Willstrop aims to continue great run

Pontefract Squash Club's James Willstrop.
Pontefract Squash Club's James Willstrop.

PONTEFRACT Squash Club’s James Willstrop will be aiming to maintain his recent superb form in the five-day World Series Finals at the prestigious Queen’s Club in West London which start next Wednesday.

The 28-year-old (pictured) finished 2011 in sensational style when he completed a hat-trick of World Series titles by winning the Punji Lloyd PSA Masters tournament in New Delhi, India.

Delhi continued Willstrop’s love affair with India which began in Chennai in 2002 when he became World Junior champion. It was from Chennai that Pontefract Squash club long association with Indian players began

Willstrop has now won 15 matches and three major titles in a row after his recent World Series victories in the Hong Kong Open and Kuwait Cup.

Until last month he had gone without a tournament win since January, 2010, but he has now won three in quick succession.

He takes over as new world number one on January 1 from fellow Yorkshireman Nick Matthew.

Willstrop has also leap-frogged Matthew to the top of the World Series standings ahead of next week’s finals which will feature the eight top players in the world.

Willstrop is in group one for the finals with Malaysian Azlan Iskandar and Egyptian pair Ramy Ashour and Karim Darwish.

England pair Matthew and Peter Barker, Frenchman Greg Gaultier and Amr Shabana (Egypt) are in group two.

Willstrop’s first match is against Darwish next Wednesday (6.45pm start).

The following day he takes on Ashour (6.45pm start).

On Friday, January 6, Willstrop faces Iskandar in the final group match.

The next day, the winner of group one and the runner in group two meet in the first men’s semi-final. It will be followed by the second semi between the group one runner up and the group two winner.

The final is on Sunday, January 8.

The semi-finals and final will be televised live by Sky Sports.

After Queen’s Willstrop goes to New York for the glamorous and prestigious Tournament of Champions played on Grand Central Station.

He won the title in 2010, beating Ramy Ashour in the final.Their matches there have captivated the New York crowds in recent times and they could meet again in the semi finals.

This week at the Pontefract club, the Junior Open, masterminded by Terry Dudley, will be the focus of attention.

Former Pontefract player and now Malaysian national coach Andrew Cross has brought a group of Malaysian players and there will be heavy competition for the titles from under 13 to under 19.

The finals will be played tomorrow (Friday).

Pontefract’s trio of junior internationals Katie Smith, Taminder Gata-Aura and Jack Cooper will be the best of the home challengers.