Former Wales national coach Chris Robertson and his Hong Kong China team have caused a stir at the World Team Squash Championships at Salle Vallier in Marseille.
Australian former World number two Robertson and his team relegated France to their lowest finish in the Men’s World Team Squash Championship for at least 16 years after upsetting the hosts in front of a capacity French crowd.
Third seeds France, led by World No.1 Gregory Gaultier, were expected to survive this early encounter en-route to reaching their predicted place in the semi-finals.
Hong Kong were the fifth seeds, bidding to achieve their highest ever position since finishing eighth in 2003.
Gaultier was in his usual defiant form as he put France ahead with his fourth successive straight games win in the championship.
The match against the Hong Kong number one Max Lee, however, ended in controversial circumstances. Ten minutes after winning match ball at 10-9, Gaultier and Lee returned to the court to play out the finish again after it was realised that the referee had miscalled the score at 9-8 when it was in fact 8-8.
The crowd went silent when Lee moved ahead to game ball at 11-10, but Gaultier was in no mood to drop his first game of the tournament and closed out the match 11-6, 11-5, 13-11 to wild applause from the partisan crowd.
Hong Kong drew level when third string Yip Tsz Fung fought back from 2/1 down to beat world No. 27 Mathieu Castagnet 11-7, 7-11, 9-11, 11-2, 11-4 in 67 minutes.
The decider had the crowd on the edges of their seats with home favourite Gregoire Marche facing four-time Hong Kong champion Leo Au. There are only just seven positions between them in the World rankings.
It was a nail-biting affair in which Marche wins were greeted by deafening applause and Au successes by silence. After 57 minutes of tense action on the all-glass show court it was Au who emerged victorious, winning 11-6, 7-11, 11-8, 11-2 to end the French dream.
“It is a special achievement for Hong Kong,” said 27-year-old Au. “We put a lot of effort into our preparations for this and really wanted to do well here.
“The crowd was really behind France, but I had my team-mates in my corner and that helped me a lot.”
Robertson, who only took over as Hong Kong national coach a few months ago, was delighted with his team’s success, saying: “It all started when Max was 2/0 down in the first match, during which time he had been outplayed by Gaultier.
“He then showed a lot of character to take the third game to a tie-break – and, even though he lost, this gave confidence to the rest of the team.
“When Tsz Fung was 2/1 down in his match, I said to him that he needed to stay calm and trust his skills – and he kept up the pressure in the fourth and fifth to win.
“Leo is in good form and he handled the pressure brilliantly in the decider.
“We are really delighted with this success, but we want to build on this, going forward.
They’ve created history already – but we can relax now when we play Egypt.”
Wales suffered a 2/1 defeat against USA and now play Finland with 14th place in the championships at stake. The Finns lost 2/1 against Malaysia.
Rhwbina’s Peter Creed was the winner for Wales against the American team, while Joel Makin, from Pembrokeshire, was edged out in a five-game thriller against Todd Harrity in the first string game.
Makin lost 9-11, 12-10, 9-11, 11-8, 11-9 in just over an hour.
Cardiff’s Emyr Evans was beaten by Chris Hanson in four games, 9-11, 11-4, 11-3, 11-7 in 46 minutes.
Favourites Egypt, who have a squad with three players in the World top five cruised into the semis courtesy of a 3/0 win over surprise opponents Scotland, the 10th seeds.
Defending champions England, the second seeds, were the first team to secure a place in the semi-finals – incredibly, the country’s 18th successive appearance in the last four.
The five-times champions were given a hard ride in the opening first string match against eighth seeds India.
Saurav Ghosal twice drew level with England’s seasoned campaigner Nick Matthew and, in the decider, was only points away from his first ever win over the former world number one.
When the two players clashed at match ball in the fifth, the referee awarded a let – which Matthew questioned, requesting a ‘video review’. The video review official overruled the decision and awarded the Englishman a stroke, thus putting England ahead 11-6, 6-11, 11-7, 10-12, 11-9 after 76 minutes.
It was Matthew’s second five-game battle in a row after the 37-year-old staged a mighty recovery from two games down in the last 16 round to beat Swiss number one Nicolas Müller.
