Squash history will be made when China hosts its first World Squash Championship – and the first ever to stage all matches on all-glass courts – when teams from the five continents compete in the 21st CGG WSF Women’s World Team Championship in the Liaoning Province seaport city of Dalian.
With 15 players from the world top 20 amongst the 62 representing 16 nations, the biennial World Squash Federation event takes place at the Xigang Gymnasium – featuring two all-glass showcourts, with arena seating, plus four permanent all-glass courts – from 11-16 September.
Egypt, with four players in the world top six including world No.2 Raneem El Welily fresh from her unexpected triumph in last week’s China Open in Shanghai, are the top seeds – firm favourites to become the first team to successfully defend the title since Australia in 2004. Egypt open their 2018 campaign against Australia, the No.9 seeds, in Pool A.
England boast the unprecedented record of having competed in all but one final since making their debut in the event 37 years ago in 1981! The No.2 seeds face Japan, the tenth seeds, on day one of their bid to reach the final for the 13th time in a row.
USA are one of only three teams to have competed in every championship since the inaugural event in 1979 – and, as third seeds, are expected to reach the semi-finals for the first time ever.
“It’s feels good to be in this position – it is a sign that USA are recognised as a force in the women’s game,” conceded US coach Thierry Lincou, the former world No.1 and world champion from France (pictured below, left, with his squad).
“But this is just a seeding – we’ve never reached the top four before. After finishing fifth the last two times, it means that we are getting there. We are in a better position to achieve a top four finish. I think everyone is proud and very excited.
“We’ve been waiting for this moment since the last time. We were so happy to finish fifth – but we thought we could have done a little better. We were seeded seven and it was really tough – but the seeding this year is a little more in our favour. That’s why we are so excited – it’s pure excitement, motivation and desire.”
Malaysia, who recorded a best-ever runner-up finish in 2014, but slumped to a sixth place finish last time, are the fourth seeds in Dalian. The team will led by Nicol David, the former world number one who is celebrating her ninth successive appearance in the championships since 2002. Completing the squad will be Low Wee Wern and teenagers Sivasangari Subramaniam and Aifa Azman.
“The top two teams are obviously a little bit further ahead than everybody else in terms of rankings,” admitted Malaysian coach Peter Genever (pictured below with his squad). “Our priority to start with is to try and get through the pool on top and then take it from there. But we’ve got a very strong team. Nicol played well in China last week – she’s in good form – and Sangari’s playing very well, and Wee Wern and Aifa too.”
After two years out with a knee injury, Low bounced back two months ago to reach the Malaysian National final then win three Tour events in a row.
“Yes, Wee Wern came back and won her first three PSA tournaments back-to-back. The game’s changed quite a lot since she’s been out, including the lower tin, but she’s adapted to it very well.
“This event is massive for us. Our biggest event is the Asian Games and the women’s team did really well in the individual event with gold and silver, but in the team event we only got a bronze – so that’s given us extra motivation to do well here and show that we are better than our performance there.
“Hong Kong won it and we’ve got Hong Kong in our group so that’s going to be interesting. We’re the higher seeds so coming top of the group would make it slightly easier for us in the knockout stage.”
The city of Dalian hosted a welcome reception for the players on the eve of the event – as pictured above.