The men’s and women’s individual Finals on the fourth day of the FISU
2018 World University Squash Championship produced a magnificent double
for the host country.
Victories for Josh Masters and Lily Taylor in their respective
competitions at the University of Birmingham were not only a cause for
celebration for the United Kingdom on home territory, but also by the
University of the West of England where they both study.
Masters recovered from a game down to overcome the men’s top seed Yip
Tsz Fung 3-1 (8-11, 11-8, 11-2, 11-5), while Taylor avoided the fate of
two other top-six-seeded women by seeing off the South African Alexa
Pienaar in straight games (11-7, 11-8, 11-6).
With neither reigning champion Yip nor second seed Masters having
dropped a game throughout the tournament, something had to give -
although with 28 World Ranking places between Yip (25th) and Masters
(53rd), the pre-Final odds were stacked in favour of the 24-year-old
Management Sciences student from the City University of Hong Kong.
Their first game, indeed, went that way - with Yip prevailing 11-8 after
an 11-minute tussle that culminated in a stroke for the 2016 gold
medallist. But the six feet four inches Masters used his height and
reach to great effect before prevailing in the second by the same score.
And from that stage, the Mathematician, who at 21 two years earlier had
been a beaten Semi-Finalist, truly executed his a-game - blitzing Yip
11-2 in the third, and then claiming a closer fourth, as well as the
title, with a stroke that was upheld following video review.
What the victory meant to Masters left little room for doubt, when he
described it as “probably the best moment of my career so far.”
He added: ‘I’ve really enjoyed playing on this (glass-back) court all
week as it suits my game, and I’m really, really happy with the result.
‘I had a bit of a sloppy start losing the first three points, but my
coach was telling me to keep playing it straight, and volley short and
straight, so that’s what I was trying to do.’
Yip was generous in defeat, commenting: ‘I think Josh played very well
today, he deserves it! I’m going to try and recover for tomorrow, and I
hope for the win in the team event.’
Masters’ fellow UWE student Taylor, who reads Business with Accounting &
Finance, had become the sole British hope in the women’s event after the
Quarter-Final stage, which had seen her top-seeded compatriot Grace Gear
knocked out in straight games by eighth seed Pienaar.
The 24-year-old Johannesburg University student subsequently reached the
Final after seeing off in the last four another higher-ranked opponent,
Zoe Foo, seeded six. But there was to be no hat-trick of such upsets, as
third seed Taylor - three years Pienaar’s junior - started strongly in
each of their three games, and proceeded for the most part to stay in
front before clinching gold.
‘I’m absolutely thrilled,’ enthused Lily afterwards. ‘I can’t believe it
really as I was just focusing on the match, it’s pretty special.
‘(Alexa) is very strong, and has beaten a lot of good players - so I
knew I had to give it my all. I just wanted to stay in the rallies as
long as possible.’
Pienaar said: ‘I’m a bit sad, I came close but I’m still happy with
silver - and I was very happy to make it into the Final. I’ll now rest
and chill with my team in preparation for the team event.’
Great Britain coach Josh Taylor hailed it as a ‘Fantastic day for Team
He added: ‘They were both very tough contests as we headed into them.
Lily got us off with a bang, she got the game-plan spot on and executed
well against a strong opponent under pressure.
‘Josh on paper had a mountain to climb, with 28 places between them in
the rankings. His first game started slowly, and he then delivered a
fantastic performance from there on in!
‘I’m so proud of the two. And there is great team spirit in the camp
this week, as we now head into the team event - where we have got to put
a statement down for the rest of the field!’
The FISU 2018 World University Squash Championship staged, on its third
day at the University of Birmingham, the Semi-Finals of the men’s and
women’s individual competitions.
And while this afternoon’s Finals will feature the top two seeds for the
men’s crown, the women’s event will feature two players who have defied
the seeding script to battle it out for gold
Those two are home candidate and third seed, Lily Taylor and Alexa
Pienaar (8), South African conqueror at the Quarter-Final stage of the
UK’s other original hope, Grace Gear (1) - who, incidentally, and as
part of her consolation quest to secure fifth place, blew away Shehana
Vithana (4) from Australia for the total loss of a paltry six points
inside 16 brutal minutes.
But let us return our eyes to the main prize - for which Pienaar was
first on court yesterday, and Malaysia’s Zoe Foo (6) stood in the way. A
combination of well-executed drops and volleys secured the first game
for the Art Design & Architecture student from Johannesburg University,
who, despite then conceding the second, recovered her consistency in the
next two to prevail 3-1 (11-7, 7-11, 11-5, 11-6).
A delighted Pienaar described her win as: “Fantastic… a really tough
match. She (Foo) is mentally so strong that if you give her even a small
gap, she takes it, so I’m very happy to have won!”
Taylor also faced a Malaysian opponent - albeit a higher-seeded one in
Aika Azman (2). Not that this initially appeared to faze the home
player, whose dominance in the first game was such that she cruised
through at the cost of just a single point, and who was similarly
emphatic in winning the third with just two points dropped.
