India progresses to last-16; Egypt, England follow suit

Switzerland provided a stern challenge for the home team, which had Yash Fadte secure qualification.

Yash Fadte (right) plays a shot against Yannick Wilhelmi in the World Junior Squash Championship tie on Tuesday.   -  S. R. Raghunathan

Fifth seed India progressed through to the last-16 of the World Junior Squash Championship. The 2-1 win over Switzerland means India goes into the next round as the table-topper.

Despite beating Saudi Arabia convincingly, Switzerland proved to be a tough opponent with the tie going into the decider and Yash Fadte sealing a thriller.

India brushed off the Saudi Arabian challenge to win the tie 3-0. Rahul Baitha, Utkarsh Baheti and Veer Chotrani cruised through their matches without dropping a game. The Indians proved too quick and skilled for the 23rd seed in the championship. A new, inexperienced Saudi team will have some positives to take home though, with Mohammad Almwled playing a tight first game in his match against Veer Chotrani and getting close in the third game as well.

Read: Araby, Asal squash like Egyptians!

The match against 13th seed Switzerland had a completely different flavour to it. It was the first match the Indians played in the Express Avenue mall.

In the first match, Utkarsh Baheti cruised into a 6-0 lead in the first game and weathered a comeback from Mathis, to win it 11-6. The 17-year-old from Jaipur succumbed to the attacking game that the Swiss brought to the fore, while he himself made a few unforced errors. The third and fourth games went down to the wire, but Utkarsh held off the Swiss challenge to win the match 11-6, 6-11, 13-11, 11-9.

Veer Chotrani started well against Nils Roesch in India’s second match, winning the first game 11-9. But some poor movement and unforced errors from the 16-year-old let the Swiss take the second and third games 11-5 and 11-3 respectively. In the fourth game, after going 2-10 down, Veer staged a comeback to bring the score to 7-10, but Roesch won it to equal the score for Switzerland in the tie.

It was up to India's No. 1, Yash Fadte, to take the team through to the next round. But he was up against a strong Yannick Wilhelmi who was seeded 13th in the individual championship. Keeping with trend, India won the first game again. Yash lost his way in the second and third game, which he attributed to a loss in focus. “I lost my concentration in the second and third games but after the third game my coaches told me we’ve come this far, we’re not leaving without a win”, said Yash.

And Yash made sure of the victory with a rejuvenated performance in the fourth and fifth game. The energy from the crowd gathered at the Express Avenue mall also helped Yash, who cruised through the fourth game 11-4.

In the fifth game, Yash took a 10-6 lead but Yannick saved four match points to bring the score to 10-9. The Indian kept his composure though, to defeat the higher-ranked Swiss and take the team into the next round, where it will either face Pakistan or Czech Republic. “I’m really proud of myself. To beat him was no small feat. He’s a really good opponent. And the crowd was amazing; couldn’t have done it without them,” added Yash.

Switzerland takes on Saudi Arabia in the other group match on Wednesday.

There were no major upsets on the day except the 12th seeded New Zealand beating seventh-seeded Colombia 2-1. Number-one seed Egypt cruised to 3-0 wins in its ties against Australia and Singapore to progress to the next round. Third seed England also secured its place in the next round by beating South Africa and Ireland.

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