In only their third appearance in the event, India ensured themselves a top eight finish in the WSF Women’s World Team Championship for the first time in Nimes after beating Netherlands today in a dramatic last 16 round tie in theWorld Squash Federation event being staged in France for the first time.
The event boasts a record entry of 26 nations and is being staged simultaneously at both the eight-court Club des Costières and La Parnasse Arena where, for the first time ever, action is taking place simultaneously on three all-glass show courts.
Anaka Alankamony went on first against Milou van der Heijden. The 18-year-old Indian number three showed great maturity and resilience to play a simple medium paced basic game to overcome her opponent 11-8, 11-6, 11-5.
Dipika Pallikal went on next against former world No2 Natalie Grinham. From the outset, the Dutch champion was firing from all cylinders. Grinham used her drops and lobs to great effect to win 11-8, 11-4, 11-3 to level the tie.
In the decider, second string Joshana Chinappa dropped the first against a determined Dutch assault from Orla Noom. At 2/1 down, Chinappa returned to the court with renewed confidence and dropped just five further points to clinch a historic 5-11, 11-9, 8-11, 11-2, 11-3 win after 51 minutes to take India into the world’s top eight for the first time.
“I had a game-plan, but I was a bit slow in the first two games, I was struggling to get used to the court,” admitted the jubilant 26-year-old from Chennai afterwards. “I’ve played Orla lots of times, but haven’t beaten her for six years – and that was definitely on my mind.
“Once I got my confidence, I felt much more comfortable. I didn’t think about the significance of the match from the team’s point of view, I just wanted to win.
“It’s awesome to be part of the team which has got into the world’s top eight for the first time – but I’m looking forward to taking it one step forward,” added the world No32.
India national coach Cyrus Poncha was overjoyed with the achievement: “It’s been a brilliant year for Indian squash – which started with reaching the U21 World Cup final, then third place in the world junior boys, and now in the women’s top eight for the first time.”
Laura Mylotte, a 37-year-old who made her world championship debut in 1994, survived a five-game marathon againstMaud Duplomb to beat the French number three 7-11, 11-8, 13-15, 11-8, 11-4. Another dramatic five-game tussle followed – one which had the partisan crowd on the edges of their seats before the hall went silent when 13 times Irish champion Madeline Perry beat four-time French champion Camille Serme 11-8, 12-10, 8-11, 9-11, 11-5 to put the result beyond France’s reach.
“I just had to put my head down and focus,” said a delighted Perry afterwards. “It was a bit weird with the crowd really – they were just more of a distraction than anything else.
Perry has had a chequered history in the world team championships: “I haven’t had much luck with the event. I went to Malaysia in ’96 and I got sick the night before. I went to Sheffield four years later and got injured in the second match. I went to Edmonton in Canada in 2006 and got food poisoning the night before. I went to New Zealand two years ago and got a shoulder injury the week before.
“In today’s match I did something to my foot towards the end of the fourth game, and that was a bit of a distraction – but soon put it out of my mind. When it happened, I thought, ‘oh no, not again!’.
“I didn’t play well against India, so it was good to get my form back again.”
New Zealand came from a match down to beat Canada 2/1. Unranked English-born Canadian Susannah King, making her championship debut, recovered from a game down – and saved two match-balls – to beat world No34 Kylie Lindsay 8-11, 11-7, 12-10, 7-11, 14-12 to put Canada into an unexpected lead.
“It was quite nerve-wracking, particularly when Joelle went one down,” said NZ National Coach Paul Hornsby. “If you go by world rankings, it was heavily in our favour – but we got off to a nervy start. Fair play to Susannah, she played enough winners – but after the first game Joelle looked pretty comfortable.”
Hawkes added: “For me, the big difference between playing for yourself and for your national team like this is that I got really nervous before my game, watching the others – and had to go off and refocus. But I didn’t think I was ever going to lose that match.”
Defending champions Australia booked their place in the quarter-finals with a 3/0 win over USA. Australian team coachSarah Fitz-Gerald, the former five-time world champion, said: “I’m very pleased with our performance. We knew on paper we were looking good.
“We were a bit surprised that they dropped Grainger – but that worked in our favour. And now we’re expecting to meet Hong Kong – and we feel pretty good about that.”
WSF Women’s World Team Championship, Nimes, France
Last 16 round (afternoon session):
 IRELAND bt  FRANCE 3/0
Laura Mylotte bt Maud Duplomb 7-11, 11-8, 13-15, 11-8, 11-4 (53m)
Madeline Perry bt Camille Serme 11-8, 12-10, 8-11, 9-11, 11-5 (68m)
Aisling Blake bt Coline Aumard 11-4, 11-9 (17m)
 NEW ZEALAND bt  CANADA 2/1
Kylie Lindsay lost to Susannah King 11-8, 7-11, 10-12, 11-7, 12-14 (54m)
Joelle King bt Samantha Cornett 8-11, 11-6, 11-2, 11-3 (35m)
Jaclyn Hawkes bt Alexandra Norman 11-5, 13-11, 11-9 (33m)
 AUSTRALIA bt  USA 3/0
Melody Francis bt Maria Elena Ubina 11-4, 9-11, 8-11, 11-7, 11-2 (35m)
Rachael Grinham bt Sabrina Sobhy 11-2, 13-11, 11-3 (27m)
Donna Urquhart bt Olivia Fiechter 11-6, 10-12, 11-8 (25m)
 INDIA bt  NETHERLANDS 2/1
Anaka Alankamony bt Milou van der Heijden 11-8, 11-6, 11-5 (30m)
Dipika Pallikal lost to Natalie Grinham 8-11, 4-11, 3-11 (20m)
Joshana Chinappa bt Orla Noom 5-11, 11-9, 8-11, 11-2, 11-3 (51m)