Willstrop beats the the world’s best

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PONTEFRACT’S James Willstrop won one of the longest running and most prestigious squash championships in the world when he beat the world’s best in the Hong Kong Cathay Pacific Open.

Remarkably, despite the presence of all the leading players except for the injured Ramy Ashour, Willstrop did not concede a game to anyone.

Willstrop (pictured) beat Jonathan Kemp (England), Olli Tuominen (Finland), Peter Barker (England), Gregory Gaultier (France), who put out world number one Nick Matthew, and in the final Karim Darwish (Egypt), all 3-0.

Since he and his father enjoy a close and long standing relationship with James Barrington, Cathay Pacific top executive, the win was all the more pleasing.

Having reached seven finals last season including the Commonwealth and World Championships and the final of the Qatar Classic recently, winning in Hong Kong was a fitting reward for Willstrop’s consistency. Three hours after the final he was in the air on his way to Kuwait for the Kuwait Cup, no doubt wondering how the modern day footballer copes with two matches a week and travelling to Europe.

There he has a prospective meeting with Matthew in the semi final.

One of the problems for top players is backing up a win, since there is no recovery time, mentally or physically.

Willstrop’s first round match is today (Thursday).

The recent World Championships in Rotterdam, where Willstrop lost in the semi final, were wonderfully staged in the Luxor Theatre with sell out crowds of 1,500.

Pontefract’s Vanessa Atkinson, making her debut as a squash presenter, was hailed by everyone as a great success. Her easy manner and knowledge of the game as a former world number and world champion stood her in good stead and her performance was greeted with much approval.

Domestically the strength of the club was well illustrated when, by a quirk of the computer, all four of Pontefract’s Yorkshire League teams were called out on one night, requiring 20 players of high standard.

Add to that tthat there were 12 regulars unavailable, as well as the club’s professionals.

However, although none of the four teams won, all four matches were played and there were some fine individual performances. Ben Hodgetts of the third-team won 21-19 in the fifth after a massive fifth game tiebreak. The improving Dominic Pegg won for the fourth team and under 17 international Tamindar Gata-Aura only lost 3-2 to national coach and long time Pontefract player David Campion.

A Pontefract-dominated Yorkshire men’s team, including Neil Cordell, Sam Wileman, Alex Hodgetts and Adam Taylor, beat Northumberland 5-0, Durham and Cleveland 4-1 and Lancashire 5-0.

Add to that that the other two players Lawrence Delasaux and James Earles were both Pontefract players, Delasaux for two years and Earles for eight.

To cap a successful time for Pontefract eight year old Sam Todd, by far the most promising of the club’s junior talent, won the Manchester under 11 Open after, during the week, winning his first senior match in the Leeds Metro League 3-2 after an hour’s play. Todd is already ranked three in the country at under 11 with the two ahead of him due to leave the age group soon. He promises to follow in the footsteps of Willstrop and Lee Beachill.