Title-Holders England To Face Hosts Egypt In World Final In Cairo
5 Dec 2008
England, the title-holders and top seeds, will face hosts Egypt, the second seeds, in Saturday's final of the Women's World Team Championship after coming through today's semi-finals on an all-glass court in the grounds of the National Stadium in Cairo.
In a close-fought encounter against fourth seeds Malaysia which completed a dramatic semi-final day in the biennial World Squash Federation event, Egypt's second string Engy Kheirallah took four games to beat Sharon Wee 11-6, 11-6, 9-11, 11-9 in 45 minutes.
But Malaysia fought back - world number one Nicol David extending her unbeaten run in the championships since 2004 by beating the Egyptian number one Omneya Abdel Kawy 16-14, 11-4, 11-8 in 33 minutes.
A packed partisan crowd did all they could in the decider to help third string Raneem El Weleily in her clash with Malaysian Delia Arnold. After taking the first two games, the 19-year-old from Alexandria dropped the third - but came back in the fourth to win 11-3, 11-6, 10-12, 11-9 and take Egypt into the final for the second time in a row.
"When we reached the final last time in Canada - which was totally unexpected and a huge achievement for us - I don't think anybody really noticed over here. So now it's happening here in Cairo, I'm sure it will make a big difference," said Engy Kheirallah, who is celebrating her 27th birthday today.
"It's fantastic to have my friends, all my family and my cousins here - not just for me but for the team," added the jubilant birthday girl. "I'm especially pleased for Omneya because even though she lost tonight, she really played well. It's good to see her confidence high - she's definitely back!"
Title-holders England reached the final for the eighth successive time after squad number one Jenny Duncalf defeated New Zealand's top string Shelley Kitchen 11-7, 11-5, 12-10 - saving three game balls in the third.
In the best-of-three 'dead rubber', Laura Lengthorn-Massaro maintained England's 3/0 winning run throughout the tournament by overcoming Joelle King 11-8, 11-8.
"Shelley is in fine form at the moment and Jenny's match could have gone either way," said team coach David Pearson. "But Jenny played really well, controlling the match throughout. If she can reproduce that form in the final tomorrow, Omneya is going to have to play well to beat her."
Australia, winners of the title a record eight times since 1981 but seeded seven in the 2008 championship, marked up a notable upset when they beat fifth seeds Netherlands 2/1. Donna Urquhart, from New South Wales, put the underdogs ahead by beating Dutch number two Annelize Naude in four games. World No11 Vanessa Atkinson restored Dutch pride after dismissing Australian number one Kasey Brown, ranked just two places lower, 11-7, 11-9, 11-4 to keep the tie alive.
It looked to be going the fifth seeds' way when Orla Noom, ranked 41 in the world, took the first two games in the decider against Lisa Camilleri. But the determined Queenslander, ranked eight places higher, battled for the next three games to record a dramatic 6-11, 7-11, 14-12, 11-5, 11-9 victory in 60 minutes to put Australia into the play-off for fifth place.
"Orla played really well in the first two games and I thought I was out of it," said 21-year-old Camilleri, from Euramo. "But after I won a handful of points in the third, everything turned round. I just concentrated on playing a good length and finally came through.
"It was great having my team-mates cheering me on," added the world No33. "I had a tough five-setter yesterday - which I lost - so this makes up for that."
Michelle Martin, the former world number one who is now the team manager and coach, was pleased with the third string's performance: "I believed Lisa was more than a 3/0 loss - she's really worked hard this year. And that's the importance of the new PAR (point-a-rally) scoring - you can't afford to give your opponent a start.
"Lisa's made a big step forward this year - and I'm not only pleased for the team, but for her personally after getting through such a tough match."
One of the standout performances of the day came in the other 5th-8th place play-off when Hong Kong's 19-year-old Annie Au - the youngest player in the world top 20 - despatched experienced and higher-ranked Ireland number one Madeline Perry 11-9, 11-5, 11-5 to level the tie between the two nations.
"If I'd lost, the team would have lost," said the modest Hong Kong teenager who agreed that world No9 Perry was perhaps her best scalp ever. "I think the pressure was on Madeline, so I just had to relax and play my shots."
South Africa caused a further upset with a 2/1 victory over eighth seeds France in the play-offs for 9th-12th places. Both teams have been in Cairo without their regular top strings (Isabelle Stoehr for France and Tenille Swartz for SA - ranked 12 and 102, respectively), with 13th seeds South Africa fielding a squad of unranked players.
The underdogs took the lead when Diana Argyle, 26, from Johannesburg, beat world No65 Celia Allamargot 11-3, 11-4, 11-7. France came back with a solid performance from squad number one Camille Serme, the 19-year-old world No49 overcoming Farrah Sterne 11-7, 11-6, 11-6.
Siyoli Lusaseni, a 25-year-old from Cape Town making her first appearance in the event since 2002 after completing her studies, faced France's third string Maud Duplomb, the world No80 from Lyon. It was a tense affair with the black South African stretching Duplomb to three tie-break games before winning 14-12, 5-11, 12-10, 15-13 in 43 minutes to clinch a significant win for her country.
"That was perhaps the most important match of the tournament for me - as it takes South Africa through to the play-off for ninth place," said Lusaseni, who plans to join the WISPA World Tour in the near future. "But the win I'm most proud of was earlier in the week when I beat Annelize Naude (ranked 24 in the world and born in South Africa) in one of our pool matches - it's always great to beat a fellow South African!
