Wednesday,19 June, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1410, (20 - 26 September 2018)
Wednesday,19 June, 2019
Issue 1410, (20 - 26 September 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Egypt upstage England

Egypt’s women crushed their English counterparts in the final of the World Squash Federation Championship in China, reports Abeer Anwar

World Squash Federation Championship in China
Al-Ahram Weekly

Egypt’s women retained the WSF Women’s World Team Squash Championship title in China, beating perennial rivals England, the No 2 seeds, 2-0 in the final of the biennial tournament at Xigang Gymnasium in the seaport city of Dalian. The last time the team won the title was in France 2016. This is now their fourth such crown.  

It was the fifth time for the two teams to meet in the final since 2006 but as Amr Shabana, the former Egyptian squash star and the current women’s team head coach said, “We proved to the world that we are the champions forever. The players did their best and we were up to the challenge to show that we are technically, physically and mentally better all throughout the match. The English were not an easy prey as they are seven-time champions but we paved the way for a flourishing future for all Egyptians to come.”

The matches started with the opening clash between the third strings Nouran Gohar of Egypt and Londoner Alison Waters. What surprised the English side was that even though world No 1 Nour Al-Sherbini did not feature either in the opening match or the final, Egypt still fielded at third string Gohar, the squad number four who is ranked six in the world.

Gohar raced to a two-game lead but Waters, earning her 140th international cap for England, battled back to level the match. It took just less than an hour before Gohar finally nailed her opponent, winning 11-9, 11-9, 6-11, 7-11, 11-7 in 55 minutes.


EGYPTIAN TEAM

Experienced Egyptian world team championship campaigner Raneem Al-Welili then faced England’s Laura Massaro – both former world champions. The match was the pair’s 31st meeting since May 2004, with the English player having a 19-11 head-to-head advantage going into the match.

Al-Welili, the reigning world No 2, took a two-game lead over Massaro before the Lancashire lass reduced the deficit by winning the third game. But the fourth game was a short affair, Al-Welili dropping just three points before winning 11-3, 11-8, 9-11, 11-3 to give the title to Egypt. Al-Welili set a new record for herself by being the sole Egyptian player to participate in the four world titles that Egypt captured.

“You always forget about how hard it is for managers and coaches to watch the players, especially on the women’s side where it’s all about tactical squash,” said Shabana, a four-time world champion. “The attrition and speed has gone up in the last 10 years. But at the end of the day it’s very tactical and you can see the tactics going back and forth. So I am very proud of the girls especially after Nour messed up her Achilles tendon yesterday, so I am very happy that they stuck together and kept it together,” Shabana was quoted as saying after the match.

“I kept telling the players to do their best to win the final and the title as this was very important especially in the absence of Al-Sherbini. I wanted to remind them, it’s not us on top of the mountain; it’s actually England on top of the mountain. It’s up to us to work our way up to that.

“We still have a long way to go as we are still not one of the top two teams yet. Australia have won the title nine times. We might be higher in the rankings but by far we’re not the most dominant nation as of yet,” conceded Shabana.

Which teams represented the biggest potential threat to Egypt in the future? “Hong Kong, Malaysia and India – in that order,” said the coach. “After that you can see the US coming up next. Hong Kong have an amazing system, as does Malaysia. And the US wants to show off that university mentality.”

English coach David Campion was not satisfied by his team’s performance. “We were fairly confident Alison might be able to get us off to a decent start with her track record against Gohar. But, to be fair, both Raneem and Gohar played really well for Egypt; both played superb squash. And from 2-0 down when Al-Welili came back I thought she might be able to do… but it wasn’t to be. They both gave it everything. Laura’s match with Raneem was a quality match. Raneem was superb and when she plays like that she’s very difficult – she beats everybody when she plays like that. We can’t really be too disappointed with the outcome when you see the level of squash they play at today. It’s another silver medal against Egypt. We’ll keep fighting away and hopefully keep as competitive as this going forward,” Campion told world squash.org.

Hani Hamouda, squash federation member of the board and head of the Egyptian delegation, expressed his gratitude for the efforts of the Egyptian women that were up to the challenge despite playing against big and experienced names. Added Hamouda: “We have been working hard for years as a federation to pave the way for these champions to flourish. We have provided them with all the facilities and the tools needed to excel, and they did.”

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