European rivalry was at its best when England and France battled it out in Pool B on Thursday in the SDAT-WSF under-21 World Cup at the Indian Squash Academy.
Not that it affected the fortunes of the teams because it is still the league phase and both are favourites to progress but the way Geoffrey Demont let out a scream after he won the last point for the match and tie for France there was more to it than the 2-1 victory. There was a touch of history in fact.
Coach Phillipe Signoret, a former French international and coach confessed this was only the second time that a French team had beaten England in a team event, the last being in the seniors at the World championship in Vienna in 2003.
“You know there is a certain satisfaction in the win,” he said and indeed from the way the French players, in the main Lucas Serme and Demont stood up to the competition there is no denying France is proving the surprise package in this event. Seeded three and beating England (second seed) is in itself an admirable effort but more than that was the court craft of the two players. English players, both Charles Sharpes and Ben Coleman are no pushovers. Sharpes in fact has several accomplishments to his name but as it happened their best was just short of winning level.
Nonetheless it was top quality contest on view. Where his ballet-like movements and grace made Lucas' court coverage look outstanding, Sharpes tried his hand at upsetting the rival with his crisp strokes that carried lot of fire but failed to produce results.
Lucas had more variations, besides he anticipated well and reached the rival returns almost always. Even though rallies were galore, Lucas was steadier and that finally separated the two.
Emily makes it 1-1
With France 1-0 up, it depended much on its woman player Cyrielle Peltier to wrap up the tie against Emily Whitlock. But it did not take long to realise that the English girl was far ahead in skills. Emily promptly balanced the tie score and the climax was provided by Demont and Coleman. Both gave nothing away, often making the referee call out ‘let' as the score moved ahead reluctantly, such was the closeness of rallies and efforts of the two. Diving and even skidding, the two kept the small audience glued as cheers punctuated each point won. Demont won in straight games but the complexion of the contest was of one that went full distance. But full credit to both the players for making it a thoroughly enjoyable match.
The results: Pool A: Australia bt Germany 2-1 (Jamie McErvale lost to Rudi Rohrmuller 10-12, 12-10, 3-11, 8-11; Sarah Cardwell bt Annika Wiese 11-6, 11-7, 11-4 ; Walter Koteka bt Sven Lemmermann 13-11, 11-9, 11-0).
Egypt bt India 3-0 (Marwan El Shorbagy bt Ravi Dixit 11-7, 6-11, 11-4, 12-10; Nour El Sherbini bt Anaka Alankamony 11-6, 11-3, 11-7; Karim Abdel Gawad bt Karan Malik 3-11, 11-9, 11-0, 11-3).
Pool B: Hong Kong China bt Malaysia 2-1(Yeung Ho Wai bt Affeeq Abedeen Ismail 11-5, 6-11, 11-9, 11-4; Tong Tsz-Wing bt Tan Yan Xin 11-6, 6-11, 11-8, 11-4 ; Wong Chi-Him lost to Sanjay Singh 11-5, 6-11, 11-6, 10-12, 6-11).
France bt England 2-1 (Lucas Serme bt Charles Sharpes 11-8, 11-5, 11-4 ; Cyrielle Peltier lost to Emily Whitlock 4-11, 1-11, 9-11; Geoffrey Demont bt Ben Coleman 11-8, 11-8, 11-8).