Willstrop bows out in World Series semi-finals

James Willstrop (front) and Nick Matthew in the final of the British Open Squash Championships.
James Willstrop (front) and Nick Matthew in the final of the British Open Squash Championships.

THE World Squash Series at London’s famous Queen’s Club features the top eight players in the world, based on 2010’s Super Series events in which Pontefract’s James Willstrop (pictured) ended up in third spot.

Willstrop’s third place finish put him in one of the two round robins with Ramy Ashour (Egypt), Thierry Lincou (France) and Alister Walker (England).

In his first match Willstrop beat Walker 2-0 but not before he had recovered from 10-4 down in the first.

On the second night he faced Ashour in a match that looked likely to decide the group.

Spectacular movement and remarkable shot-making were a feature of an outstanding contest and it was Willstrop who prevailed 11-9 in the third game.

To top his group Willstrop only needed to win one game off Lincou but eager to stay unbeaten he saw off the experienced former world number one and world champion 2-0.

Meanwhile, in the other group, the legendary Egyptian Amr Shabana came through unbeaten, winning an outstanding match against world number one Nick Matthew 15-13 in the third.

The resulting semi-final line up was the all-English contest of Matthew versus Willstrop and an all-Egyptian clash of Shabana versus Ashour, a mouth watering pair of matches.

After his earlier performances Willstrop was strangely subdued in his semi final, looking uncomfortable from the beginning, and although he managed to lead 7-5 in the third of the now five set matches at no time did he look likely to make the final. He eventually lost 11/4, 11/6, 11/8.

Shabana beat Ashour, who seemed unsure about his hamstring problems, 3-0 in the second semi final, so neither match lived up to the high expectations.

Unfortunately high winds caused difficulties with the tented cube in which the court was set and it proved impossible to play the finals, a massive disappointment to everyone concerned, since it was generally agreed that it was the best presented squash tournament ever.

The world tour now moves to New York for the Tournament of Champions played on the famous Grand Central Station, which Willstrop won in sensational fashion last year.

He is seeded three this time and scheduled to meet Ashour in the semi-final. The Egyptian is back in Pontefract for further treatment on his troublesome hamstring.

Pontefract’s Saurav Ghosal is also in New York, as is the club’s Vanessa Atkinson, who plays a WISPA event at the same time as the Tournament of Champions.

Pontefract’s Yorkshire League first team resumes with a home fixture against Queen’s (Halifax) this week.

The seond team beat Division One leaders Phoenix 4-1 and the third team defeated AF Squash 3-2 in their first matches since Christmas.

The British Championships will be held in Manchestester early next month when there is every possibility of yet another meeting of Willstrop and Matthew in an event that features four players in the world’s top ten including the world number one.

The women’s event is almost as strong with world number two Jenny Duncalf, world number three Alison Waters and world top ten player Laura Massaro in the draw.