Team USA has secured a top ten finish at the 2017 WSF Men’s World Team Championship after upsetting nine seeds Malaysia 2-1 Saturday, December 2, at Modern Squash in Marseille, France.
The match against Malaysia proved to be the pivotal tie for the eleven seeded U.S., ensuring that the U.S. would exceed its tournament seeding.
The No. 3’s led off the match on the glass court with Chris Hanson making his fifth appearance of the tournament. After winning a marathon first game 15-13, Hanson pressed on to give the U.S. a 1-0 advantage in three games against Addeen Idrakie.
The No. 1’s followed on court as world No. 48 Todd Harrity aimed for a third upset of the tournament against world No. 38 Nafiizwan Adnan. Adnan would go on to level the score at 1-1, coming back from 2-1 down against Harrity to win 11-13, 11-4, 6-11, 11-7, 11-7 in seventy-three minutes.
The decisive match came down to the No. 2’s, Team USA’s Chris Gordon and 2016 world junior champion Ng Eain Yow. The American veteran held his composure to clinch the match for the U.S. 11-5, 12-10, 6-11, 12-10 forty-seven minutes.
On the final day of match play Sunday, December 3, the U.S. ended its tournament with a 2-0 loss against seven seeds Germany in the 9-10 playoff.
The U.S. coaching staff included the Ganek Family US Squash Head National Coach, Paul Assaiante, and former world No. 1 Thierry Lincou.
“In my twenty-two years as National Coach, I probably enjoyed this trip the most,” said Paul Assaiante, the Ganek Family US Squash Head National Coach. “I was so happy for the boys that we went into it focused on accomplishing three things: we wanted to help them to compete with ferocity—but without emotion, to have the courage to attack when the opening presented itself and to be able to make in-match adjustments. That’s hard to do in a world championship, and they did it. They came out of their comfort zones and did what we asked of them, and as a result, the play just got better and better as it went on.”
Tenth place is Team USA’s highest Men’s World Team finish since 2011.
“We always evaluate these things by the result of the event, but I was looking at this as a much bigger picture in the journey, and I thought the guys did great,” Assaiante said. “I think a big reason why they responded so well was Thierry. He has such credibility and really does everything with no ego and is so selfless. It was great to see.”
Assaiante said that No. 1 Todd Harrity, who upset world No. 28 Max Lee and world No. 43 Joel Makin, played the best squash of his career so far in France.
“This was by far the best squash I’ve seen Todd play, it wasn’t even close,” Assaiante said. “He had to use shots that he has, but was never comfortable using in match play. He had to attack. You’re not going to beat Max Lee or Joel Makin if you’re not attacking the front of the court, they’re just going to pound you. For people watching matches, they would see Todd making plenty of mistakes, but that’s what the situation called for, attack when the openings presented themselves.”
Assaiante expressed regret that No. 4 Faraz Khan, who was making his world team debut, didn’t play a match throughout the tournament.
“I feel badly for Faraz, he had been playing well and came to France excited to play,” Assaiante said. “Typically in these tournaments you use your extra man in matches where there is a wide gap on either end of the spectrum. None one single match on paper had a wide margin, so every match was tight. To his credit, Faraz was a great team player and never complained. Gordon played really well. Against Malaysia, he went after the world junior champion and beat him with shots, pace and courage. To use a phrase that Al Molloy would use all the time, ‘If you’re not going to go in there and play the game, attacking style squash, then you’re not doing anything in there apart from breaking stones.’ The guys really came out and got more and more confident as the tournament went on.”
For the first time in tournament history in 2019, the event will be held on U.S. soil at Squash on Fire in Washington, D.C.
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