3:10 pm
12 Jul 2024

Top Four Seeds Set Up Eagerly-Anticipated European Team Semis

3 May 2024

There will be four mouth-watering Division 1 semi-finals at the 2024 ESF European Team Squash Championships in Zurich today after the concluding pool matches all went with the seedings.

Although men's top seeds and 43-time champions England finished top of Pool A as expected, their concluding encounter against Spain on Thursday was a somewhat rocky experience.

In the opening two rubbers, former world No.1 and world champion Mohamed ElShorbagy fell to a surprise 11-9 9-11 5-11 6-11 defeat to Iker Pajares and Tom Walsh (pictured) was match ball down in a riveting five-setter against Ivan Perez which he eventually won 18-20 13-11 11-8 6-11 12-10. Marwan ElShorbagy and Ben Smith then completed the rescue act.

Pajares was delighted to beat a player he regards as "the best of all time" for the first time in his career. "At last, I can say I beat him at least once!" smiled the world no.20. "I just went for my shots. I could see my team-mate was leading on the side court so I pushed very hard for the team."

Wins for Joel Makin, Emyr Evans and Elliott Morris Devred gave Wales a 3/1 win over Ireland and secured second place in the same pool. They will face France in Friday's semi after Les Bleus topped Pool B as expected with a 4/0 win over Germany.

That meant Switzerland were guaranteed second place in the pool even before their evening encounter with the Czech Republic, which they won 4/0. The host nation face England at noon and will be optimistic of going one stage further than their ETC bronze medal finish last year and at December's WSF Men's World Team Championship in New Zealand.

England's women, meanwhile, finished top of Pool A with a perfect 9-0 record and head into a semi-final with Wales at 9.30am local time. The defending champions could afford the luxury of resting top string Gina Kennedy in beating Spain 3/0 through Sarah-Jane Perry, Jasmine Hutton and Lucy Turmel.

France secured second spot in Pool A behind England with a routine 3/0 win over Czech Republic. In the semis, they will take on Pool A winners Belgium who made it three pool wins from three by overcoming Switzerland 2/1 - Nele Gilis making amends for her shock defeat against Wales on day one by calmly beating Cindy Merlo in three games.

Wales finished their Pool B campaign with a 3/0 win over Scotland and the runner-up spot, but no.1 Tesni Murphy had to come through a tough, entertaining battle with Georgia Adderley 11-6 4-11 11-3 13-11, before Emily Whitlock and Lowri Roberts finished the job.

Former world no.9 Murphy feels she is rediscovering her best form after a four-month injury break at the end of last year, during which she got married. "I was buzzing after the wedding," she smiled. "I was so happy off court that I didn't care about my squash results! It took me a while to find the right balance again. I'm building a nice life, so to be here is just extra fun and I am thriving in the team environment."

Men's Division 2 is already into the knockout stages. Bidding for an immediate promotion back into Europe's top tier, Scotland's men whitewashed Denmark in the quarter-finals to set up a semi-final with Israel, who beat the Netherlands 3/1.

Belgium won an incredibly tight quarter-final with Sweden which finished 2/2 in matches and 8/8 in games and went down to a points comparison, which the Belgians won 146-140! Their reward is a semi-final with Hungary, who beat Poland 4/0.

In women's Division 2, Pool A winners Finland will meet Poland in Friday's semi-finals at 0930, with the other semi will be at 1600 between Denmark and Germany. Whoever reaches the final will both be promoted to Division 1 for 2025.