Willstrop loses magnificent semi-final in Doha

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PONTEFRACT Squash Club’s James Willstrop, who has held the world number one ranking for almost a year, will lose it on January 1.

It is principally because the Kuwait Cup will be held in the New Year rather than in 2012 which means Willstrop (pictured) loses points which are irreplaceable.

Even winning the recent World Championship in Doha, Qatar, would not have helped and in the event he went out after a truly magnificent 118 minute semi final to Egyptian Mohammed El Shorbagy.

In the first round of a 64-player draw, Willstrop beat Chris Ryder (England) 3-1 and then demolished Canadian Shaun Delierre 3-0 in the second round before he faced Pontefract clubmate Saurav Ghosal in the last 16.

Indian number one Ghosal played very well in the first two games but Willstrop went 2-0 up and won the third comfortably.

The quarterfinals saw Willstrop take on Spanish number oner Borja Golan who had beaten sixth seed Peter Barker. Golan is physically strong and he battled hard without threatening to win and Willstrop won 3-0 in an hour.

In the semi final, a loud and partisan crowd were not to be disappointed either by the supreme quality or physicality of the match. Only the fourth game, which Willstrop won easily, was not closely contested. El Shorbagy took the first before Willstrop levelled after a quite sensational rally.

Urged on by the crowd, Shorbagy won the third but when Willstrop took the fourth 11-4 he looked the probable winner.

Leading 4-1, 6-3 and 7-5 in the deciding game, he was unable to press on, as Shorbagy, reinvigorated by the crowd, found extra and clinched matters 11-8. It was a match that had everything and will be long remembered by those present and by those who watched it live on television.

Disappointed Willstrop may have been in the result, he cannot be disappointed by the performance in a match in which he scored more points than his opponent.

Ghosal beat young Qatari wildcard Abdulla al Tamini 3-0 and then the Egyptian Karim Gawad who had beaten 14th seed Tom Richards. Ghosal was 2-0 up and 6-1 in the third when his opponent retired injured. Reaching the last 16 is the best ever performance by an Indian player and takes Ghosal into the top 20 for the first time.

There is little rest for Willstrop. He goes immediately to Lausanne to make a presentation to the IOC for the inclusion of squash in the Olympic Games and then the World Series for the world’s top eight players begins on January 2 at Queen’s Club in London, with the Tournament of Champions played in the spectacular setting of Grand Central Station, New York, following soon after.