Canada & Europe Lead After Day One Nations Cup Action
3 Nov 2022
The Nations Cup - the inaugural tournament in the new SquashFORWARD series - got underway today at the Trustpower Baypark Arena in the New Zealand city of Tauranga with Canada and Europe ending the opening day at the top of Pool A and Pool B, respectively.
The SquashFORWARD series has been created in order to trial changes to the traditional competition and scoring formats used at official PSA tournaments. The Nations Cup features eight teams, split into two groups of four, with the top teams from each group meeting in Sunday's final. All matches are played using a best-of-seven games format, with each game being first to seven points.
No.5 seeds Canada top Group A after upsetting No.4 seeds Scotland in the opening tie of the day. Women's world No.16 Hollie Naughton got them off to the perfect start after a dominant 4/0 win over world No.27 Lisa Aitken, before men's world No.69 David Baillargeon dispatched world No.25 Greg Lobban in a thrilling 4/3 match, which went the distance.
"I'm feeling pretty good, it's one of the biggest wins in my career," said Baillargeon afterwards.
On his team-mate's opening win, Baillargeon continued: "Put more pressure on me because after her doing so well, I thought that I had to do it myself now, like I have to win a game or have to make it through because she did really well. I maybe put a bit too much pressure on myself in the first two and I didn't play as well as I could have."
Baillargeon's use of the new Powerplay - which gives each player two opportunities per match to win two points if they win the rally they use it on - proved crucial, with the Canadian saying: "I used my two Powerplays back-to-back in the third game and I won that game to clinch our spot and the victory. Then I was more relaxed and I played way better after that.
"I knew even if I lost 4/0 and I made a good amount of points we would go through."
Hosts New Zealand A sit second in Pool A. Men's world No.2 Paul Coll and women's world No.5 Joelle King scored victories over Australia's Rex Hedrick and Jessica Turnbull but sit behind Canada in the Pool due to amassing 61 points in total compared to Canada's 70.
"I loved it out there today... but it makes you quite edgy," said King.
"The new scoring system, I think because nobody's played it, we didn't really know exactly what to expect. But I'm actually loving it. I was watching some of the matches before I played and seeing how players are using the Powerplay. I think it's quite an exciting thing and you can't relax for a second."
"We're [Gilis and Bonmalais] good friends, so we get along really well," said Gilis.
"He's very laid back, he's a good teammate, and I'm actually really excited to be in Team Europe with him. We talk about stuff like when to use the power play and we'll talk to each other in between games, so it works well."
Men's world No.4 Mohamed Elshorbagy earned his first cap for England since his switch of allegiance from Egypt in June as he overcame men's world No.99 Lwamba Chileshe, who was representing New Zealand B.
Elshorbagy scored a 4/1 victory over the Kiwi to add to compatriot Sarah-Jane Perry's 4/0 win against Kaitlyn Watts. They are second in Pool B due to Europe scoring more points during their match against USA.
"I'm really happy to get my first England cap with a win," Elshorbagy said.
"It was a good match, it's very different with the format, it was quick-fire. It was a very proud day for me to be representing England officially for my first time and I hope it continues."
The Nations Cup continues tomorrow (November 4) with the second day of pool stage action. All matches will be shown live on SQUASHTV.
Results - Pool Stage Day One: 2022 Nations Cup