South Africa and Germany reclaimed their status as world top eight nations after storming through the last 16 round of the WSF Men’s World Team Squash Championship in France.
31 nations are competing in the 24th edition of the biennial event which is being held in France for the first time. Action is taking place at two venues in Mulhouse - the Espace Squash 3000 Centre and the Palais Des Sports where, for the first time, play is taking place simultaneously on three ASB all-glass showcourts spectacularly lined up side-by-side.
Seventh seeds South Africa, who finished in an all-time low 13th position in the previous championship in 2011, despatched Finland, the ninth seeds and one-time bronze medallists, 2/0.
Stephen Coppinger, the Cape Town-based 28-year-old who boasts a career-high world No16 ranking, beat seasoned Olli Tuominen, a veteran of eight world championship campaigns, 11-5, 11-7, 11-9 before third string Clinton Leeuw defeated Matias Tuomi 11-4, 15-13, 11-9.
“It means so much for us to get into the top eight,” said South Africa coach Richard Castle. “It’s really difficult when you’re out of the main group and just fighting for those lower play-off places.
“But we had to beat those Finnish guys – they don’t just give you the games.
“Steve is our captain and gave us a great start – he won 3/0, but it was a very tough match. Steve reaching an all-time ranking high is great for us – in fact, what he has done is quite phenomenal and I don’t think South Africa have quite realised what he’s achieved. Shaun (le Roux) is playing superb squash and is also at a career-high.”
South Africa will now face former champions England for a place in the last four. The second seeds, led by world No3 James Willstrop, knocked out British rivals Scotland 3/0.
“Steve can handle anyone in the top 20,” added Castle. “We’re looking forward to playing England as the pressure will be on them.”
Buoyed by local support in the 2011 event in Paderborn, Germany emphatically exceeded their 16th seeding by finishing in ninth place – then moved up to eighth when a top six nation was disqualified.
Two years on, the focussed sixth seeds today defeated New Zealand 2/1. World No12 Simon Rosner led the assault, beating Campbell Grayson 13-11, 2-0 (ret.) – and team-mate Jens Schoor clinched victory by outplaying 23-year-old Kiwi Evan Williams 11-5, 11-5, 11-5. New Zealand gained some consolation when Martin Knight beat Raphael Kandrain the best-of-three dead rubber.
New Zealand played the tie in uncharacteristic white kit, forced to forgo the traditional ‘All Black’ Kiwi attire in favour of the higher-seeded Germans – who also play in black!
“It’s unbelievable,” said German manager Oliver Pettke of his team’s success. “I cannot find words to express my feelings.
“Last year we finished in ninth position, but were later raised to eighth when one team was disqualified – but this time we have reached the quarter-finals by right. It was very impressive for me to see the team get to the quarters like this – I am really happy. In fact, I think it is one of the best results we have ever had.
“Having the last championship in Paderborn was very special for us – none of us will ever forget it – but now we have to just focus on our playing.
“Tomorrow we expect to meet Australia and we are really looking forward to it.”
Their opponents will indeed be fourth seeds Australia, 3/0 victors over Pakistan. It was the most glamorous tie of the day – between the two greatest world team championship nations of all, who hold 14 titles between them and have contested three finals.
Cameron Pilley led the way in an hour-long tussle, beating the Pakistani number one Nasir Iqbal 11-5, 11-3, 5-11, 11-6.Ryan Cuskelly put matters beyond Pakistan’s reach by crushing left-hander Farhan Mehboob 11-9, 11-3, 11-6, beforeDavid Palmer added another significant victory to his post-retirement tally when he overcame Farhan Zaman 11-9, 11-7.
“We have a lot of respect for Pakistan and there is a lot of history between our two countries,” said Australian coachRodney Eyles. “But when it comes down to it we’re just here to win the tournament and today’s win takes us nearer that goal.
“But we had to be very alert for Pakistan today,” added the former world No2. “Ryan played a hell of game – the lad he played is very skilful, but he neutralised him well.
“I couldn’t be happier with the way the guys have prepared for these championships.”
Favourites Egypt, bidding to become the first nation since 1987 to win the title three times in a row, eased to a 2/0 win over 15th seeds Canada. Ramy Ashour, the world No1 undefeated on the PSA World Tour for 41 matches over more than a year, beat Dane Sharp 11-6, 11-9, 11-8 before Tarek Momen sealed victory with an 11-6, 11-8, 11-8 defeat of David Letourneau.
