Hong Kong Battle Into World Team Quarter-Finals
2 Dec 2008
On the final day of qualifying action in the Women's World Team Championship in Egypt, ninth seeds Hong Kong scored a 3/0 win over France, the No8 seeds, to earn a surprise place in the quarter-finals of the biennial World Squash Federation championship at the National Stadium in Cairo.
It was the battle for second place in Pool A - in which top seeds England, the title-holders, had earlier taken pole position after storming to victory with a 3/0 win over France in their final group match.
Hong Kong number two Joey Chan put the outsiders ahead, beating France's Celia Allamargot 11-8, 11-6, 13-11. It was left to the squad's third string Shin Nga Leung to ensure Hong Kong a place in the top eight - their highest-ever finish in nine appearances since 1990 - when the 19-year-old beat Maud Duplomb 12-10, 11-7, 11-9.
The crunch tie in Pool D came when fourth seeds Malaysia faced fifth seeds Netherlands - at stake not only the top position in the group but also avoidance of one of the top two seeds in the quarter-finals. Second string Malaysian Sharon Wee faced her Dutch counterpart Annelize Naude, ranked two places higher in the world.
Wee, in her sixth successive world championships since 2000, was looking for her first win in five meetings with Naude - two of which had been in the last two world championships.
Buoyed by a significant Malaysian crowd surrounding the National Stadium's three-glass-walled Centre Court, Wee won the first and third games - but both times Naude battled back to draw level.
After 54 minutes - and much to the clear delight of the crowd and her team-mates - Wee clinched her second match ball to record a momentous 11-8, 7-11, 11-8, 7-11, 11-7 victory.
"I knew Annelize would be tough - but I knew I could beat her if I kept my focus," said the delighted 31-year-old who is based in Antwerp. "I feel so good - I've done it for myself, for my country, for my team-mates and for my coach.
"I really wanted to win - it's been a very good day for me. It's good to have the support of my team-mates and the crowd. I hope the other girls will go on and do it for the team."
"There's a lot of pressure playing for your country - with all your team-mates looking on," said the 22-year-old world No34 from Kuala Lumpur who is making her second championships' appearance for her country - but playing for the first time after being rested throughout the 2006 event!
"It's so different from playing on the Tour when you're on your own. I try not to think about it and just get on with the game. Sharon's win took the pressure off a bit," added Arnold.
Egypt played their final match before an exuberant crowd surrounding the specially-erected all-glass court on one of the National Centre's outside tennis courts. The hosts, seeded to reach the final for only the second time in history, were taking on seventh seeds Australia, winners of the title a record eight times since 1991.
But, with every winning shot cheered on by the partisan crowd, Kheirallah twice came from behind to beat Urquhart 2-11, 11-9, 5-11, 11-6, 11-7 in 43 minutes to put the hosts ahead.
It took 19-year-old world junior champion Raneem El Weleily just 24 minutes to seal Egypt's place as Pool B champions by beating Lisa Camilleri 11-2, 11-9, 11-7. The top string clash which followed saw Omneya Abdel Kawy make it maximum points when she defeated Kasey Brown 11-4, 11-6, 11-6.
New Zealand, the third seeds, secured their anticipated top position in Pool C after beating Ireland, the sixth seeds 3/0.
Final qualifying rounds - Pool A:
 HONG KONG bt  SPAIN 2-1
Shin Nga Leung bt Stela Carbonell 11-5, 11-4, 11-6 (19m)
Tsz Ling Liu lost to Alicia Alvarez Riaza 8-11, 11-9, 11-7, 6-11, 12-14 (39m)
Joey Chan bt Xisela Aranda Nunez 11-6, 11-8, 11-6 (23m)
 SPAIN bt  AUSTRIA 3-0
Xisela Aranda Nunez bt Pamela Pancis 7-11, 11-9, 11-7, 14-12 (44m)
Alicia Alvarez Riaza bt Judith Gradnitzer 11-4, 11-7, 11-9 (19m)
Elisabet Sado Garriga bt Birgit Coufal 11-6, 8-11, 11-4, 11-8 (29m)
Final positions: 1 England, 2 Hong Kong, 3 France, 4 Spain, 5 Austria
 CANADA bt  JAPAN 3-0
Runa Reta bt Misaki Kobayashi 11-2, 11-5, 12-10 (45m)
Tara Mullins bt Yuki Omiya 11-8, 11-4, 11-5 (24m)
Alana Miller bt Chinatsu Matsui 11-9, 11-13, 11-9, 11-2 (39m)
 EGYPT bt  AUSTRALIA 3-0
Engy Kheirallah bt Donna Urquhart 2-11, 11-9, 5-11, 11-6, 11-7 (43m)
Raneem El Weleily bt Lisa Camilleri 11-2, 11-9, 11-7 (24m)
Omneya Abdel Kawy bt Kasey Brown 11-4, 11-6, 11-6 (20m)
Final positions: 1 Egypt, 2 Australia, 3 Canada, 4 Japan, 5 Switzerland
 USA bt  ITALY 2-1
Claire Rein-Weston lost to Sonia Pasteris 5-11, 4-11, 9-11 (23m)
Olivia Blatchford bt Veronica Favero Camp 11-7, 11-4, 11-9 (23m)
Natalie Grainger bt Manuela Manetta 11-6, 11-8, 11-7 (22m)
 NEW ZEALAND bt  IRELAND 3-0
Jaclyn Hawkes bt Aisling Blake 11-7, 11-7, 11-7 (35m)
Louise Crome bt Laura Mylotte 9-11, 11-1, 12-10, 11-4 (29m)
Shelley Kitchen bt Madeline Perry 11-7, 11-5, 9-11, 11-3 (41m)
Final positions: 1 New Zealand, 2 Ireland, 3 USA, 4 Italy, 5 China
 SOUTH AFRICA bt  GERMANY 3-0
Diana Argyle bt Pamela Hathway 8-11, 11-7, 11-5, 11-7 (34m)
Siyoli Lusaseni bt Sina Wall 9-11, 11-4, 11-3, 11-8 (39m)
Farrah Sterne bt Kathrin Rohrmueller 3-11, 11-6, 11-7, 2-11, 11-7 (28m)
 MALAYSIA bt  NETHERLANDS 3-0
Sharon Wee bt Annelize Naude 11-8, 7-11, 11-8, 7-11, 11-7 (54m)
Delia Arnold bt Orla Noom 11-7, 15-13, 11-4 (40m)
Nicol David bt Vanessa Atkinson 11-6, 12-10, 11-1 (30m)
Final positions: 1 Malaysia, 2 Netherlands, 3 South Africa, 4 Germany