"I've been working hard for this - particularly over the past month in Germany with Egyptian coach Wael El Batran. I don't have a ranking, so this will help me position myself on the WISPA Tour and work out what my goals should be. I've stepped over a few people this week so it's literally been a stepping stone to my future as a pro player."
South African national coach Richard Castle was delighted with his squad's success: "Beating France is massive - our goal was to finish in the top ten, and we've already achieved this.
"Siyoli was clearly very nervous today and did exceptionally well to handle the pressure - coming back from 8-4 down in the third and 9-5 down in the fourth, then having two match balls before finally coming through," said Castle.
"It's been a good event for us - particularly without Tenille. The future looks great for South African squash - we have five girls who will come through over the next five years when I think we will compete with the best in the world. The talent is there - and the desire is there.
"And Siyoli is a great prospect - I'd be very surprised if she's not in the top 16 in two years' time. She's a great athlete, she's intelligent and she has the desire to win," concluded Castle.
South Africa will face Canada in the play-off for ninth place after the tenth seeds ended the brave run of 15th seeds Japan. But after Runa Reta put the Canadians ahead after a straight games win over Misaki Kobayashi, national champion Alana Miller faced Japan's indefatigable number one Chinatsu Matsui, the 31-year-old world No69 from Kawasaki.
Miller, ranked more than 30 places higher in the world, was stretched to five games before finally overcoming left-hander Matsui 8-11, 11-7, 16-14, 9-11, 11-9 in 65 minutes - the longest match of the championship.
"Chinatsu is a really good player on the tour - she just never stops and doesn't make many mistakes," said Miller, 28, from Winnipeg. "I only played her a few days ago in the pool matches, and beat her in four then - so I knew it was going to be tough.
"Our goal here was to finish in the top eight, so once we missed that we were determined to get ninth place. And when you've got your team-mates behind you, it helps you battle a little bit more.
"But now we've got South Africa - and their players don't play on the WISPA tour, so they're unknown to us," added Miller.
Semi-finals (playing order in all ties: 2, 1, 3):
 ENGLAND bt  NEW ZEALAND 3-0
Alison Waters bt Jaclyn Hawkes 11-6, 11-7, 8-11, 11-5 (39m)
Jenny Duncalf bt Shelley Kitchen 11-7, 11-5, 12-10 (34m)
Laura Lengthorn-Massaro bt Joelle King 11-8, 11-8 (13m)
 EGYPT bt  MALAYSIA 2-1
Engy Kheirallah bt Sharon Wee 11-6, 11-6, 9-11, 11-9 (45m)
Omneya Abdel Kawy lost to Nicol David 14-16, 4-11, 8-11 (33m)
Raneem El Weleily bt Delia Arnold 11-3, 11-6, 10-12, 11-9 (39m)
5th - 8th place play-offs:
 IRELAND bt  HONG KONG 2-1
Aisling Blake bt Joey Chan 6-11, 11-9, 6-11, 13-11, 11-9 (51m)
Madeline Perry lost to Annie Au 9-11, 5-11, 5-11 (31m)
Laura Mylotte bt Shin Nga Leung 11-6, 11-7, 11-6 (23m)
 AUSTRALIA bt  NETHERLANDS 2-1
Donna Urquhart bt Annelize Naude 8-11, 11-6, 11-7, 11-9 (37m)
Kasey Brown lost to Vanessa Atkinson 7-11, 9-11, 4-11 (30m)
Lisa Camilleri bt Orla Noom 6-11, 7-11, 14-12, 11-5, 11-9 (60m)
9th - 12th place play-offs:
 SOUTH AFRICA bt  FRANCE 2-1
Diana Argyle bt Celia Allamargot 11-3, 11-4, 11-7 (24m)
Farrah Sterne lost to Camille Serme 7-11, 6-11, 6-11 (22m)
Siyoli Lusaseni bt Maud Duplomb 14-12, 5-11, 12-10, 15-13 (43m)
 CANADA bt  JAPAN 3-0
Runa Reta bt Misaki Kobayashi 11-5, 11-6, 11-9 (26m)
Alana Miller bt Chinatsu Matsui 8-11, 11-7, 16-14, 9-11, 11-9 (65m)
Carolyn Russell bt Kozue Onizawa 11-2, 11-9 (13m)
13th - 16th place play-offs:
 GERMANY bt  SPAIN 3-0
Pamela Hathway bt Xisela Aranda Nunez 11-8, 11-5, 11-5 (24m)
Kathrin Rohrmueller bt Elisabet Sado Garriga 11-8, 11-7, 9-11, 11-6 (29m)
Sina Wall bt Alicia Alvarez Riaza 11-13, 11-3, 11-5 (28m)
 USA bt  ITALY 2-1
Claire Rein-Weston lost to Sonia Pasteris 11-7, 11-9, 4-11, 4-11, 3-11 (38m)
Natalie Grainger bt Manuela Manetta 11-6, 11-8, 11-7 (22m)
Hope Prockop bt Veronica Favero Camp 11-8, 11-0, 11-4 (24m)
17th - 19th place play-off:
 AUSTRIA bt  CHINA 3-0
Pamela Pancis bt Jiang Li 12-10, 11-5, 11-4 (19m)
Birgit Coufal bt Wu Zhenzhen 11-1, 11-7, 11-6 (14m)
Sandra Polak bt Xiu Chen 11-9, 6-11, 11-7, 16-14 (30m)