Egyptian coach Mohamed Medhat Morsi said later: “All these wins are important to us – even when the challenges are not high – because it gives us confidence.
“Every day is important to us – we have had four days and we have three to go. Every day we all get together and set a plan which we are all involved with – it makes no difference that we have a world number one and number five in our squad.”
Egypt will take on India, the No8 seeds.
“The boys are ready for the battle,” continued world No38 Morsi. “We have tough opponents in the next round. India are one of the countries coming up in squash.
“It’s my first time coaching the men’s team – I first coached the women in 2010 when we won the world title for the first time, and have been involved with the juniors since then. But, when I was a player, I played with all the players in this team on the Tour.”
India beat Asian rivals Hong Kong 2/1. “We were very confident going into this match,” said Indian national coach Cyrus Poncha. “Being our Asian counterparts, we know their standards well.
“Our first goal was to get into the top eight. We’ve got a tough one in Egypt tomorrow.”
Malaysia will provide further Asian interest in the quarter-finals after beating USA 2/0. Ong Beng Hee, the 33-year-old Malaysian number one celebrating his tenth successive appearance in the championships, put his team ahead with a 7-11, 11-5, 11-4, 11-8 defeat of US champion Christopher Gordon.
Muhd Asyraf Azan was too strong for US debutant Dylan Murray in the following match, but had to fight back from a game down to overcome the 18-year-old from New York 8-11, 12-10, 11-2, 11-8.
“Chris and I played in the pools last time and I beat him then so I felt confident,” said Beng Hee later. “We finished fifth last year, but this year we don’t have Azlan (Iskandar) so it will be difficult to achieve the same this time. We expect to meet France next, but it will be hard to beat them.”
On playing his 10th successive worlds, Beng Hee added: “It’s a little bit depressing truthfully as people keep mentioning it! It gets harder all the time, especially with all these young players coming through!
“But the more I play in this event, the more special it becomes – and I am very proud to still be able to play number one for my country.
“If my body holds out, I hope to continue playing for some time – and especially in next year’s Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, both of which are very important for Malaysia.
“My main remaining goal is to win an individual medal at the Commonwealth Games – a bronze would be fine! Next year is going to be huge.”
The day’s play finished with a packed and partisan crowd cheering hosts France through to a 3/0 win over Mexico, the 13th seeds.
It took just ten minutes to open up the lead when Mexican number one Arturo Salazar was forced to concede the match after just one game to national hero Gregory Gaultier, the world number two from Aix-en-Provence, due to illness.
Third string Gregoire Marche sealed France’s win with an 11-3, 11-3, 11-5 victory over Eric Galvez - and, in the best-of-three dead rubber, the crowd were treated to another home win as Mathieu Castagnet beat Arturo’s twin brother Cesar Salazar 11-8, 11-6.
RESULTS: WSF Men’s World Team Championship, Mulhouse, France
Last 16 round (all ties played in team order 1, 3, 2):
