Squash: England women hold their nerve to clinch world crown

England's world championship-winning women's squad and backroom staff.
England's world championship-winning women's squad and backroom staff.
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The England women’s squash team won the World Team Championships in Niagara on the Lake in Canada on Saturday in a tense finale with Malaysia.

Sarah-Jane Perry opened things nicely for England with a solid 3-0 win over Delia Arnold at n03 string. Following this Nicol David put the scores level by beating Laura Massaro in a tantalising match-up of world numbers one and two, leaving it to inevitably come down to the final rubber between Alison Waters and Low Wee Wern.

Waters could have come into the match a little flat after a disappointing loss in the semis, but she was anything but. The Malaysian number two was on a high after a tough match the day before, but it too would have taken its toll. Hardly an easy situation for either.

Waters, so experienced and under incredibly intense circumstances, kept it steady and won the match with composure to bring back the world title for England 11-8,11-7,8-11,11-4.

These girls are so dedicated and committed. They’ve worked so hard and I’ve seen it, having been a part of the system at England Squash and Racketball which supports the squad so greatly through Sport England and The National Lottery. The players and the support staff deserve the win, and everyone at England Squash were just thrilled that these players had realised this outcome.

The semi-finals were dramatic. England looked to have the upper hand going into the match with Hong Kong, but the three string format doesn’t always suit them. They beat most teams on sheer strength in depth, but when there are only three runners there is not much to play with.

Massaro had to beat Annie Au, who can be a nightmare, but the world champion maintained composure to keep the Hong Kong number 1 subdued enough. Alison Waters, at two, looked a good bet but good bets tend to go out of the window on these occasions and she lost 3-1 to Joey Chan. Sarah Jane Perry had to do the difficult job last on, and she upheld expectations by beating Tong Tze Wing 3-1. Things did look tricky after she lost the first from being 10-3 up, which is almost unheard of.

Nicol David put the Malaysians one up against Egypt by beating Raneem El Weleily 3-1. Low Wee Wern then battled, knowing it was possibly their biggest chance, (the Malaysians not having the strength lower down their order of England or Egypt) and she won an 86-minute five-setter against Nour El Sherbini, this year’s world championship finalist.

This was a huge performance, and Low Wee Wern would have known it was a tough ask for the Malaysian no3 Delia Arnold to win, so to overcome that pressure, showing such guts makes that one of the performances of the year.

Canada staged the world women’s teams for the fourth time this year and the event was played at the Whiteoaks Resort and Spa and the newly named Mark Sachvie squash centre.

Canada is a strong nation in the game, and was possibly at its strongest in the late 1990s and early 2000s when Jonathan Power, the volatile, humorous and supremely skilful world champion breathed new McEnroe-esque life in to the sport. He assumed a crowd-pleasing aura and formed one of the great squash rivalries of all time with Peter Nicol. In Power’s era also was Graham Ryding, who came a whisker away from reaching a world championship final, and Shahier Razik, still applying his unique slow-ball tactics on the PSA tour today. Whilst not as strong now as in that rich era they still maintain a presence on the world scene. Sam Cornett, leads the way for Canada on the the women’s tour and Shawn De Lierre the on the men’s.

The squash community in Ontario certainly embraced the event, the players seemed happy to be there, and the live web streaming from the event looked classy.

Meanwhile in the UK the British Grand Prix in Manchester was, at the time of going to press up to the finals, which will be Mathieu Castagnet v Nick Matthew.There were some notable performances. Adrian Waller beat Borja Golan in a battle of physicality. Englishman Waller is showing some solid form having had good outings at the US Open and now here, and the hard work is starting to deliver.

The Premier Squash League is back this week and Pontefract are in action at home. The speed merchant from India, Saurav Ghosal, who made Leeds his home for several years, is back tonight to give us some strength.

James Willstrop, lefvt, in action against Mohamed ElShorbagy in Dubai. Picture courtesy of PSA

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