Pontefract ace beaten in classic final

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Pontefract Squash Club’s James Willstrop lost in the semi-finals of the Tournament of Champions but not before he and Ramy Ashour had produced yet another classic.

Squash enthusiasts still talk about their 2012 British Open semi final at the 02 Arena and they have played some outstanding matches at the Tournament of Champions on Grand Central Station, New York, in previous years.

Willstrop (pictured) had beaten Miguel Rodriguez (Columbia) 3-0, Tarek Momen (Egypt) 3-1 and Steve Coppinger (South Africa) 3-0 to reach the semi finals and he won the first game impressively against Ashour.

The second was close and after Willstrop had led 7-4 Ashour pulled it back to level at 1-1.

The often crucial third game produced spectacular rallies, much to the delight of the capacity New York crowd and Ashour took a 2-1 lead, 11-9.

The match continued at the highest world levels and Willstrop saved a match ball after an incredible rally to level at 2-2 by winning 12-10.

It was the Egyptian, though, who won the fifth, Willstrop unable to sustain his trademark rhythm.

Ashour went on to win the tournament, beating Frenchman, Gregory Gaultier in the final.

Willstrop returns to Pontefract to prepare for the British Closed Championship in Manchester beginning on February 11 and the North American Open, which he won last year, immediately after.

Katie Smith made it a Pontefract double when adding to Adam Taylor’s success in the Yorkshire Men’s Championship by beating Nicky Pratt (York) in the final of the Women’s Championship. She goes to Finland early in February for a WSA event.

Talented Pontefract juniors not only excel at squash. Jessica Beachill has represented England in the show jumping arena, Eve Perrin plays cricket for Yorkshire and younger brother Sam finished third in the English Karate Federation Championships at Pond’s Forge Sheffield out of a field of 64 at under 11. He won four bouts before losing to the eventual winner in the semi final.

Pontefract’s Yorkshire League Premier team beat Heaton 5-0 but several of the week’s matches were postponed because of bad weather.

The National League team go to Duffield next Tuesday when the highlight could be a meeting between Willstrop and Nick Matthew, world numbers two and three, and likely finalists in the forthcoming British Championships.