Willstrop beaten in Grand Prix final

James Willstrop reached the final in Manchester. Picture: Steve Line/SquashPics.com
James Willstrop reached the final in Manchester. Picture: Steve Line/SquashPics.com

Pontefract Squash Club’s James Willstrop continued his excellent run of form when he reached the final of the AJ Bell British Grand Prix at Manchester Sports City.

In the first round he beat the best of England’s younger players Declan James 3-0.

It set up a quarter final against in-form Cameron Pilley, the Austalian number one.

The two tallest players on the world tour produced a classic exhibition of racket control before Willstrop prevailed 3-1.

Willstrop’s semi final was against top-seeded world number three Gregory Gaultier.

At 2-0 down things did not look good for the Pontefract player.

However, he fought back to win the third game 11-8 and looking more and more in control he levelled the match at 2-2.

He always led in the fifth and deciding game and won the match 11-5 to the delight of the Manchester crowd.

The final, played in the presence of the legendary Jahangir Khan, brought together two former world number ones and two Yorkshiremen in Willstrop and Sheffield’s Nick Matthew.

Their last major confrontation, among many, was the Glasgow Commonwealth Games which Matthew won 3-2.

It was he who took the first game 11-7 and he led 5-1 in the second before Willstrop recovered to 8-8.

Although Willstrop had a game ball it was Mathew took a 2-0 lead, winning the game on a tie break 12-10.

He quickly went went clear in the third, fortified by the 2-0 lead, and although Willstrop continued to resist Matthew ran out a worthy winner.

Willstrop goes this week to St George’s Hill, Surrey, for another major world tour event which has world number one Mohammed El Shorbagy (Egypt) seeded one. Willstrop meets a qualifier in the first round with a prospective second round meeting with second seeded Omar Mosaad (Egypt).

There is little rest for the world’s top professionals as the famous Tournament of Champions played on Grand Central Station, New York, takes place early in January.

Next Tuesday evening Pontefract play their final Premier League match of the first half of the season against Leicester at their home venue at the Stuart Road club.

Led by Willstrop and world number three Laura Massaro Pontefract will be at full strength but they will face a strong challenge from a Leicester side which incudes the Malaysian and Scottish number ones and has England international Daryl Selby as the top string player.