Court problems result in sad ending to tournament

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PONTEFRACT Squash Club’s James Willstrop (pictured) reached his seventh consecutive PSA final, which includes four wins, when he made the final of the El Gouna International in Egypt.

He beat promising Swiss number one Nicolas Mueller 3-0 in the first round and clubmate and Indian number one Saurav Ghosal 3-0 in the second.

In the quarterfinals, he faced Dutch number one Laurens Anjema who is well known for his strength and durability. Although Anjema won the fist game narrowly, Willstrop had put him through a lot of work.

The world number one took the second game 11-2 and although the Dutchman continued to resist, Willstrop won convincingly 3-1.

The semi final was against title holder Karim Darwish (Egypt) and when Willstrop led 1-0, Darwish slipped on a court which had caused problems all week.

The match was moved to an indoor court and Willstrop won comfortably 3-0.

Meanwhile in the other half of the draw Ramy Ashour had progressed to the final, beating Gregory Gaultier (France) 3-0 and Nick Matthew 3-1.

The court unfortunately was a problem in the final and those difficulties increased as the match went on.

The first game, while the court held up, was brilliant. Both players played remarkable squash as they so often do against each other.

Ashour edged it but as conditions worsened, there were more stoppages.

Willstrop, who is six feet, four inches tall, was clearly ill at ease and early in the third game he decided that enough was enough and conceded the match, understandably reluctant to risk serious injury.

It was a sad ending to the tournament and a pity that a match that offered so much could not be played out.

It’s good for the sport, though, that Ramy Ashour is back after injury. He is a major attraction with his unique creativity.

The final major engagement of the 2011-2012 season is the Allam British Open at the 02 arena in London next month.

Willstrop is seeded one in a championship in which he has been runner up three times. He is seeded to meet Ashour in the semi final.

Before that he will lead England in defence of their European Team Championship in Germany where France are the likely main opposition.

In the last Yorkshire League match of the season, Pontefract third team, who have enjoyed a successful season, beat Queen’s (Halifax) second team 4-1.

James Fender, Deon Saffery, Ben Hodgetts and Ian Bateman 18-16 in the fifth, won in a well contested match.

Sam Todd, aged nine, is showing exceptional promise and seven-year-old Layla Johnson is beginning to look a young player of potential too.

Already a tournament player at under 11 level, she plays this weekend in the Huddersfield Under 11 Open.

Wakefield Wildcats became the latest RL Super League team to visit the club for a morning’s squash as a break from their normal routine.

Wildcats coach Richard Agar is a squash enthusiast and useful player and several of his players looked promising if they were to play often enough.

Their next fixture is at home to Salford so it will be interesting to see if their squash venture pays dividends. Kirsty McPhee, Sam Wileman and Ben Hodgetts provided the coaching expertise and 12 -year-old Eliot Ridge put the Wakefield coach through his paces.