Commonwealth athletes show fight at Squash World Championships
Egypt dominated the PSA 2017 World Championships. But it was an event that delivered thrills, spills and promising moments for Commonwealth athletes too – and suggested that the Gold Coast will be one of the most open and exciting squash tournaments for a long time, with some great players from the old guard being challenged by a fine new generation of players.
Held at the National Squash Centre in Manchester, before moving into Manchester Central Convention Complex for the quarter-finals onwards – the event saw early headlines generated by the dismissal of former World No.1 and English star, Laura Massaro to Welsh underdog, Tesni Evans, in the second round.
“I felt good in the first two [games], but got so tense at the end of the third, she was giving me nothing,” Evans said after the thrilling tie. “My heart is beating so fast.”
At 25, Evans will be looking to eventually emulate 34-year-old Massaro, who won silver at both the 2010 and 2014 Commonwealth Games, and has bagged over 40 tour events.
She has previously beaten the English player at the Women’s World Team Championship – and declared that she was doing it “for Wales”. She’s clearly one of the Principality’s best shots at a gold medal on Gold Coast – although Massaro will no doubt be fired up too.
“The match was a tough, hard battle,” said current world no.2 Massaro. “Things didn’t go my way on the day and that’s sport. Tesni played well and deserves the win.”
Evans couldn’t stop Egypt’s Nour El Tayeb in the semifinal, however: she lost 3-0. Legend of the game Nicol David also advanced to the quarter-finals with Evans – and also lost to an Egyptian, Raneem El Weilily.
But while she may not have won a major title since the Hong Kong Open in December 2015, she isn’t dismissing adding another gong to her collection on the Gold Coast.
“I’m looking forward to the Commonwealth Games,” David said. “I'll work towards all the big tournaments. I will keep pushing.
“The game is really different and you have to change with the times, so consistency is needed. But I still have ambitions to win a big title. I played good squash at times, but I faltered.”
The men’s tournament also proved eventful. England’s former World No.1, and three-time World Championship winner Nick Matthew was beaten by eventual tournament victor, Mohamed ElShorbagy of Egypt, 3-1 in a match that would be his last ever in the competition.
Matthew plans on retiring from the sport following the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games. “Not many people have beaten me in Manchester over the years,” said Matthew. “I’m proud of that record. The crowd were great and I’m disappointed that I didn’t get to play over the weekend – it’s a shame I was the last home player in there.”
Another Commonwealth player to watch on the men’s side will be New Zealand’s Paul Coll. He became the first Kiwi to make it to a World Championship quarter-final since 1991, and was impressive as he overcame England’s 35-year-old Daryl Selby in the third round.
“I was very happy to close out that game, because it was such high quality. There weren’t many mistakes between us,” said the 25-year-old afterwards.
Coll remained happy with his form and fitness going into the Commonwealth Games. He was impressive in the quarter-finals, although was ultimately beaten by France’s World No.1, Gregory Gaultier.
The odds had seemed stacked against the Frenchman, too: his wife had given birth to their son, Liam the previous night. Gaultier, it later emerged, had played on only three hours sleep.
“I paid the price a bit,” said Gaultier. “My energy was fine, I was really pumped up, but I had a bad night of waiting, waiting, waiting to know what was going to happen and then getting the phone call to say everything was alright.”
The Frenchman fancies Coll to thrive on the Gold Coast. “I have a lot of time for Paul. He is one of the players that have improved the most,” Gaultier said of the Kiwi who has risen from 37 to 13 in the rankings.
“He is one of the players that has improved the most. He came twice to train with me in Prague – he is such a hard worker, he loves training and he is such a disciplined player. He is truly one of the future, because he is somebody that works and works. He will make it big time.”
Raneem El Welily eventually scooped the women’s title, beating Nour El Sherwin, while Mohamed ElShorbagy beat his brother Marwan to take the men’s prize.
Amid the glory, he had a special final word for Nick Matthew. “It was an honour to play in Nick’s last World Championship match of his career. I’m lucky to say I have had a rivalry against someone who is 11 years older than me, and is one of the greats of the game.”
The singles squash competition will start on Thursday 5 April, with finals on Monday 9 April. The doubles competition starts on Tuesday 10 April with finals on Sunday 15 April. The memories will last, but tickets won't. Secure your tickets.
This article was produced by AMP Media.