BIRMINGHAM – Following the final of the men’s and women’s individual competitions, the focus of the FISU 2018 World University Squash Championship switched on its fifth day to the initial group fixtures of the team event.
Thirteen nations in total are competing for the 2018 team title at the University of Birmingham – with each contest being resolved in favour of the side that secures the best of three match-victories.
There were no shocks to report from the opening day’s play – although neither, just yet, are any teams guaranteed progression to the Semi-Final stage as outright winners within the four groups.
In Pool A, top seeds and reigning champions Malaysia will be intent on going one better than they did in the individual competitions – which, remarkably, saw four of their players reach, but fail to win any of the men’s and women’s Semi-Finals.
Two of those last-four losers set the tone for their team’s opener against Canada (seeded 9), as men’s fourth seed Addeen Idrakie and the women’s sixth-ranked competitor Zoe Foo began with straight-game defeats of David Mill and Chloe Chemtob respectively, before Sanjay Singh also saw off Ravi Seth by the same margin to secure an overall victory and a maximum three points.
Pool B is even tighter going into the final match, as Hong Kong (2) and Australia (7) sit level on two points apiece, following their respective victories over New Zealand, and will now take on each other for a place in the final four.
The clash of the Antipodean countries yesterday morning was an especially entertaining advertisement for team squash – with all five matches between Australia and New Zealand being needed over the course of two and a half hours, before the former eventually prevailed.
In Pool C, newly-crowned men’s champion Josh Masters showed himself to be fresh in every sense from his Sunday afternoon Final exertions, as he got the United Kingdom (3) off the mark against Austria (11) with a straight-games triumph over Simon Draxler. Owain Taylor also beat Michael Haunschmid 3-1, together with a walkover-victory in the first women’s tie.
But this win did no more than emulate the feat of fellow-group members South Africa (6), who had already set the bar by dispatching the Austrians in the morning – and against whom the UK must today prevail in order to advance further.
Finally, the outcome of Pool D – containing one more team than the other three groups – will come down to a straight fight between the closely-matched French (4) and Czech Republic (5) sides, after both enjoyed victories yesterday against the two lowest-ranked teams from China (12) and Uganda (13).