Title-Holders England To Face Top Seeds Egypt In World Final In Marseille
Defending champions England and top seeds Egypt will contest the final of the WSF Men’s World Team Squash Championship for the third time in a row after prevailing in the semi-finals of the biennial World Squash Federation event in Marseille without dropping a match.
England, the second seeds, overcame arch-rivals Australia 3/0 while favourites Egypt saw off surprise semi-finalists Hong Kong China – the fifth seeds who shocked hosts France in the quarter-finals.
Despite the absence of the home side, the packed crowd at Salle Vallier fully engaged with the teams on show – particularly throwing themselves behind underdogs Hong Kong in their battle with Egypt.
The victory over perennial rivals Australia saw England secure a place in the final for the ninth time since 1983. The two countries have won the title 13 times between them – and were clashing in the championship for the 12th time since 1983, with England narrowly ahead 6-5 before today’s encounter.
The teams’ third strings took to the court for the opening match – with Aussie underdog Zac Alexander, ranked 126 in the world, facing world No.15 Daryl Selby (both pictured above). It was the pair’s first meeting and Alexander saved a game ball in the first game before taking the lead 12-10. But Selby soon stamped his authority on the match, taking the next three games 11-7, 11-5, 11-7 to give England the lead.
Aussie No.1 Ryan Cuskelly came into the second match after being taken to five games in a gruelling 97-minute encounter with Kiwi Paul Coll the night before. The New South Welshman faced Nick Matthew, the three-time world champion whom he had never beaten in four meetings in seven years.
World No.6 Matthew delivered a masterclass in consistent squash to beat Cuskelly, ranked eight places lower, 11-8, 11-6, 11-4 (both pictured above) to clinch England’s place in the final.
In the best-of-three dead rubber which gave England maximum points, world No.10 James Willstrop – playing in his third successive world championship battle against Australia since 2007 – defeated Cameron Pilley 12-10, 11-6.
“We’ve got New Zealand to thank for pushing Australia hard in their quarter-final last night,” Matthew told the crowd when interviewed post-match. “I’m sorry it won’t be France, but I can’t wait for tomorrow’s final – whoever we play!”
England team coach David Campion was impressed with Alexander. “He led throughout most of the first game and it was only in third game that you could see that Daryl was getting to him.
“Nick had a plan in his match and it worked.
“We’ve got massively experienced players and we’ll be ready tomorrow, whether it’s Egypt or Hong Kong.”
The Hong Kong players who lined up for the semi-final were the three stalwarts who silenced the crowd 24 hours earlier by denying the hosts a crack at the title – and consigned France to the lowest finish in the event for at least 16 years.
In the opening match, Egypt’s world No.5 Marwan Elshorbagy dropped a game before prevailing 11-3, 8-11, 11-4, 11-7 over the Hong Kong No.3 Yip Tsz Fung (both pictured above).
The second match went the full distance – Egypt’s reigning world champion Karim Abdel Gawad twice having to contend with fightbacks from Max Lee before beating his HK opponent (both pictured below) 11-9, 7-11, 12-10, 7-11, 11-7 in 67 minutes.
Recently-appointed Egyptian national coach Ashraf Hanafi admitted afterwards: “That was hard – I have full respect for Hong Kong. They proved that it wasn’t luck yesterday. They were very tough.
“The quality was very high. Max never gave up. It was good for squash.”
When asked to comment on the up-coming final, Hanafi exclaimed: “England is England! All three players are very experienced. We have to prepare ourselves for them!”
Recalling the defeat to England in the previous championship four years ago, Hanafi added: “I hope we will get revenge for our defeat in 2013.”
Hong Kong national coach Chris Robertson, also a recent appointment, said: “I was very pleased with my team. They played with plenty of attack and no fear. They put in a good performance – particularly Max. I was really happy that they were able to play like this, particularly after last night.
“They looked comfortable against Egypt – they were so dynamic, so aggressive so confident.
“I thought we were on a par with them for a lot of the time.”
In battles for lower positions, France recovered from the shock of their quarter-final defeat to beat Scotland 2/0 to set up a meeting with New Zealand in the play-off for fifth place. The sixth seeds defeated eighth seeds India 2/1.
South African veteran Rodney Durbach, the 45-year-old who is marking his ninth appearance in the championships since making his debut 22 years ago in 1995, wound back the clock to survive his second successive five-game marathon to lead his country into the play-off for 17th place. South Africa beat 17th seeds Pakistan 2/1 and, seeded 22, will finish well ahead of their seeding.
 EGYPT bt  HONG KONG CHINA 2/0
Marwan Elshorbagy bt Yip Tsz Fung 11-3, 8-11, 11-4, 11-7 (39m)
Karim Abdel Gawad bt Max Lee 11-9, 7-11, 12-10, 7-11, 11-7 (67m)
 ENGLAND bt  AUSTRALIA 3/0
Daryl Selby bt Zac Alexander 10-12, 11-7, 11-5, 11-7 (62m)
Nick Matthew bt Ryan Cuskelly 11-8, 11-6, 11-4 (48m)
James Willstrop bt Cameron Pilley 12-10, 11-6 (22m)