From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.34 :: NO.14 :: Apr. 07, 2011

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SQUASH / WORLD CUP: MIXED TEAM EVENT

Living up to its billing

“This one is for Egypt. We are happy to have won it for our country,” remarked World No. 2 Ramy Ashour after leading his nation to victory in the World Cup mixed team event. By K. Keerthivasan.

Pics: V. GANESAN

Flying high...Karim Darwish (extreme left) of the victorious Egyptian team receiving the trophy from the WSF President, N. Ramachandran.

The former president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, was a great fan of squash. He had built a lot of courts in Cairo and other parts of the country to promote the game. A fine squash player himself, Mubarak also took good care of all the national players. However, squash in Egypt doesn't begin and end with the erstwhile president; the nation has a glorious past in the sport.

It was F. D. Amr Bey who made Egypt synonymous with squash. As a diplomat posted in the United Kingdom, Amr took a liking for the sport, practised hard and won six British Open titles (then considered the World Championship) between 1933 and 1938.

The former World No. 1, Peter Nicol, once said, “Amr is widely considered to have raised the level of the sport of squash … through both his outstanding racket skills and his exceptional speed and fitness, hence his nickname ‘Human Streak of Lightning'.”

M. A. Karim then took over from Amr, winning the British Open from 1947 to 1950.

Ahmed Barada entered the World Cup final and a Super Series final in 1999, reaching a career-best ranking of No. 2 in the world the same year. Then came Amr Shabana's golden period when he won four World Open titles, beginning 2003.

Egypt now has five men and two women in the world top 15. So there wasn't even an iota of doubt in anybody's mind as to who would win the trophy in the third JSW-SDAT-WSF World Cup mixed team event in Chennai. Egypt won the title defeating England 2-0 (the last match of the dead rubber was not played).



Ramy Ashour...speed is his forte.

In fact, Egypt lost only one match in its six encounters. It defeated France, Malaysia, South Africa and Sri Lanka to top Group ‘A'.

World No. 2 Ramy Ashour was sparingly used in the league stage, while Karim Darwish (World No. 3) and Mohamed El Shorbagy (World No. 9) and Raneem El Weleily (World No.12 in women's section) ensured that Egypt won all its matches with a measure of comfort.

In the semifinals, Egypt walloped Australia 2-0, with Ashour and Weleily winning their matches. Seeing Ashour play against Cameron Pilley was a lesson in squash. Speed, accentuated by measured footwork and terrific deceptions, both from the fore-court and back-court, is what makes Ashour a delight to watch.

Weleily with her unassuming presence and solid ground-strokes outwitted Rachael Grinham, ranked No. 3 in the World, in five games.

Even in the final, Weleily was determined not to take the tie into the third match. After Ashour dismantled England's James Willstrop in the first match to give Egypt a head start, Weleily subdued World No. 2 Jenny Duncalf with clever placements to close out the tie.

For the 22-year-old Egyptian, a former World junior champion and twice WISPA Player of the Year (2004 and 2005), it was a memorable World Cup. “This World Cup has been good. I defeated higher ranked players. I hope to continue the good form in the WISPA events as well,” Weleily said.

How has the political crisis in their country affected the Egyptian players?

Though the players aren't focussing too much on the crisis at home, they were quite vocal about the incidents at the Tahrir Square in Cairo recently. “This one (World Cup victory) is for Egypt. We are happy to have won it for our country,” said Ashour.

“It's moments like these that make you feel proud to be an Egyptian. We are very, very proud of what we have achieved. After all the troubles we have had in our country, the nation's pride is now getting bigger. Everyone back home was desperate that we win — we really needed this win,” he added.

Weleily summed it up tersely: “Everything's for Egypt.”

The World Squash Federation's experiment of conducting the final stages of the tournament in the all glass show courts at the Express Avenue Mall, (the initial phase was held at the Indian Squash Academy) was a masterstroke. The strategy, in the long run, should help popularise the sport. It should also help the WSF to realise its dreams of making squash an Olympic sport.

N. Ramachandran, President of the WSF, said, “The 2011 World Cup in Chennai was a tremendous success. One couldn't have wished for more. I am sure that further events held at this venue will be even more successful. I am very happy that India has made such a significant investment in this important WSF world championship. India has a great tradition in hosting major sports events, and I am delighted that our World Cup is now part of this.”

THE RESULTS

Final: Egypt beat England 2-0

Ramy Ashour beat James Willstrop 11-8, 11-7, 11-7.

Raneem El Weleily beat Jenny Duncalf 11-8, 7-11, 11-9, 11-1.

Karim Darwish v Tom Richards (dead rubber — match not played).

Third place play-off: Australia beat Malaysia 2-1

Cameron Pilley beat Muhd Asyraf Azan 11-4, 11-5, 11-4.

Rachael Grinham lost to Nicol David 8-11, 3-11, 5-11.

Aaron Frankcomb beat Kamran Khan 11-6, 11-6, 11-3.

* * *

LEAVING A LOT TO BE DESIRED

Nothing much was expected of India at the World Cup. But with players in the World top 25 in its ranks — Saurav Ghosal, men's No. 24, and Dipika Pallikal, women's No. 23 — there was a faint hope of India pulling off an upset or two.

India, seeded No. 6 and placed in Group ‘B', was thrashed by defending champion England and then Australia 3-0. And in its last league match against the lower-ranked Mexico, India pulled off a narrow 2-1 victory.

Though Joshna Chinappa and Dipika failed to make any impact, Saurav fought on bravely. He showed how much his game had improved over the last couple of months. He stretched England's James Willstrop and Cameron Pilley of Australia before losing in tough five games.



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