In court six at Squash on Fire, Nigeria defeated higher-seeded Singapore 2/1 in the WSF Men’s World Team Championship in Washington DC to claim their second win of the tournament.
Concise News reports that the Africans are featuring in the 21-23 bracket round robin.
Babatunde Ajagbe beat Samuel Kang 3-1: 11-9, 12-10, 0-11, 11-5 (37m); same as Sodiq Oluwatobi Taiwo who dispatched Chua Man Tong 3-0: 11-6, 12-10, 11-3 (28m).
The only loss for Nigeria in the tie came when Ehimen Ehalen fell to Brandon Tan 3-0: 11-4, 11-9, 11-6 (22m).
Overall, Nigeria emerged victorious against the Asians.
Egypt and England to contest world final in Washington
Meanwhile, after two riveting semi-finals which went to the wire, the top two seeds Egypt, the defending champions, and England, the second seeds, will contest the 2019 final of the event – it will be the two powerhouse nations’ fourth successive final clash.
Truly the dark horses of the 2019 championship, 11th seeds Wales startled a number of higher-seeded teams to earn their place in the last four for the first time for two decades – and would have been expected to meet their match in top seeds Egypt, the defending champions with a squad made up of four players in the world’s top ten.
But, to claim their anticipated place in the semis, Egypt were taken to a decider by Germany in the quarter finals after the fifth seeds won the top string clash when Simon Rösner beat World No.1 Ali Farag.
Mere words will do little justice in describing the opening top string match between Egypt’s World No.4 Tarek Momen, the recently-crowned World Champion, and Welshman Joel Makin, the World No.12 and top-ranked Briton.
Pre-match, Momen led the head-to-head record between the two, 2-1 – but it was Makin who was the most recent victor, at the CIB Egyptian Squash Open in November.
The Welshman took the opening game and had two game-balls from 10-9 to open a two-game lead. But the Cairo conqueror drew level after converting his third game-ball, but then claimed just two points in the third game as Makin regained the lead.
It was short-lived however as Momen drew level for the second time before the pair demonstrated squash of the very highest quality in the decider, cheered on by a packed and appreciative crowd inside Squash on Fire.
But, remarkably, from a position of three points behind, underdog Makin slowly climbed closer and closer to the winning line until his jubilant Welsh team-mates erupted with joy when he sealed the match 11-9, 13-15, 11-2, 4-11, 11-9 after 76 minutes.
Makin said afterwards: “In the fifth I just had to get back to that solid base that I had at the start of the match. I let him go way too easily in that fourth game and he got a really quick lead. I needed to get back to basics and get the middle back off him and then take it in when I wanted to and not be so reactive.”
Some semblance of normality followed when Egypt’s World No.3 Karim Abdel Gawad took the next match, beating Peter Creed 12-10, 11-3, 11-7 before Mohamed Abouelghar, the World No.8 ranked more than 100 place above his opponent, defeated Emyr Evans 11-7, 11-7, 8-11, 11-7 in 51 minutes to put Egypt through to the final for the fifth time in a row.
“I’m feeling great,” said the victorious Abouelghar. “It was an incredible first match from both Tarek and Joel, so I thought I have to get ready and I knew they were going to be on fire today with nothing to lose. I had a lot of pressure on my shoulders, but I’m very happy with how I dealt with it and very happy to get us through to the final.
“After the third game I thought I would have to get back to basics and not rush. He was going for everything and it was all paying off, I just had to be accurate and stay with him.”
England and France have been battling each other for supremacy in the championships since 1985 and this year are marking their fifth semi-final clash in 16 years.
A packed crowd at Squash on Fire saw new top string Adrian Waller put second seeds England ahead after a tight straight games victory over Frenchman Gregoire Marche.
The next match saw event giants James Willstrop and Gregory Gaultier lock horns in what was their 44th international confrontation between the former World No.1s since first meeting in the British Junior U16 Open semi-finals 21 years ago.
Former World Champion Gaultier was making a return to the international stage after a 14-month injury lay-off – and had only had the benefit of two weeks on-court action before arriving in Washington.
To the sheer delight of his French team-mates, Gaultier ground out an 11-8, 11-5, 11-5 victory – his career 28th against the Englishman – to level the tie for France.
Then, in a remarkable turnaround, squad No.4 Declan James produced the goods for England, reversing the result of just a month ago to beat Mathieu Castagnet 11-6, 11-6, 11-7 to put England into the final for the fourth time in a row.
An ecstatic James said afterwards: “I’m lost for words, it’s one of those moments that you maybe get a couple of times a season. My mindset was what helped me to win, before I went onto the court I didn’t put pressure on myself – the team didn’t put pressure on me, they just told me to go out there and put a performance in.”
“Tomorrow is a new day and this tournament has shown you that it’s never straightforward in a team event with three people playing. We’re going to enjoy this tonight and we’ll worry about tomorrow in the morning.”
England coach David Campion added: “That was a world-class performance at any level.
“We showed faith in him. Daryl (Selby) is the captain and we had a chat this morning. It was a 50/50 thing between Daryl and Declan – and we decided to go with Declan. He’s going to be around in two years time and we wanted to give him this experience, win or lose. It was a tough situation for him, a one-all situation, playing in the world teams and he produced an unbelievable level. By any standards, that was absolutely world class. It was testament to his character – we showed faith in him and he repaid that just now. We are absolutely delighted, for him and the team.”
All of the action at the global tourney will be available to watch for free for all countries on the Men’s World Team Championships Facebook page.
21st – 23rd place play-offs:
 NIGERIA bt  SINGAPORE 2-1
Babatunde Ajagbe (NGR) bt Samuel Kang (SGP) 3-1: 11-9, 12-10, 0-11, 11-5 (37m)
Sodiq Taiwo (NGR) bt Chua Man Tong (SGP) 3-0: 11-6, 12-10, 11-3 (28m)
Brandon Tan (SGP) bt Ehimen Ehalen (NGR) 3-0: 11-4, 11-9, 11-6 (22m)