The second day of the FISU 2018 World University Squash Championship saw the leading men and women have to negotiate two rounds in their individual competitions, with a view to determining who will contest the respective semi-finals at the University of Birmingham this afternoon.
While the men’s tournament stuck to the seeding script, with its leading quartet making it through to the last four in relative comfort, the women’s event will be without two of the top four seeds in the semis.
Most remarkably, those two include first seed and World No 91 Grace Gear, who, in the last quarter-final match to be staged yesterday, bowed out in straight games to Alexa Pienaar (8) from South Africa (6-11, 10-12, 11-13).
The Cardiff Metropolitan University student had already been severely tested in her early-morning second round tie against the Austrian Jacqueline Peychär, who took Gear to five games before the top seed eventually prevailed (11-8, 11-3, 8-11, 10-12, 11-3).
But, come the evening, Pienaar – having enjoyed a routine straight-games win earlier in the day – went on the attack against the top seed, with low, flat shots proving most effective against her UK opponent, whose participation was temporarily interrupted by treatment for an injury in the second game.
A delighted Pienaar declared afterwards: “[it feels] a bit unreal at this moment… I’m so happy to have made it this far!” She will face in the last four Malaysian Zoe Foo (6), who also disposed of a higher seed, Shehana Vithana (4), in straight games (11-7, 11-7, 11-4).
Vithana, like Gear, took to the court for her quarter-final after a grueling five-game tussle during the morning – which, in Vithana’s case, had involved overturning a two-game deficit before edging out her fellow Australian Jessica Osborne (9-11, 7-11, 11-8, 11-8, 12-10).
The other women’s semi-final will involve the two highest-ranked remaining players – with Malaysia’s Aika Azman (2) having seen off both the unseeded Marija Shpakova and Ho Ka Wing (5) in straight games, and the now-sole home hope Lily Taylor (3) beating Maarit Ekholm 3-1, before prevailing 3-0 against another non-seed, Hayley Ward.
South African Ward, on a good day for giant-killing by her countrywomen, had a few hours previously pulled off a five-game Second Round victory against seventh-seed New Zealander Eleanor Epke (11-8, 11-7, 9-11, 5-11, 13-11).
The men’s semi-finals, rather more straightforwardly, will see Yip Tsz Fung (1) from Hong Kong take on Malaysian Addeen Idrakie (4), while the UK’s Josh Masters (2) is up against Idrakie’s compatriot Mohd Syafiq Kamal (3).
All four enjoyed straight-games wins in the Second Round, before both Yip and Masters repeated the margin of victory in their respective Quarter-Finals against the Czech Jakub Solnický (13) (11-5, 11-3, 12-10) and Wong Chi Him (5) from Hong Kong (11-3, 11-4, 11-3).
The two Semi-Fnalists from Malaysia, meanwhile, both needed four games to see off the challenges of their opponents in the last eight. Kamal defeated another Hong Kong representative, Henry Leung (7) (11-8, 6-11, 11-8, 11-7), and, in a fast-paced tussle, Idrakie put out his fellow countryman Sanjay Singh (6) (11-9, 14-12, 4-11, 11-5).