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Saturday August 27, 2011

Squash: Malaysia no match for France in quarters

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia’s hopes of qualifying for the semi-finals of the Men’s World Team squash championship ended abruptly after being severely outclassed by France in the quarter-finals at Paderborn, Germany, on Thursday.

Malaysia’s best result was a quarter-final appearance in 2007, when they lost to France and finished fifth.

Paired with the third-seeded France once again in the quarter-finals, the Mohd Azlan Iskandar-led Malaysians were again no match for their opponents.

France No. 1 and world No. 6 Gregory Gaultier gave his country the perfect start when he raced to a 9-1 lead in the first set before wrapping up the tie against Azlan 11-4, 11-6, 11-4 in 55 minutes.

The evergreen Thierry Lincou then sealed the win after outplaying old nemesis Ong Beng Hee 12-10, 11-2, 11-7 in 47 minutes.

“Lincou played very well and his lobs, in particular, were exceptional. It was not the usual kind of lob which floats away but it’s one that ‘dies’ at the end,” said Beng Hee.

“I have been learning that shot from him for years and today it was a good weapon for him and he played very well.”

In the dead rubber, Mathieu Castagnet took just 18 minutes to beat Asian champion Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan 11-8, 11-2.

National head coach Allan Soyza was not too disappointed by the defeat “as the team are still on course to achieving the top-six target”.

“Gregory and Thierry were in superb form and never gave Azlan and Beng Hee any chance,” said Allan in an email.

“It was not that Azlan played poorly but Gregory was simply on song and he is close to the form that took him to No. 1 in the world rankings. It’s a pity someone had to lose.

“As for Beng Hee, he had his chances against Thierry, who did not have the best of seasons due to injury, and he started well leading 9-5 in the first set.

“However Thierry eventually clawed back and regained control of the match with greater precision shots. In the end Beng Hee still played quite well, he really didn’t have much to work with.

“Overall we got beaten by two great performances by probably two of the greatest French players ever but we’re still on course for a top-six finish and it’s not too bad.”

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