Malaysia cruise into top four as England produce the drama

KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia stayed very much on track in their title bid while England produced the day’s drama as the cast for the semi-finals of the CIMB Foundation WSF World Junior Team Squash Championships was decided.

Zheng Guan Kng  reports

The hosts and second seeds were rarely tested as they started their day by beating Canada 3-0 in their last Group B match at the National Squash Centre, Bukit Jalil.

Returning to court hours later, they were once again dominant as they packed off challengers Switzerland 3-0 in the quarter-finals.

With a 1-2-3 order of play, Aifa Azman step on first and despite a slight lapse in the second game, still had too much firepower in producing an 11-4, 13-11, 11-4 win over Ambre Allinckx.

Second string Chan Yiwen then duly sealed the win by whipping Cassandra Fitze 11-3, 11-7, 11-4 before third string Noor Ainaa Amani Ampandi, in place of a sick Ooi Kah Yan, finished off the contest by beating Alina Poessl 11-1, 11-5 in the dead rubber.

“Of course it’s pleasing to get through with a convincing win. Our first target is to get back on the podium and we’ve achieved that now,” said national assistant head coach Andrew Cross.

“Now it looks like we’ll be up against Hong Kong in the semi-finals, a repeat of the Asian Junior Team Championships final which we won. It’s another tough game but I expect the girls to be up to it.

“Meanwhile Kah Yan is sick which is why she is rested but I have complete faith in Ainaa to do the job. We gave her a chance to play today in order to get a run out in case she is needed to step up in the semi-finals.”

Malaysia, silver medallists from the 2017 edition, do go on to meet regional rivals Hong Kong in the last four.

Third seeds Hong Kong secured their spot in the last eight as Group C winners after beating India 3-0 in the morning session.

And they too were looking very strong as they saw off a weary looking USA 3-0 in the last eight.

The crucial win for Hong Kong was in the first string match as Chan Sin Yuk avenged her British Junior Open Under-17 final defeat to Marina Stefanoni, this time carving out an 11-7, 7-11, 11-1, 7-11, 11-4 win.

“I’ve played Marina a few times but I lost to her the last time we met. I knew however I had a chance to take her down today,” said Sin Yuk.

“It was an important win because I knew that if I won, my teammates would be able to play without pressure and I’m pleased to have delivered for the team.”

Following Sin Yuk’s win, Hong Kong quickly wrapped up the contest with Kirstie Wong and Lee Sum Yuet both seeing off Olivia Robinson and Caroline Spahr respectively.

“Sin Yuk’s win was important. It is revenge for her and it gave the team a good push,” said Hong Kong coach Dick Leung.

“I’m also pretty happy with the results so far. We were promoted to be third seeds before the team event started but I’ve been telling the girls that the seedings is just a number.

“I’m pleased that they were able to show their ability as a top four team and we have nothing to lose against Malaysia so we’ll give it a go.”

Meanwhile fourth seeds England produced the best drama of the day, from both the morning and evening sessions.

In the morning session, they rallied together after first string Elise Lazarus fell in five to Stefanoni to clinch a 2-1 win over the Americans and topped Group D.

Second string Alice Green played a huge role as she first saved matchball in the deciding rubber against Robinson, before converting her sixth matchball opportunity in a see-saw battle to win 12-10, 10-12, 11-9, 6-11, 17-15.

That set up Evie Coxon to clinch the win by beating Elisabeth Ross 11-7, 11-8, 11-5.

Later in the quarter-finals, the English girls once again showed great tenacity to beat India 3-0.

Lazarus redeemed herself as she recovered from two games down to beat Sanya Vats 8-11, 1-11, 11-7, 11-6, 11-3.

And Green once again delivered the heroics by beating Aishwarya Khubchandani 11-13, 11-8, 11-8, 11-6 before Coxon finished it off by beating Yoshna Singh 11-7, 8-11, 13-11 in the dead rubber.

“I feel great to be honest. I had a great match against Olivia, 17-15 in the fifth and it surely wasn’t an easy match,” said Green.

“I’m pleased that I recovered well enough to play in the evening match but a lot of credit also goes to Elise, who did great coming from 2-0 down to win her tie.

“Now we’re excited to be in the semi-finals and we’re looking forward to facing Egypt. They’re the top seeds and we want to give it a go against them.”

Defending champions Egypt had another effortless day as they first swept Switzerland 3-0 in the morning session before putting on their strongest lineup to crush surprise quarter-finalists Australia 3-0.

In the playoffs for 13th-18th, Sweden beat Singapore 3-0 and will meet Ireland next while Japan defeated Chinese Taipei with a similar score and meets South Korea next.

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