Upsets continued to play their part on day four of the WSF Men’s World Junior Team Squash Championship in India where Czech Republic and USA, the sixth and eighth seeds respectively, defied the seedings to claim surprise berths in the semi-finals of the biennial World Squash Federation event in Chennai.
The Czechs – in only their second ever appearance in the championship and with a squad of players none of whom had competed in last week’s individual event – outshone fourth seeds Malaysia. Second string Ondrej Vorlicek put the underdogs ahead after 45 minutes with an 11-4, 12-10, 6-11, 11-2 win over Malaysian Siow Yee Xian.
Top string Viktor Byrtus, a 17-year-old from Ostrava, sealed victory for the Czechs, fighting back from a game down to beat Darren Rahul Pragasam (both pictured in action above) 10-12, 11-9, 11-1, 11-6.
“When the draw came out we felt we could progress, but we didn’t want to get ahead of ourselves,” said the Czech team (pictured in celebration below), who are now sure of their best ever finish. “Beating the Swiss yesterday gave us confidence, and we knew we had a chance against Malaysia, but Ondrej and Viktor played so well, both finishing strongly.”
Czech team manager Jan Mutina added: “It’s an amazing feeling to be in the semis! At the start of the tournament we wanted to confirm our seeding, yet we overachieved it, which makes us very proud and happy.
“India provides us with a great service, therefore we would like to thank them, as well as the whole management. In the semi-finals we would like to show our viewers that squash is an amazing sport, and that it deserves to be on the Olympic Games.”
Czech now face Egypt, the favourites who brushed aside Hong Kong China 3/0.
The final spot in the semis was claimed by USA after a tie of unbelievable drama at the Indian Squash Academy. The No.8 seeds faced North American rivals Canada, seeded two and expected to achieve their best ever finish.
Tiber Worth got the USA off to a great start, taking the opening two games, only to see Canada’s James Flynn recover to put the underdogs ahead after an 8-11, 8-11, 11-2, 11-2, 11-6 win in 49 minutes.
With the Canadian Julien Gosset leading 2/1 in the second match and with match-ball at 10-6, a semi-final berth for the No.2 seeds looked a certainty. But in stretching for a ball, 18-year-old Gosset slipped badly, clutching his hamstring. After treatment, he returned to court but was clearly unable to compete and at 11-10 down, was forced to concede the match to Daelum Mawji (pictured above en-route to victory).
In the unexpected decider, it was USA’s Thomas Rosini who triumphed 11-9, 1-11, 11-5, 12-10 over George Crowne to clinch the semi-final berth for USA – much to the sheer delight of his team-mates!
“I’m proud of how our team has performed this week,” said Canada’s coach Jonathan Hill. “Obviously today wasn’t the best but the US played some great squash and we’ll look forward to the 5/8 playoffs and rebuilding our team.”
US Coach Simba Muhwati had mixed emotions: “Our hearts go out to Julien, he’d played an amazing match before that injury.
“The emotions involved from Tiber being two-nil up and losing, from Daelum being match ball down and winning, and then Thomas playing so well to put us into the semis!
“It’s a weird place to be, we want to be happy to be in the semis to match our best ever finish, but we feel so much for Julien and Canada.”
USA now face England for a place in the final after the third seeds defeated defending champions Pakistan 2/1. Yorkshireman Nick Wall clinched victory for the former champions when he beat the Pakistan No.1 Abbas Zeb(both pictured below) 11-9, 11-6, 7-11, 11-6.
“It’s great to be in the semis,” said England coach Lee Drew. “Pakistan put up a great fight as you’d expect – they would have picked up a lot from last night’s win here over India.
“James (Wyatt) held his nerve well and Nick overcame an opponent who was getting better and better as the match progressed, and did well to close it out.”