Either side of the latter game, unforced errors cost her the second,
while Asman secured the fourth with the tightest of drives - before a
more cautious decider went the way of Taylor for victory by the odd game
in five (11-1, 7-11, 11-2, 7-11, 11-8).
“It was a very up and down match,” said Taylor afterwards.
“I wasn’t sure going into it, as obviously she (Azman) is a top seed,
but I just wanted to keep playing strong and not make any mistakes.”
Taylor’s success in reaching her Final was matched by fellow student
from the University of the West of England, Josh Masters (2), in the
Masters, a beaten Semi-Finalist in the last Championship two years
previously in Kuala Lumpur, went at least one better on this occasion by
seeing off the challenge of Mohd Syafiq Kamal (3) from Malaysia in
straight games dominated by hard-driven rallies (11-3, 11-7, 13-11).
“I’m very happy to get into the Final,” he said.
“Two years ago I lost in the Semis, so I’m really pleased to have made
it one step further this year. It’s going to be a tough match whoever I
play, but I’m looking forward to getting back on there.”
And tough it will no doubt be - for Masters will need to overcome World
No 25 and reigning Champion Yip Tsz Fung (1), from the City University
of Hong Kong, if he is to claim the title.
Yip, who, like Masters, has not dropped a game throughout the
Championship, faced Addeen Idrakie (4) - the remaining representative of
a Malaysian Semi-Final quartet across both individual competitions.
In the event, Malaysia was to miss out on a Final berth of any
description, as Idrakie, despite competing with passion and pace, was
ultimately undone by the range of shots in the armoury of Yip, who once
again prevailed 3-0 (11-4, 11-6, 11-9).
“It was wonderful to get into the Final,” enthused Yip, “and I’m
delighted with the way I played.”
The second day of the FISU 2018 World University Squash Championship saw
the leading men and women have to negotiate two rounds in their
individual competitions, with a view to determining who will contest the
respective semi-finals at the University of Birmingham this afternoon.
While the men’s tournament stuck to the seeding script, with its leading
quartet making it through to the last four in relative comfort, the
women’s event will be without two of the top four seeds in the semis.
Most remarkably, those two include first seed and World No 91 Grace
Gear, who, in the last quarter-final match to be staged yesterday, bowed
out in straight games to Alexa Pienaar (8) from South Africa (6-11,
The Cardiff Metropolitan University student had already been severely
tested in her early-morning second round tie against the Austrian
Jacqueline Peychär, who took Gear to five games before the top seed
eventually prevailed (11-8, 11-3, 8-11, 10-12, 11-3).
But, come the evening, Pienaar - having enjoyed a routine straight-games
win earlier in the day - went on the attack against the top seed, with
low, flat shots proving most effective against her UK opponent, whose
participation was temporarily interrupted by treatment for an injury in
the second game.
A delighted Pienaar declared afterwards: “[it feels] a bit unreal at
this moment… I’m so happy to have made it this far!” She will face in
the last four Malaysian Zoe Foo (6), who also disposed of a higher seed,
Shehana Vithana (4), in straight games (11-7, 11-7, 11-4).
Vithana, like Gear, took to the court for her quarter-final after a
grueling five-game tussle during the morning - which, in Vithana’s case,
had involved overturning a two-game deficit before edging out her fellow
Australian Jessica Osborne (9-11, 7-11, 11-8, 11-8, 12-10).
The other women’s semi-final will involve the two highest-ranked
remaining players - with Malaysia’s Aika Azman (2) having seen off both
the unseeded Marija Shpakova and Ho Ka Wing (5) in straight games, and
the now-sole home hope Lily Taylor (3) beating Maarit Ekholm 3-1, before
prevailing 3-0 against another non-seed, Hayley Ward.
South African Ward, on a good day for giant-killing by her countrywomen,
had a few hours previously pulled off a five-game Second Round victory
against seventh-seed New Zealander Eleanor Epke (11-8, 11-7, 9-11, 5-11,
The men’s semi-finals, rather more straightforwardly, will see Yip Tsz
Fung (1) from Hong Kong take on Malaysian Addeen Idrakie (4), while the
UK’s Josh Masters (2) is up against Idrakie’s compatriot Mohd Syafiq
All four enjoyed straight-games wins in the Second Round, before both
Yip and Masters repeated the margin of victory in their respective
Quarter-Finals against the Czech Jakub Solnický (13) (11-5, 11-3, 12-10)
and Wong Chi Him (5) from Hong Kong (11-3, 11-4, 11-3).
The two Semi-Fnalists from Malaysia, meanwhile, both needed four games
to see off the challenges of their opponents in the last eight. Kamal
defeated another Hong Kong representative, Henry Leung (7) (11-8, 6-11,
11-8, 11-7), and, in a fast-paced tussle, Idrakie put out his fellow
countryman Sanjay Singh (6) (11-9, 14-12, 4-11, 11-5).
The FISU 2018 World University Squash
Championship got under way yesterday with the early rounds of the men’s
and women’s individual competitions.
