s Diego Elias, now at a career-best World No. 7, up against World No.12 Joel Makin in a dazzling early round fixture. Defending champion and World No.1 Ali Farag also receives a bye into round two, where he will play either compatriot Mazen Hesham or Scotland’s Alan Clyne, while 2019 runner-up Mohamed ElShorbagy begins his title challenge against either Australia’s Ryan Cuskelly or the winner of the wildcard playoff, which takes place between January 6-7. In the women’s event, reigning World Champion Nour El Sherbini will launch her attempt to win a record-tying fourth Tournament of Champions title against either Dutchwoman Milou van der Heijden or Scotland’s Lisa Aitken. El Sherbini is seeded to face World No.9 Tesni Evans, World No.8 Sarah-Jane Perry and World No.4 Nour El Tayeb en route to the final, where she is predicted to meet World No.1 Raneem El Welily in a repeat of last year’s title decider. 2015 winner El Welily begins her tournament against either France’s Coline Aumard or Canada’s Hollie Naughton in round two. She is likely to face players such as Hong Kong’s Annie Au, 2017 champion Camille Serme or World No.3 Nouran Gohar as she aims to reach a third Tournament of Champions final. A record $390,000 prize purse will be split equally between the men’s and women’s divisions at this year's “ToC”, as the tournament is commonly referred to.
After missing last year's edition, Grégory Gaultier will be back at the Tournament of Champions from January 9 (Photo credit: Philippe Rochais)
The Tournament of Champions will be the first stage of a series of tournaments in the United States. Egypt’s World No.3 Nouran Gohar will headline a top class draw at the Carol Weymuller Open in Brooklyn, New York between January 22-27. She will be joined by some of the biggest names in women’s squash with defending champion and World No.4 Nour El Tayeb, France’s World No.5 Camille Serme, New Zealand’s Joelle King and USA’s Amanda Sobhy. On the men's tour, the Pittsburgh Open takes place between January 22-26. Reigning champion Gregoire Marche is seeded to face Raphael Kandra in the quarter finals, before a possible meeting with the tournament’s top seed, Fares Dessouky, in the last four. In the bottom half of the draw, 2017 champion and 2019 runner-up Zahed Salem is expected to face India’s Saurav Ghosal in the semi-finals, but he is likely to clash with fellow countryman, Omar Mosaad, in the last eight.
Source: PSA World Tour