PONTEFRACT squash star James Willstrop lost in the semi-finals of the ISS Canary Wharf Classic at the spectacular East Wintergarden.
The tournament brought to a close what has been an arduous seven months for the world’s leading players.
Willstrop won the inaugural event in 2004 and he has won it twice subsequently but in urgent need of a rest he went out this time in the semi-finals to world number seven Peter Barker.
The pair fought out the final of the world under 19 final in 2002 and met many times as juniors. This was their 13th meeting on the world tour and it was Barker’s first ever win so it was a notable occasion for him.
Willstrop beat promising youngster Charles Sharpes 3-0 and Joey Barrington 3-0 to reach the semi-finals and despite losing to Barker played well in a 77 minute match of high quality.
Willstrop was in control for much of the time but unable to impose himself.
He now has a two month rest and will resume training in June for the Australian Open in August.
During the rest period he will be undertaking a charity bike ride on behalf of the children’s charity Candlelight.
Pontefract Courtcraft, the club’s National League team, will play its final match of the season at Duffield on the back of a four match winning sequence without Willstrop and Saurav Ghosal but Simon Parke and Lee Beachill are both available.
In the National Club championships, Pontefract’s women’s team progressed by beating Edgbaston Priory 5-0. The men’s team take on Hallamshire at Pontefract this week, hoping to emulate them.
Several Yorkshire League fixtures remain but a depleted Pontefract first team went down to strong Heaton side 5-0 in their final match.
Pontefract’s Vanessa Atkinson, who will be retiring from the world women’s tour at the end of the season after a career which saw her win the world championship and become world number one among many other successes, is playing in the Atwater Cup in Montreal. Seeded one she will face stern oppositon from New Zealand’s Commonwealth gold medalists Joelle King and Jackie Hawkes.
Hawkes lives in Leeds and often practises at Pontefract.