Surprises were at a relative premium in the initial 38 matches played at
the University of Birmingham - although by the end of the day, two men’s
seeds had each been edged out by the odd game in five to exit the
Australia’s Thomas Calvert (seeded 8) and Swiss hope Robin Gadola (10)
came unstuck against, respectively, Federico Cioffi from Argentina
(11-7, 9-11, 13-11, 7-11, 9-11) and the South African Dewarld van
Niekerk (11-4, 10-12, 12-14, 11-9, 10-12) - despite the first games of
both Second Round matches going to form in favour of the seeds.
Cioffi’s triumph was all the more remarkable, coming as it did only a
few hours after he had been on court to face Sion James Wiggin of New
Zealand in one of the Championship’s opening 10am First Round ties. The
Argentinian did, however, make short work of Wiggin - prevailing in
straight games over just 24 minutes to keep something in reserve for his
Argentina had a great chance of pulling off not just the one shock, but
a hat-trick of them, as Cioffi’s unseeded compatriots Francisco and
Rodrigo Obregón both took seeds to five games in the men’s Second Round,
before falling in the fifth.
Each of the twins detained his higher-ranked opponent for over an hour,
before Henry Leung (7) of Hong Kong edged out the right-handed Francisco
(11-5, 10-12, 11-9, 9-11, 11-6), and David Zeman (12) from the Czech
Republic saw off the challenge of left-handed Rodrigo (8-11, 13-11,
8-11, 11-8, 11-5).
Elsewhere in the men’s competition, a combination of 3-0 and 3-1
victories saw seeded players safely through to the Third Round - with
the top five seeds all securing straight-games victories, and each of
the leading two dispatching his opponent with 20 minutes on the clock.
Hong Kong’s Yip Tsz Fung (1) gave a drop-shots masterclass in the course
of defeating Singaporean Benedict Chan (11-4, 11-4, 11-5), while home
player Josh Masters (2) comfortably beat the South African Adam Erni
Shean (11-3, 11-3, 11-1).
The women’s competition, unlike the men’s, confined itself to completing
just the First Round on the opening day - and its eight matches did not
involve any seeds, who join proceedings from this morning.
Six of those eight contests were done and dusted inside half an hour -
although very much less time was required in some cases.
Canadian Hannah Blatt was on and off court in 10 minutes after defeating
Esther Nakato of Uganda in straight games and without conceding a single
point. And Marija Shpakova from Switzerland, having dropped one point in
the first game against her Chinese opponent Xiao Yating, did not lose
another in the process of an extraordinary eight-minute 3-0 rout.
10th edition of FISU
World University Squash Championship officially opened last
night at University of Birmingham Sport & Fitness
Hosted in the arena of the University of Birmingham Sport &
Fitness club, athletes and officials from 19 nations were
welcomed into the all-glass show court yesterday evening for
the Opening Ceremony of the FISU 2018 World University
The crowd, including athletes, officials, referees,
volunteers and University of Birmingham staff were played in
by the University of Birmingham Brass Quintet who did a
beautiful rendition of the United Kingdom's national
A fantastic line-up of guest speakers took to the stage to
welcome the event back to the UK, 20 years after the
Championship last came to Cardiff in 1998.
Chris Ryder, Championship Director and 2006 World University
Squash Championship winner, started proceedings by welcoming
the athletes to the arena, commenting that 'the competition
is quite literally nothing without you'.
Dr Ed Smith CBE, Pro-Chancellor of the University of
Birmingham, took to the stage to extend a warm welcome to
all of the guests on behalf of the University -
mentioning the 50 volunteers who will be involved in the
event, thanking FISU for putting faith in the University to
host the event, and passionately showcasing the importance
of squash at the University of Birmingham.
Coleen Dufresne, FISU Executive Committee Member, was the
final speaker to address the crowd:
'FISU Championships offer a superb opportunity for a large
number of university students, managers and coaches to
exchange opinions and ideas and of course to achieve your
best performance on the field of play. I encourage you
to reach out to each other over the course of the
tournament, learn about each other’s cultures and make our
world a little closer and friendlier.'
The Championship was then officially opened by British
Universities and Colleges Sport Board member, Ben Moorhead.
The fabulous FISU anthem was played live by the Brass
Quintet, and on behalf of all the student athletes, the
Athlete's Oath was taken by
who will be representing Team GB throughout the
Championship. Marko Podgorsek of Slovenia took the Oath of
Referees on behalf of the event officials.
The Opening Ceremony kick-started the Championship with a
burst of positive energy and excitement for the
opportunities which lay ahead.
Let the games begin!
Results and Live
accreditation complete, the draw for the individual
championship was devised. Good luck to all the competitors.
We will also be
live streaming the semi-finals and finals of both the
individual and team competitions - visit the
watch on Saturday 8 September 3.15pm (BST), Sunday 9
September 4pm (BST), Tuesday 11 September 4pm (BST) and
Wednesday 12 September 4.30pm (BST).
Tickets for the
individual and team semi-finals and finals are available to
buy online, book the edge of your seat now and keep an eye
on the results over the next few days to see which athletes
make it through to the final stages.
We can't wait to
see all your pictures, posts and videos during the event -
be sure to tag
Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use the hashtag
#WUCSquash2018 so we can see all of your posts!