Following a hiatus of four years, South Africa’s women’s squash team are gearing themselves up for a massive challenge when they compete in the Women’s World Championship in Egypt next week.
The SA squad of Alex Fuller, Lizelle Muller and Cheyna Wood, with Hayley Ward the travelling reserve, will leave for Cairo on 7 December for the tournament at the Madinaty Sports Club from 10-16 December.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this prestigious biennial team event has not been held since 2018, when Egypt defeated England in the final to retain the title.
A total of 17 teams from across the globe will feature in the tournament, with the powerful host nation outright favorites to pick up a third straight title.
Meanwhile, South African coach Paul Atkinson said they were ready to embrace the challenge, with a lot hinging on what sort of draw the team received.
“It’s going to be an interesting exercise because if you look at our players individually, we may struggle a bit against the best in the world, yet in the recent World Doubles Championships we did exceptionally well,” he said.
“We have been seeded 13th and we know it will be tough against the top nations because they all have players in the top 20, so even though Alex is ranked 23 in the world, it will be hard.
“But if we get a favourable draw in the group stages, it could get interesting, and all the players are motivated to go out there to deliver their best performances.”
The SA team attended the African Championships in Zimbabwe last month and finished a creditable second behind Egypt.
Although Fuller did not play there as she was competing overseas, Atkinson was happy with the exposure received by Muller, Wood, and Ward.
“None of them had played much against international players for a long time, so I think it was very good to have that African champs experience,” he said.
“Initially the team was not going to attend the African champs, but it turned out to be good preparation. Since then, the girls have been training hard individually and they will be motivated to show what they can do in Egypt.
“My aim will be to try to harness the players’ motivation and to channel it in the right direction.”
Egypt, led by world No 1 Nouran Gohar, have a powerhouse team, which boasts four of the world’s top six players.
The 25-year-old, who was in the winning teams in 2016 and 2018, is joined by world No 2 Nour El Sherbini, world No 3 Hania El Hammamy and world No 6 Nour El Tayeb.
The US, who will be hoping to improve on fifth-place finishes in 2018, 2016 and 2014, will travel with what is arguably the strongest ever US team assembled, featuring world No 4 Amanda Sobhy, Olivia Fiechter (11), Sabrina Sobhy (18) and Olivia Clyne (20).
England, seven-time winners, and runners up in the last edition, will go in with confidence after winning the most recent European Team Championships. World No 8 Sarah-Jane Perry leads the team, with 2022 Commonwealth Games singles gold medallist Georgina Kennedy (ranked 9), Jasmine Hutton (27) and Lucy Turmel (30) completing the line-up.
Photo 1 Caption: World No 23 Alex Fuller will spearhead the South Africa team at the Women’s World Squash Championships in Cairo, Egypt, from 10-16 December 2022. Photo: Petri Oeschger
With editing by gsport