RESULTS: WSF Men’s World Team Squash Championship, Marseille, France (team seedings in brackets):
 EGYPT bt  SCOTLAND 3/0
Karim Abdel Gawad bt Alan Clyne 12-10, 11-6, 11-6 (34m)
Ramy Ashour bt Kevin Moran 11-5, 11-9, 11-4 (24m)
Marwan Elshorbagy bt Greg Lobban 11-7, 11-8 (32m)
 HONG KONG CHINA bt  FRANCE 2/1
Max Lee lost to Gregory Gaultier 6-11, 5-11, 11-13 (45m)
Yip Tsz Fung bt Mathieu Castagnet 11-7, 7-11, 9-11, 11-2, 11-4 (67m)
Leo Au bt Gregoire Marche 11-6, 7-11, 11-8, 11-2 (57m)
 AUSTRALIA bt  NEW ZEALAND 2/1
Ryan Cuskelly lost to Paul Coll 8-11, 11-8, 6-11, 11-9, 9-11 (97m)
Zac Alexander bt Evan Williams 11-4, 11-6, 12-10 (35m)
Cameron Pilley bt Campbell Grayson 11-3, 11-8, 11-9 (49m)
 ENGLAND bt  INDIA 3/0
Nick Matthew bt Saurav Ghosal 11-6, 6-11, 11-7, 10-12, 11-9 (76m)
Daryl Selby bt Harinder Pal Singh Sandhu 11-2, 11-4, 11-2 (37m)
James Willstrop bt Vikram Malhotra 11-4, 9-11, 11-8 (26m)
9th – 16th place play-offs:
 MALAYSIA bt  FINLAND 2/1
Nafiizwan Adnan lost to Olli Tuominen 11-6, 12-14, 5-11, 3-11 (42m)
Addeen Idrakie bt Jami Äijänen 6-11, 11-4, 11-7, 11-7 (44m)
Eain Yow Ng bt Miko Äijänen 11-7, 11-4, 11-8 (31m)
 USA bt  WALES 2/1
Todd Harrity bt Joel Makin 9-11, 12-10, 9-11, 11-8, 11-9 (65m)
Chris Hanson bt Emyr Evans 9-11, 11-4, 11-3, 11-7 (46m)
Christopher Gordon lost to Peter Creed 11-8, 8-11, ret. (16m)
 SPAIN bt  CANADA 2/0
Iker Pajares Bernabeu bt Nick Sachvie 11-8, 7-11, 12-10, 11-5 (72m)
Bernat Jaume bt Michael McCue 11-9, 11-8, 4-11, 11-6 (53m)
 GERMANY bt  SWITZERLAND 2/0
Simon Rösner bt Nicolas Müller 14-12, 11-7, 11-7 (40m)
Valentin Rapp bt Reiko Peter 12-14, 12-10, 10-12, 11-9, 11-6 (86m)
17th – 24th place play-offs:
 PAKISTAN bt  AUSTRIA 2/1
Farhan Zaman lost to Aqeel Rehman 11-7, 5-11, 11-13, 7-11 (39m)
Asim Khan bt Paul Mairinger 11-3, 11-5, 11-4 (27m)
Shahjahan Khan bt Jakob Dirnberger 11-8, 11-7, 11-9 (37m)
 SOUTH AFRICA bt  CZECH REPUBLIC 2/1
Christo Potgieter lost to Daniel Mekbib 11-8, 3-11, 9-11, 11-9, 8-11 (65m)
Gary Wheadon bt Ondrej Uherka 11-7, 11-2, 11-3 (33m)
Rodney Durbach bt Martin Svec 6-11, 11-8, 11-7, 5-11, 13-11 (55m)
 IRELAND bt  IRAQ 2/1
Arthur Gaskin bt Mohammed Hasan 11-8, 11-6, 13-11 (36m)
Sean Conroy bt Rasool Alsultani 14-12, 11-7, 11-3 (34m)
Brian Byrne lost to Hasanain Dakheel 11-9, 10-12, 4-11 (32m)
 ARGENTINA bt  JAMAICA 2/1
Leandro Romiglio lost to Christopher Binnie 9-11, 4-11, 11-8, 8-11 (53m)
Rodrigo Obregon bt Bruce Burrowes 11-3, 11-3, 11-7 (25m)
Robertino Pezzota bt Lewis Walters 11-7, 7-11, 11-3, 7-11, 11-3 (53m)