BIRMINGHAM – The curtain came down on the biggest World University Squash Championship to date with the completion by the host nation of a maximum triple gold-medal haul.
Victory for Great Britain over defending champions Malaysia in the Final of the team event at the University of Birmingham came three days after the award of the Championship’s individual titles to home players Josh Masters and Lily Taylor.
And by way of fittingly neat symmetry, the newly-crowned men’s and women’s champions – who are also fellow students at the University of the West of England – gained the two necessary match-wins to ensure gold for their team yesterday afternoon.
The Malaysian side, who had also won the event on home ground, in Kuala Lumpur, two years previously, featured three individual bronze medallists in its Final team- although Mohd Syafiq Kamal and Aika Azman had been beaten in their respective men’s and women’s Semi-Finals by Masters and Taylor.
Now, as fate would have it, they were paired against them once more, and, happily for Team GB, very recent history was to repeat itself.
An aggressive start by the 23-year-old Masters saw him race into an early 9-2 lead in the opening game – and while Kamal, one year his junior, closed the gap slightly by gaining a further three points, the men’s champion duly picked up the two he required to draw first blood after ten minutes had been played.
A second game of quicker pace and tougher rallies was notably more even – although Masters remained calm and in control, before edging ahead when it mattered. And the third very much followed the pattern of the first, with Masters storming in front and rarely having to look back as he triumphed, as he had done in their weekend meeting, with a straight-games victory (11-5, 11-8, 11-6) – achieved in just over half an hour.
The individual Semi-Final between Taylor and Azman, both 21, had, in contrast with that of their male compatriots, gone the full five-game distance at the weekend. But Taylor replicated the relative ease of her victory in the first game from Saturday by going one-up with only six minutes on the clock.
The games then became tighter, as Taylor proceeded to double her advantage by claiming the second, before Azman won the third to halve the arrears and take to the court with a visible spring in her step for the fourth.
But it was Taylor, who, following a long rally of quality on match-point, prevailed to triumph 3-1 (11-6, 11-8, 9-11, 11-8) after 36 minutes – and, with no need for the tie’s final match that would have put Team GB’s Semi-Final hero Adam Auckland up against Addeen Idrakie, the women’s champion’s work was done for her side. The hosts had struck gold not twice, but thrice!
A delighted Great Britain coach Josh Taylor said: “I’m immensely proud of the team this week, there were great performances from everyone. It was truly a team effort in the team event, having rotated the whole squad and claimed gold.
“It wraps up a great week and the best performance by any nation at this event, taking GB to the top of the all-time medal table.”
Team Malaysia were generous in defeat, commenting: “We expected it to be hard for us, as they (Masters and Taylor) had both won their matches against us in the individual champs. We just tried to play our best squash, but they played much better than us today – big credit to them!
“It’s been a great week for us. The University of Birmingham has one of the best facilities in the world, so it’s been really good!”
The 2020 World University Squash Championship will be held in Shanghai.