Jenny Clarke's face says it all before she gallantly bowed out of the Women's Golf Croquet World Championship semifinal yesterday.Photos/Paul Taylor
Gallant Kiwi can't stop all-Egyptian final
Day 7, World Cup
Women, golf croquet
Hastings
Soha Mostafa shows her class.

Jenny Clarke doesn't think so but if the expression on the face of the New Zealander in the photograph is anything to go by it's fair to say she was carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders today.

Clarke, the only competitor from the rest of the world left standing in the semifinals of the Women's Golf Croquet World Championship in Hastings, could not prevent the sixth edition turning into an all-Egyptian affair tomorrow.

"It's the first competitive match I've really had in this tournament, really," said the 46-year-old from Christchurch with a wry smile, after she found herself two matches down before clawing her way back to level 2-2 before losing 3-2 (3-7, 4-7, 7-6, 7-4, 6-7) to Soha Mostafa at the Heretaunga Croquet Club in Havelock North.

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Clarke was pleased to claw her way back but felt she hadn't played as well as she had the entire week.

At the crux of that feeling was her regular mallet losing a component although a Nelson mallet maker, based at the tourney, had fixed it up for her.

"I didn't want top really change back to it [the regular mallet] again because I'd won the quarterfinal with the spare mallet," she explained, revealing she had persisted with the spare one for the first two games yesterday morning until things started to go awry so she switched back to the refurbished regular one but, agonisingly, it wasn't enough.

A jovial Clarke said the ultimate goal was to compete against the Egyptians, the best in the world, to gauge one's worth while revelling in the excitement of the eight-day Croquet Hawke's Bay-hosted championship which started with 54 hopefuls but that field has been whittled down to two — Mostafa v Manal Khoudeir.

That second semifinal was a reversal of the first one. Iman El Faransawi, a 54-year-old flight attendant with EgyptAir who won the women's world crown in Ireland, went up 2-0 (7-3, 7-6) before Khoudeir fought back.

The 48-year-old IT manager from south of Cairo levelled 2-2 (7-2, 7-6) before clinching the set 3-2 with a don't-argue 7-3 in the deciding fifth game.

Clarke played down her women's world No 1 ranking because she doesn't compete in as strong a field as the Egyptians.

"The Egyptian ladies play their Egyptian men so it's much harder for them to get higher rankings."

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The solution, the sports science lecturer from Canterbury University said, was to have more matches between the Egyptians and the rest of the world.

"I have been to Cairo once and it's just fabulous," she said. "They are really good hosts and the Egyptian crowd are so much more fun because they cheer loudly and when someone's got to play a crucial shot they are absolutely silent."

Clarke, who is under tutelage of husband Chris Clarke, said it would have been cool to claim her first crown but the winner of their semifinal was touted to be the "hot favourite" for the final.

Khoudeir might have something to say about that, of course.

"I think they'll agree," said Clarke, revealing the last time they competed at Mt Maunganui Mostafa was the firm favourite.

"The trouble is you can have a bad match and get knocked out early so for me getting this far was what I wanted," she said in chasing that elusive maiden women's world crown. She has been fourth, third and runner-up twice in previous world champs.

Chris Clarke said it was obviously a disappointing outcome because Clarke had established a world record 37 consecutive victories into the world champs.

"You've always got to look at the positives so she's comfortably improving and, eventually, she'll win from here," he said as she laughed.

Soha Mostafa, 29, of Cairo, is a picture of concentration as she considers her option before winning the semifinal today. Photo/Paul Taylor
Soha Mostafa, 29, of Cairo, is a picture of concentration as she considers her option before winning the semifinal today. Photo/Paul Taylor

In typical Islam fashion, Mostafa attributed her success to God's blessings and the undying support from her trainer, Khaled Younes.

"I'm ranked No 1 and it's been my dream to win the world champs for many years," said the 29-year-old human resources supervisor from Cairo who started playing when she was just 15 after watching her father, Mostafa Abdel Halim, play socially.

