Hot favourites Egypt, whose three-woman team boasts the top three players in the world, beat defending champions England in today’s final of the WSF Women’s World Team Squash Championship in the French capital Paris to reclaim the World Squash Federation title they lost to their opponents in 2014.
But it was second seeds England who took the lead on the all-glass court at Palais Des Sports Robert Charpentier in the Paris suburb of Issy-les-Moulineaux where Laura Massaro, the world No.4, recovered from a game down to inflict the event’s first defeat on Nour El Sherbini, the world No.1.
Former world champion Massaro, who went into the match 5/3 ahead in her career head-to-head battles with the Egyptian, won 11-9, 5-11, 6-11, 6-11 in 49 minutes to put England ahead.
The lead was short-lived, however, as Egyptian number two Nouran Gohar, the 19-year-old world No.3 making her debut in the championship, despatched England’s experienced Alison Waters 11-6, 11-4, 12-10 to force a decider. Londoner Waters had a game ball in the third, but three successive balls into the tin handed victory to the Cairo teenager.
Squad number threes lined up for the decider – England’s Sarah-Jane Perry, the world No.11 who had played in all England’s ties in Paris, facing Raneem El Welily, the former world number one now ranked two in the world.
It took 31 minutes for the title to be decided – El Welily keeping on top throughout the match before emerging victorious 12-10, 11-4, 11-6.
“I have never played a decider for Egypt before and I was hoping I wouldn’t have to,” admitted the jubilant El Welily minutes later. “I didn’t know what to expect.
“But I decided to be selfish – I didn’t think of the team, only of myself, to stop the pressure getting to me. This was the tactic I planned – even if everything went wrong. I had to do a lot of running, but it worked out in the end.
“Overall, this is a fantastic team to be a part of!”
Egyptian national coach Amr Shabana anticipated the way the tie started: “Laura came out strong, as expected. She didn’t give away any cheap points. Her fighting spirit won the crucial points.
“Nouran proved why she is number three in the world and Raneem showed her amazing athleticism and her amazing technical prowess.
“I can sum up my feeling in two words: Mission accomplished!”
England national coach David Campion admitted: “Egypt were just too strong. Raneem and Nouran played at their best levels – but they needed to as our girls performed well.
“Gohar was relentless and Raneem played fantastic squash.”
Beaten semi-finalists France and Hong Kong China both secured Bronze medals – the fifth-seeded hosts recording a top four finish for the first time in 16 appearances in the championship since 1987 and Hong Kong celebrating a second successive last four place.
It was the play-off for fifth place which entertained the crowd earlier in the day when USA, the No.7 seeds bidding for a second successive fifth finish, took on Malaysia, the third seeds who were runners-up in the 2014 championship in Canada.
The top string battle promised to be close – Malaysia’s greatest player of all-time Nicol David, currently ranked 6 in the world, taking on Amanda Sobhy, the world No.7 who defeated David for the first time only a month earlier in the USA.
David twice came back from a game behind, but in the decider – with both players showing the toil of the week’s exertions – it was Sobhy who ultimately prevailed, winning 11-6, 5-11, 11-7, 6-11, 11-9 in 53 minutes to put USA ahead.
The two opponents in the next match had never met before – Malaysian Delia Arnold an experienced 30-year-old ranked 17 in the world and American Reeham Sedky an inexperienced and unranked 19-year-old yet to embark on a professional career.
Arnold led 2/1 but the hard-hitting US teenager battled back, taking the fourth after a tie-break and fighting from 4-6 down in the decider to win 11-7, 9-11, 11-13, 12-10, 11-8 after 77 minutes.
“I’m in shock, I’m speechless,” said Sedky, who had never before played on a glass court in a major competition. “I’m so proud to be in Team USA – we all worked so hard for this and all credit to our coach Thierry (Lincou) for what he has done.”
Sobhy’s win over the player who topped the world rankings for a record 109 months ended David’s incredible 38-match unbeaten run in the championship since 2004.
“Oh my god – I cannot believe I did that,” said Sobhy when her feat was pointed out. “She played a lot better than she did when I last played her. There was a lot riding on that match.
“It’s been a brutal week – and I saved the hardest and longest match of the week to last!!
“I just telling myself to stay in it – I was hanging on by a thread at the end and am glad I had a couple of points go my way.
“I am SO happy!”
New Zealand won the play-off for 7th place to repeat their success four years ago, while India secured 9th place to better their success in 2014.
Winning the 11th place play-off saw Japan record their best ever finish in the championship, while Spain achieved 13th place to earn the highest finish for 20 years.
WSF Women’s World Team Squash Championship, Paris, France
 EGYPT bt  ENGLAND 2/1
Nour El Sherbini lost to Laura Massaro 11-9, 5-11, 6-11, 6-11 (49m)
Nouran Gohar bt Alison Waters 11-6, 11-4, 12-10 (41m)
Raneem El Welily bt Sarah-Jane Perry 12-10, 11-4, 11-6 (31m)
Bronze medallists:  FRANCE &  HONG KONG CHINA
5th place play-off:
 USA bt  MALAYSIA 2/0
Amanda Sobhy bt Nicol David 11-6, 5-11, 11-7, 6-11, 11-9 (53m)
Reeham Sedky bt Delia Arnold 11-7, 9-11, 11-13, 12-10, 11-8 (77m)
7th place play-off:
 NEW ZEALAND bt  AUSTRALIA 2/1
Joelle King bt Donna Urquhart 11-6, 12-10, 11-9 (32m)
Megan Craig lost to Rachael Grinham 11-6, 10-12, 8-11, 11-9, 4-11 (46m)
Amanda Landers-Murphy bt Tamika Saxby 11-6, 12-10, 11-1 (26m)
9th place play-off:
 INDIA bt  CANADA 2/0
Joshna Chinappa bt Hollie Naughton 13-11, 11-5, 7-11, 11-7 (32m)
Dipika Pallikal Karthik bt Samantha Cornett 11-7, 11-5, 11-2 (24m)
11th place play-off:
 JAPAN bt  NETHERLANDS 2/1
Misaki Kobayashi bt Natalie Grinham 11-8, 10-12, 11-7, 11-7 (32m)
Satomi Watanabe bt Milou van der Heijden 13-11, 11-7, 19-17 (43m)
Risa Sugimoto lost to Tessa ter Sluis 12-10, 8-11, 12-14, 13-15 (44m)
13th place play-off:
 SPAIN bt  GERMANY 2/0
Xisela Aranda bt Sharon Sinclair 11-6, 8-11, 11-6, 11-8 (42m)
Cristina Gomez bt Franziska Hennes 12-10, 11-9, 11-9 (31m)
15th – 17th place play-off:
 MEXICO bt  AUSTRIA 2/1
Nayelly Hernandez lost to Birgit Coufal 4-11, 4-11, 7-11 (21m)
Luz López Dominguez bt Sandra Polak 11-8, 11-3, 11-7 (29m)
Dina Anguiano Gomez bt Sabrina Rehman 11-4, 11-8, 6-11, 11-4 (26m)
Final positions: 15 Mexico; 16 Wales; 17 Austria
World Championship images courtesy of Christian Lortat