Egypt take WWT title in a thriller
England were appearing in their tenth successive final, but their last victory was in 2006, and today they fielded the same three players as in the 2008 Cairo climax.
Alison Waters, who had lost the decider in Cairo, weathered a mid-match storm from Nour El Sherbini to give England the lead, but Laura Massaro couldn’t quite handle a similar barrage of winners coming from Raneem El Weleily’s racket as the Egyptian reversed the result of their 2008 match.
That left Jenny Duncalf versus Omneya Abdel Kawy for the title. In 2008 they had played the first match, which Kawy won, and she did so again, coming from 6-8 down in a tense deciding fifth game to take it 11-8 and give Egypt another world title.
WSF Women’s World Teams 2012, Nimes, France: The Final
Nour El Sherbini 2-3 Alison Waters 5-11, 11-8, 11-9, 3-11, 5-11
Raneem El Weleily 3-1 Laura Massaro 3-11, 12-10, 11-4, 12-10
Omneya Abdel Kawy 3-2 Jenny Duncalf 7-11, 11-8, 11-4, 6-11, 11-8
WWT Final – from the couch, as it happened
The first match of the final of the Women’s World Teams in Nimes pitted two players who have recently climbed into the world’s top ten – England’s Alison Waters playing her way back there after an extended injury layoff, Egypt’s double world junior champion Nour El Sherbini getting there after and equally impressive run of form.
Waters, like the rest of the England team, played in the final against Egypt in 2008 in Cairo, where Sherbini was a spectator, yet to make her mark on the world scene.
The Englishwoman got the better of the opening exchanges, going ahead 7-2 partly thanks to three lucky winners. Sherbini got one of her own to make it 7/3, but Waters closed out the game 11/5 to take the lead.
The second was close from the start, with both players striking the ball well, but from 7-all Sherbini edged ahead, putting in some lovely winners as she levelled the match 11-8.
Sherbini carried the momentum into the third, racing to a 5-1 and 6-2 lead, but some Egyptian errors and volley kills from Waters levelled it at 7-all. 8-all, 9-all, some tremendous retrieving from Waters as Sherbini needed three winning drops to reach game ball, then a Waters volley into the tin and Egypt took the lead 11-9.
It was Waters who got the better start in the fourth, quickly going 4-1 up then getting the better of several tough rallies to keep the lead at 6-3. The end came quickly with a number of errors from Sherbini for 11-3, at which point she requested a three-minute injury timeout during which she received treatment on her right ankle.
Whether that affected her or not was hard to tell as Waters was in great form in the decider, going 7-1 as she took control, putting the ball away nicely. Sherbini pulled three points back, Waters took three of her own and it was 10-4 match ball. One was saved but Waters controlled the last rally, putting a crosscourt volley out of her opponent’s reach and putting England one-nil up.
“She played well in the second and third games and I was getting stuck behind her,” admitted the winner. “I needed to get back to the front of the court to control things and thankfully I managed to do that.”
Next up was a repeat match from the 2008 final, Laura Massaro and Raneem El Weleily. Both have risen up the rankings since then, and here we had the current world #2 and #3 on show.
Massaro started strongly, going 4-0 up, even trying a couple of untypical reverse angles – the first one worked, the second didn’t – as she extended it to 7-2. Weleily found a few tins as Massaro took the lead 11-3.
Neither could open up a gap in a much more competitive second game which saw them go point for point all the way to 9-all, Massaro winning points by keeping the ball tight, most of Weleily’s coming through winning drops. Massaro just reached a boast to get to 10-9, but Weleily took a long rally to level, then two more tough rallies, finishing with a straight drive for 12-10 and one game all.
Had the tide turned? It certainly looked like it as the Egyptian sped into a 4-0 lead with some lovely touch winners. A couple of points back, but then the flow of winners – a highlight being a soft trickle boast on the run for 7-3 – resumed as Raneem went ahead 10-3, and took the lead 11-4 as Laura tinned at the front.
Many players might have buckled under that assault, but Massaro is made of stern stuff, and she got back to the task in hand, took an early lead in the fourth then profited from some Egyptian errors to lead 8/3. Was that enough? As it happened, no. Raneem closed to within one point at 9-8, then drifted a drive out of court to give Laura two game balls.
The first was saved with a boast into the nick, then Laura was halfway out of court expecting a stroke (as was this observer on the couch) only to disbelievingly hear a let given. Two strokes to Raneem to rub salt into the wound and it was match ball 11-10, finished off with a nick on the side wall for 12-10 and we had ourselves a decider.
At which point the youtube stream died …
Apparently Jenny Duncalf took the opening game against Omneya Abdel Kawy 11-7, and the stream came back online as the Egyptian struck back to open up a 5-1 lead in the second (no, I’m not going to watch the replay, sorry).
Kawy pulled ahead to 7-2, Duncalf came back to 7-5, three quick winners took the Egyptian to 10-5 but she needed a stroke on the fourth attempt to level the match 11-8.
In the third Kawy took a leaf out of El Weleily’s book as she opened up a 3-0 lead, then pulled away fom 3-3 with a series of dazzling winners to take the game 11-4 and put Egypt 11 points away from the title.
So, another test of the English nerves, and Duncalf wasn’t found wanting as she went 4-0 up in the fourth, and although Omneya settled into it the Englishwoman kept that gap intact to level the match 11-6 (on a stroke that was less of a stroke than the one Massaro thought she’d won her fourth on).
Both were nervous now that it came down to an 11-point shootout for the World Team title, and helped by errors from both sides the lead changed hands several times until Duncalf led 8-6. Omneya handled the situation well though as she took five points in a row, finishing on a stroke, to give Egypt the title once more.
“I’m really happy,” said Omneya. “It’s the first time I’ve played the deciding match in a team event, it’s a totally different pressure.
“Jenny played really well, you never knew who might win until the very last point, thank God I got it!”
Steve Cubbins, from the couch