Willstrop defeats strong field to win inaugural men’s China Open

Sam Todd was among the trophy winners at the Lesley Willstrop memorial doubles tournament.
Sam Todd was among the trophy winners at the Lesley Willstrop memorial doubles tournament.

Pontefract Squash Club’s James Willstrop won the inaugural men’s China Open, beating a strong international field in Shanghai.

The venue was as spectacular as any in the world with the glass court situated on the 11th floor of the Peninsula Hotel, a hotel of world standards. Film star Clive Owen was staying there during the championship.

The women’s event has been in existence for three years, but this first men’s championship attracted Borja Golan, the Spanish number one, Laurens Anjema, the Dutch number one, and two other top ten players, besides Willstrop, Daryl Selby and Peter Barker.

Willstrop beat China’s number one Wang Junjie 3-0 in the first round and Egypt’s Marwan el Shorbagy in the second.

In the semi-final he faced world number 12 Omar Mosaad (Egypt) and gave a first class tactical display to win convincingly 3-1.

Meanwhile, Barker had advanced to the final with three impressive 3-0 wins over Max Lee, the Hong Kong number one,Karim Abdel Gawad (Egypt) and Anjema who had put out second seed Golan.

In the final, Willstrop controllled the first game, winning it 11-7 and led 5-3 in the second, before Barker,attacking well, levelled at 1-1 and then led 2-1.

At 5-1 in the fifth, he threatened to win the match but Willstrop had been making him work hard and he began to tire.

Willstrop recovered tenaciously, winning the fourth on a tiebreak 12-10.

From then on he never looked like losing as Barker struggled to maintain his efforts and Willstrop took the title 11-5 after 88 quality minutes. He will now undergo surgery on atroublesome hip and expects to return to action late in the year.

The women’s final was won by Low Wee Wern (Malaysia) who beat Camille Serme (France), the top seed, after a monumental 102 minutes.

Last weekend’s Lesley Willstrop memorial doubles tournament encapsulated all that is good about Pontefract Squash Club, arguably the best-known squash club in the world.

The three events, men’s, women’s and mixed, saw combinations of young and old, adept and inept and despite the quality of many of the participants all the matches were played in the best of spirits.

Finals night saw recent China Open winnerJames Willstrop, National coach David Campion, Lesley’s sons, former world number one Vanessa Atkinson, former world number three Simon Parke and England international Sarah Kippax in attendance.

Involved in the finals were age group internationals Andrea Santamaria and Nicky Horn as well as junior internationals Jack Cooper, Sam Todd and Elliott Ridge.

There was the usual York contingent led by Rod Erridge and they featured in the finals.

Willstrop and Campion presented the prizes and Stafford Murray and Paul Farr provided top class live music to round off a memorable tournament, ably assisted by Alan Norrish, king of Elvis impersonators, Rob Jepson and youngster Polly Clarke.

Parke and Ridge beat Cooper and Tom Bamford in the men’s final,Santamaria and Bamford teamed up to win the mixed and Santamaria made it a double with Katie Smith in the women’s championship.

Jackie Anderson won two plate finals, women’s and mixed, and 11 year olds Todd and Ben Beachill, adept, easily put paid to inept Todd senior and Ian Thompson in a classy display.

RESULTS - Men’s: Simon Parke and Elliott Ridge beat Tom Bamford and Jack Cooper 2-0. Women’s: Katie Smith and Andrea Santamaria beat Nicky Horn and Marie Elcock 2-0.Mixed:Bamford and Santamaria beat Anthony Baines and Horn 2-1. Plates - Men’s: Sam Todd and Ben Beachill beat Mick Todd and Ian Thompson 2-0. Mixed: Jim Pugh and Jackie Anderson beat Dave Perry and Laura Longfield 2-0. Women’s: Jen Dale and Jackie Anderson beat Layla and Masuma Johnson 2-0