Report courtesy of WSF.
Favorites Egypt defeated defending champions England in the final of the WSF Men’s World Team Squash Championship at Salle Vallier in Marseille to reclaim the World Squash Federation title they lost to England four years ago in Mulhouse, France.
England reached the final for the ninth time since 1983 in comfortable style and presented a line-up for the final boasting three players with more than 300 international caps between them—probably the most experienced team ever to represent the country in the fifty years of the tournament.
By contrast the four-man Egyptian squad only included one player who had ever competed in the championship before—yet the three-man team in the final all had rankings within the world top five.
With the agreed playing order being 1, 2, 3, title-holders England presented three-time world champion Nick Matthew, the thirty-seven-year-old world No. 6 appearing in the event for the seventh time since 2003, to face twenty-six-year-old world No. 4 Karim Abdel Gawad, a championship debutante.
Matthew was clearly not the player who dispatched Australian number one Ryan Cuskelly in straight games just 24 hours earlier. The Yorkshireman was forced to take a three-minute ‘self-inflicted injury break’ midway through the second game—and it later transpired that he had suffered a minor recurrence of his old ankle injury during the warm-up for the match.
After just thirty-four minutes, Egypt took the lead when Gawad claimed an 11-9, 11-3, 11-7 victory.
Egyptian number two Ali Farag was also making his debut in the final—while English opponent James Willstrop was not only celebrating his fifth successive World Team Championship battle against an Egyptian opponent since 2003, but also his 156th cap for his country.
Former world number one Willstrop, thirty-four, did what he could to keep his twenty-four-year-old opponent at bay—but Farag was clearly on a mission and after thirty-six minutes clasped his face in his hands as he celebrated his championship-winning 11-5, 11-9, 11-5 triumph.
“The word big is an understatement—it is much bigger than big!” gushed Farag when asked to comment on the significance of the win. “I felt I had the whole Egyptian squash community on my shoulders. I wanted to make them proud. Four years ago, I was still at college. I remember watching the final—it was a dream of mine to wear the Egyptian shirt.
When it was pointed out that Egypt had the luxury of not playing their fourth string Ramy Ashour, one of the sport’s greatest names and a three-time world champion, Farag said: “It says a lot about how much he values the team that Ramy, our captain, was happy to leave the team selection to our coach and not play tonight. We will celebrate for just tonight then get back to work to prepare for next week’s PSA World Championship.”
Nick Matthew had much praise for England’s successors: “They were quality opponents tonight—especially Ali against James. We knew we had the experience and we hoped that would carry us through, but I didn’t quite get into the match. We felt we had more to give. We were playing guys at the pinnacle of their careers. We wanted to push them to their absolute limits – we knew we had the best opportunity now before they dominate for perhaps the next decade. But we’re proud that we are still second best in the world.”
Success in Marseille means that Egypt now have all the men’s and women’s, senior and junior, team and individual WSF and PSA world titles—except the Men’s Junior World Team title, in which final in 2016 the country narrowly lost to Pakistan.