"I have beaten a great player and well-respected player in Jenny today," she said through her translator, team general practitioner Dr Ashraf Farah, of Melbourne. She thanked the fellow Egyptian players for their support as well as the president of the World Croquet Federation Amir Ramsis Naguib, of Cairo.

"Whatever the outcome the cup will go home and everyone in the team at home will still rejoice," Mostafa said of her final showdown against Khoudeir from 11am tomorrow.

Her entry into the golf croquet world - she has never played the association format - came on an elite platform where she found reinforcement in her prowess.

Mostafa, who used to run away from school to play the game but found backing from her father when he recognised her talent, had entered the Egyptian Women's Open in Cairo s a rookie teenager and walked off with the crown.

That gained her an automatic entry into the 2005 women's world champs, staged in her home capital, where she got a taste for it despite ending up in 16th place in the plate section.

Younes became aware of hew dexterity and tuition of Mostafa followed.

Mostafa also competed at the 2011 and 2014 world champs but failed to make the knockout playoffs.

"You know, I feel God didn't think it was the right time for me to win but he is probably thinking this is my best chance to win," she said through Farah, the two-time (1986-87) Egyptian Open champion in the days when no world champs existed before he emigrated to Australia in 1988.

Mostafa doesn't leave any stones unturned in her quest to be the best.

She said didn't think the match against Clarke was sewn up until she made the 13th hole of the fifth game today.

The Heretuanga Croquet Club faithful find a vantage point to watch the nail-biting semifinals at the Croquet Hawke's Bay headquarters in Hastings today. Photo/Paul Taylor
The Heretuanga Croquet Club faithful find a vantage point to watch the nail-biting semifinals at the Croquet Hawke's Bay headquarters in Hastings today. Photo/Paul Taylor

RESULTS

From day seven at the Heretaunga and Marewa clubs:

Key: Australia (Aus) Egypt (Eg) England (Eng) Ireland (Ire) Scotland (Sco) Spain (Sp) USA and NZ.

Knockout (quarterfinals): J Clarke (NZ) bt S Akash (Eg) 7-3, 7-2, 7-6.
Semifinals: S Mostafa (Eg) bt J Clarke (NZ) 7-3, 7-4, 6-7, 4-7,7-6; I El Faransawi (Eg) bt M Nabil (Eg) bt 7-3, 1-7, 7-6, 7-1.

Knockout Z: S Oukasha (Eg) bt A Mostafa (Eg) 4-7, 7-5, 7-5.

Bowl: E Ross (NZ) bt J Stevens (Eng) 7-4, 7-3; K Logan (Aus) bt M El Derdiri (Eg) 7-6, 7-4.

Plate: A Henry (NZ) bt B Elzaburu (Sp) 7-1; D Dixon (USA) bt P Anderton (NZ) 7-5; V Arney (Aus) bt K McLoughlin (Aus) 7-5; P Gonzalez de Aquilar (Sp) 7-1; J Pringle (Eng) bt G Trivett (Aus) 7-4; M Taylor (NZ) bt K Burt (Eng) 7-6; A Sharp (NZ) bt N Kelly (Ire) 7-3; P Young (NZ) bt P Anderton (NZ) 7-4; N Melksham (Aus) bt M Lewis (NZ) 7-6; R Newsham (Aus) bt S Roberts (NZ) 7-6; A Woodhouse (Aus) bt P Young (NZ) 7-5; P Gonzalez de Auilar (Sp) 7-3; S Cole (NZ) bt A Brookes (Eng) 7-5.

Plate playoff: A Woodhouse (Aus) bt A Brookes (Aus) 7-4, 7-5; P Young (NZ) bt S Roberts (NZ) 7-6, 7-4; A Woodhouse (Aus) 7-6, 7-6; K McLoughlin (Aus) bt R Newsham (Aus) 7-6, 7-4; V Arney (Aus) bt A Henry (NZ) 7-5, 7-3.