Pontefract’s world number one James Willstrop gives the inside track on the competitive world of sport.
France has really got itself involved in team squash this season. Not content with hosting the World Women’s Teams last week in Nimes, the country also has the rights to stage the men’s equivalent in Mulhouse next June.
Viewing last week’s events from afar, it seemed there was no holding back. There wasn’t just the one all-glass showcourt in the big arena, but three, which is practically unheard of.
With so many players at events like these, fighting for practise time on glass court can be a headache, but no such problems in Nimes. The French federation also made sure that there was web streaming available for fans all over the world and very good it was too.
In my experience, when they get hold of a tournament, the French have a knack of doing it well. I won’t ever forget playing in front of 2,000 people in Rennes in 2004 in the European Team Championships and 2,000 people don’t turn up by accident.
This year England’s women were seeded to win the event they last captured in 2006. Two of the players on the winning team that year were in the squad: Yorkshire’s Jenny Duncalf, pictured, and Alison Waters and they were joined by current England no one Laura Massaro and Sarah Kippax.
As expected they reached the final to play Egypt, but the standard of the women’s game is gathering such momentum that expectations mean little.
In the semis, England had to deal with a Malaysian team who are getting stronger by the minute and who always come with the difficult prospect of having Nicol David at one. But a 2-1 win took England into the final.
Waters, on first at number two string, beat 17-year-old Nour El Sherbini. She now finds herself back in the world top five after dropping below 40 because of a long spell of injury.
Everyone in squash is thrilled to see Waters back performing unimpeded.
Massaro lost closely to improved and in-form world number two Raneem el Weleily in four games to set up the decider, a scenario that is testing for the players and tantalising for everyone else.
Both Duncalf and Omneya Abdel Kawy battled hard, and the match couldn’t have been more level throughout.
The score stood at 2-2 in games and 8-8 in points and the Egyptian just took the spoils in a hugely-competitive encounter. Disappointing for England not to win but Duncalf and the team can be proud of their big effort.