Londoner Alison Waters marked her comeback from career-threatening injury in sensational style in the WSF Women’s World Team Championship tonight in Nimes when she beat Malaysian Low Wee Wern in a dramatic 56-minute semi-final decider to take England into the final of the World Squash Federation event being staged in France for the first time.
Boasting a record entry of 26 nations, the 2012 championship is being staged at both the eight-court Club des Costières and La Parnasse Arena where, for the first time ever, action is taking place simultaneously on three all-glass show courts.
Now in the final for the tenth time in a row, favourites England will face second seeds Egypt, the 2008 champions who beat Australia 3/0 to make the final for third time since 2006.
Malaysia, the third seeds who have been bronze medallists in the past three championships, kicked off the tie in determined fashion – world number one Nicol David notching up her 26th successive win in the event since 2004 by defeating England’s world number three Laura Massaro 11-5, 11-6, 11-8 in 41 minutes
Third string Jenny Duncalf had her work cut out to bring England back into contention, but the world No6 did so after a further 44 minutes, beating Delia Arnold 11-7, 11-9, 11-9.
Waters, a former world number three, is fighting back to her best after a long layoff resulting from an Achilles injury which denied her an England place in the 2010 championship. But the 28-year-old is now back at four in the world – and showed her class by beating Low Wee Wern, the Malaysian second string who boasts a career-high world number seven ranking, 11-6, 7-11, 11-9, 11-5 in 56 minutes.
“After coming back from dropping the second, I relaxed in the fourth and I sensed that she got a bit tight.
“That’s certainly one of the biggest matches I’ve ever played. But it’s what we’re here for – we were seeded to get to the final, and we’ve done that now.”
England national coach Chris Robertson summed it up in a different way: “You know what it would have meant if, as number one seeds, we’d lost in the semis – winning tonight is what we were here for.
“Alison gets a lot of credit for getting us through – but equally, she knows it would have been the opposite if not.
“I’m really pleased with the way she played – she was pro-active and pressing. She’s made tremendous improvement in the last few months – I’m really proud of her.”
In the earlier semi, second seeds Egypt lined up against Australia, the sixth seeds who secured a place in the last four after upsetting fourth seeds Hong Kong. It was also a battle between the reigning champions, Australia, and the 2008 champions – with Egypt boasting two players in the world top 10.
In an opening match of high quality between the countries’ top two players, world No2 Raneem El Weleily beat Rachael Grinham, a former world number one, 11-7, 14-16, 11-9, 11-9. Fourth string Nour El Tayeb put the tie out of Australia’s reach by beating Melody Francis 11-6, 11-2, 11-5.
“We were delighted just to be in the semis – we had no pressure,” said Australian team coach Sarah Fitz-Gerald, the five-time world champion. “But we had our chances – we knew we needed Rachael to notch up a win to give us a lifeline, and she was so close. And it was a big ask for Melody over Nour, who’s ranked more than 20 places higher.”
Egyptian coach Amir Wagih, a veteran of numerous Egyptian world campaigns, was delighted with his young team’s performance. “Rachael is a legend – and spent six years training with Raneem when she lived in Egypt. She put in a classy performance, but Raneem was able to squeeze through and give us the lead.
“But we are very happy to beat Australia – they are the legends of squash. We now look forward to the final. Whoever we play, it will be very tough, but very special.”
Hosts France, the ninth seeds, returned to winning ways by beating Canada 3/0 in the play-offs for 9th-12th places.Camille Serme, the French number one who has led the team in all ties so far, completed her sixth match in five days with a 7-11, 11-5, 11-8, 11-8 win over Samantha Cornett in 56 minutes.
Spurred on by the highly vocal partisan crowd, fourth string Laura Pomportes then courageously recovered from two games down to beat Canadian team debutante Susannah King 10-12, 10-12, 11-5, 11-6, 11-8 in 52 minutes to take France into the play-off for ninth place – where they will face Netherlands.