 EGYPT bt  CANADA 2/0
Ramy Ashour bt Dane Sharp 11-6, 11-9, 11-8 (32m)
Tarek Momen bt David Letourneau 11-6, 11-8, 11-8 (31m)
 INDIA bt  HONG KONG CHINA 2/1
Saurav Ghosal bt Max Lee 11-3, 11-8, 7-11, 11-6 (61m)
Ramit Tandon bt Yip Tsz Fung 11-9, 11-5, 11-9 (38m)
Harinder Pal Sandhu lost to Leo Au 9-11, 11-7, 4-11
 AUSTRALIA bt  PAKISTAN 3/0
Cameron Pilley bt Nasir Iqbal 11-5, 11-3, 5-11, 11-6 (60m)
Ryan Cuskelly bt Farhan Mehboob 11-9, 11-3, 11-6 (38m)
David Palmer bt Farhan Zaman 11-9, 11-7 (23m)
 GERMANY bt  NEW ZEALAND 2/1
Simon Rosner bt Campbell Grayson 13-11, 2-0 ret. (30m)
Jens Schoor bt Evan Williams 11-5, 11-5, 11-5 (40m)
Raphael Kandra lost to Martin Knight 11-2, 9-11, 9-11 (39m)
 MALAYSIA bt  USA 2/0
Ong Beng Hee bt Christopher Gordon 7-11, 11-5, 11-4, 11-8 (67m)
Muhd Asyraf Azan bt Dylan Murray 8-11, 12-10, 11-2, 11-8 (38m)
 FRANCE bt  MEXICO 3/0
Gregory Gaultier bt Arturo Salazar 11-4 ret. (10m)
Gregoire Marche bt Eric Galvez 11-3, 11-3, 11-5 (30m)
Mathieu Castagnet bt Cesar Salazar 11-8, 11-6 (25m)
 SOUTH AFRICA bt  FINLAND 2/0
Stephen Coppinger bt Olli Tuominen 11-5, 11-7, 11-9 (43m)
Clinton Leeuw bt Matias Tuomi 11-4, 15-13, 11-9 (38m)
 ENGLAND bt  SCOTLAND 3/0
James Willstrop bt Alan Clyne 11-6, 11-6, 11-6 (27m)
Adrian Grant bt Chris Small 11-3, 11-7, 11-3 (33m)
Daryl Selby bt Greg Lobban 11-3, 11-5 (23m)
17th – 31st place play-offs:
[17/20] KUWAIT bye
[25/28] JAPAN bt [29/31] RUSSIA 3/0
Yuta Fukui bt Valery Litvinko 11-4, 11-2, 11-6 (22m)
Tomotaka Endo bt Sergei Beljaev 11-4, 11-1, 11-5 (21m)
Ryosei Kobayashi bt Dmitri Grishanin 11-7, 11-2 (16m)
[17/20] SWITZERLAND bt [25/28] VENEZUELA 3/0
Nicolas Mueller bt Miguel Mendez 11-3, 11-7, 11-9 (22m)
Patrick Miescher bt Ricardo Teran 11-0, 11-3, 11-2 (17m)
Reiko Peter bt Miguel Vallennilla 11-1, 11-2 (10m)
[21/24] IRELAND bt [29/31] KENYA 3/0
Arthur Gaskin bt Kenneth Mwangi 11-9, 11-7, 11-4 (31m)
Steve Richardson bt Rajdeep Bains 11-3, 11-5, 11-8 (24m)
Brian O’Brion bt Hartaj Bains 11-7 ret.
[21/24] BOTSWANA bt [29/31] NAMIBIA 2/1
Alister Walker bt Marco Becker 11-6, 11-7, 11-1 (23m)
Koketso Ntshebe bt Andrew Forrest 13-15, 11-6, 11-5, 11-6 (53m)
Lekgotla Mosope lost to Norbert Dorgeloh 9-11, 13-15 (19m)
[17/20] NETHERLANDS bt [25/28] POLAND 3/0
Laurens Jan Anjema bt Marcin Karwowski 11-3, 11-7, 11-5 (25m)
Marc ter Sluis bt Lukasz Stachowski 12-10, 7-11, 11-8, 11-9 (50m)
Bart Ravelli bt Przemyslaw Atras 11-4, 11-3 (20m)
[21/24] ARGENTINA bt [21/24] AUSTRIA 2/1
Hernan D’Arcangelo lost to Aqeel Rehman 9-11, 6-11, 6-11 (38m)
Leandro Romiglio bt Marcus Greslehner 11-8, 11-7, 11-5 (24m)
Robertino Pezzota bt Jakob Dirnberger 8-11, 11-1, 11-8, 11-2 (47m)
[17/20] COLOMBIA bt [25/28] CZECH REPUBLIC 2/0
Miguel Angel Rodriguez bt Ondrej Ertl 11-6, 11-3, 11-4 (28m)
Andres Vargas bt Ondrej Uherka 11-9, 11-7, 11-8
 EGYPT v  INDIA
 AUSTRALIA v  GERMANY
 FRANCE v  MALAYSIA
 ENGLAND v  SOUTH AFRICA
9th – 16th place play-offs:
 CANADA v  HONG KONG CHINA
 NEW ZEALAND v  PAKISTAN
 USA v  MEXICO
 FINLAND v  SCOTLAND
17th – 24th place play-offs:
[17/20] KUWAIT v [25/28] JAPAN
[17/20] SWITZERLAND v [21/24] IRELAND
[17/20] NETHERLANDS v [21/24] BOTSWANA
[17/20] COLOMBIA v [21/24] ARGENTINA
25th – 31st place play-offs:
[29/31] RUSSIA bye
[29/31] KENYA v [25/28] VENEZUELA
[25/28] POLAND v [29/31] NAMIBIA
[25/28] CZECH REPUBLIC v [21/24] AUSTRIA