“They will be looking for revenge,” said French team coach Philippe Signoret as they look forward to their second meeting this week with the eighth seeds – the team France beat in the earlier pool section.
“We will decide tomorrow, after consultation with the team physio and physical trainer, who will play in this important final tie.”
Tenth seeds India also bounced back from their quarter-final defeat by Egypt to overcome Asian rivals Hong Kong, the No4 seeds, 2/0 and earn themselves a play-off for fifth place – their best finish.
Top string Dipika Pallikal, ranked 13 in the world, scored a notable scalp by beating Annie Au – but squandered a 2/0 lead before fighting back against the world No9 to win 11-5, 11-8, 5-11, 9-11, 11-5 in 53 minutes.
Inspired by her senior team-mate’s success, India’s 18-year-old Anaka Alankamony then went on to defeat higher-ranked Hong Kong opponent Tong Tsz-Wing 11-5, 11-7, 11-9 to seal victory for her country.
“We play Hong Kong so often in Asian championships, that when we saw we had to play them here, we said ‘oh no, not again’!” said team manager Major Maniam. “But getting into the quarter-finals was a first-time for us, so now to be playing for fifth place is icing on the cake.
“Dipika started well in the first match, then lost her way a bit, but came back strongly in the fifth to great effect. She’s really improved significantly over the past few months and has played well for us here.
“Then the baby of the team came on: Anaka was very calm and collected. She stayed well and ran well and put in an impressive performance in a rubber she had to win.
“It’s been a great year for Indian squash – but only as a result of a lot of hard work,” Maniam concluded.
Another replay of an earlier pool clash will take place when India face Ireland in the fifth place play-off. In the longest tie of the competition so far, seventh seeds Ireland edged out New Zealand 2/1 – with two matches going the full distance.
Irish number one Madeline Perry, the world No10, twice came from behind and saved match balls from 7-10 in the fourth against Kiwi Joelle King before beating the world No5 3-11, 11-7, 7-11, 14-12, 11-3 in 73 minutes.
After the fifth seeds levelled when Amanda Landers-Murphy beat Laura Mylotte in four games, it was Irish number two Aisling Blake who eventually clinched victory, coming through 11-5, 11-9, 4-11, 8-11, 11-7 in 58 minutes against New Zealander Jaclyn Hawkes.
“We’re seeded seven, so we’re really pleased to be in the running for fifth place,” said Perry, the 13-time Irish champion. “We lost to India in the pools and are after revenge.
“I also lost so I’m definitely looking for a win – and I’m getting better every match here, so I’m confident!”
: WSF Women’s World Team Championship, Nimes, France
Semi-finals: EGYPT bt  AUSTRALIA 3/0
 ENGLAND bt  MALAYSIA 2/1
Laura Massaro lost to Nicol David 5-11, 6-11, 8-11 (41m)
Jenny Duncalf bt Delia Arnold 11-7, 11-9, 11-9 (44m)
Alison Waters bt Low Wee Wern 11-6, 7-11, 11-9, 11-5 (56m)
Raneem El Weleily bt Rachael Grinham 11-7, 14-16, 11-9, 11-9 (44m)
Nour El Tayeb bt Melody Francis 11-6, 11-2, 11-5 (23m)
Nour El Sherbini bt Donna Urquhart 12-10, 6-11, 11-8 (26m)
5th – 8th place play-offs: INDIA bt  HONG KONG CHINA 2/0
 IRELAND bt  NEW ZEALAND 2/1
Madeline Perry bt Joelle King 3-11, 11-7, 7-11, 14-12, 11-3 (73m)
Laura Mylotte lost to Amanda Landers-Murphy 11-8, 10-12, 8-11, 10-12 (40m)
Aisling Blake bt Jaclyn Hawkes 11-5, 11-9, 4-11, 8-11, 11-7 (58m)
Dipika Pallikal bt Annie Au 11-5, 11-8, 5-11, 9-11, 11-5 (53m)
Anaka Alankamony bt Tong Tsz-Wing 11-5, 11-7, 11-9 (40m)
9th – 12th place play-offs: NETHERLANDS bt  SOUTH AFRICA 2/1
 FRANCE bt  CANADA 3/0
Camille Serme bt Samantha Cornett 7-11, 11-5, 11-8, 11-8 (56m)
Laura Pomportes bt Susannah King 10-12, 10-12, 11-5, 11-6, 11-8 (52m)
Coline Aumard bt Alexandra Norman 11-6, 11-3 (17m)
Natalie Grinham bt Siyoli Waters 11-3, 11-7, 11-6 (23m)
Milja Dorenbos lost to Milnay Louw 4-11, 4-11, 3-11 (19m)
Orla Noom bt Diana Haynes 5-11, 11-8, 11-7, 11-5 (30m)
13th – 16th place play-offs: USA bt  MEXICO 3/0
 CZECH REPUBLIC bt  WALES 2/1
Lucie Fialova lost to Tesni Evans 6-11, 11-7, 9-11, 10-12 (54m)
Anna Klimundova bt Hannah Davies 5-11, 11-4, 11-0, 11-9 (25m)
Olga Ertlova bt Deon Saffery 11-5, 9-11, 11-8, 11-8 (47m)
Natalie Grainger bt Samantha Teran 11-2, 11-8, 10-12, 9-11, 11-6
Maria Elena Ubina bt Monserrat Castellanos 11-4, 11-13, 8-11, 11-5, 11-8
Sabrina Sobhy bt Nayelly Hernandez 11-6, 11-5
17th – 26th place play-offs (Pool 2):
 CHINA bt  AUSTRIA 2/1
Li Dongjin lost to Birgit Coufal 5-11 ret.
Gu Jinyue bt Judith Gradnitzer 11-8, 11-9, 11-9
Xiu Chen bt Ines Winkler 11-5, 11-5, 11-7
Final positions: 1 Republic of Korea, 2 China, 3 Austria
17th – 19th place play-offs: REPUBLIC OF KOREA bt  JAPAN 2/1
 JAPAN bt  GERMANY 2/1
Misaki Kobayashi bt Pamela Hathway 11-6, 11-1, 11-6
Risa Sugimoto lost to Annika Wiese 11-6, 11-8, 9-11, 5-11, 10-12
Chinatsu Matsui bt Franziska Hennes 11-3, 11-8, 11-9
Song Sun-Mi lost to Misaki Kobayashi 6-11, 4-11, 11-8, 9-11
Yang Yeon-Soo bt Risa Sugimoto 11-8, 11-8, 11-9
Park Eun Ok bt Chinatsu Matsui 11-8, 11-8, 11-8
20th – 22nd place play-offs: SCOTLAND bt  CHINA 3/0
 COLOMBIA bt  SCOTLAND 2/1
Silvia Angulo Rugeles lost to Frania Gillen-Buchert 7-11, 11-7, 8-11, 8-11
Karol Gonzalez bt Rosie Allan 12-10, 12-10, 11-5
Catalina Pelaez bt Alex Clark 11-6, 8-11, 11-4, 11-7
Frania Gillen-Buchert bt Gu Jinyue 11-3, 11-6, 11-4
Alex Clark bt Xiu Chen 11-7, 12-10, 11-3
23rd – 26th place play-offs: SPAIN bt  AUSTRIA 2/1
 ARGENTINA bt  NAMIBIA 3/0
Antonella Falcione bt Isabell Schnoor 11-2, 11-6, 11-7
Fernanda Rocha bt Lucinda Rodrigues 11-5, 11-5, 11-2
Cecilia Cerquetti bt Adri Lambert 11-7, 13-11
Marina de Juan lost to Birgit Coufal 2-11, 4-11, 8-11
Chantal Moros-Pitarch bt Ines Winkler 11-6, 12-10, 11-3
Xisela Aranda Nunez bt Jacqueline Peychar 15-13, 11-4, 11-4