Willstrop pushes world number 1

Pontefract Squash Club's James Willstrop
Pontefract Squash Club's James Willstrop

PONTEFRACT Squash Club star James Willstrop pushed world number one Nick Matthew all the way before losing a brutal US Open semi-final.

Willstrop showed he was back to his best in Philadelphia in a world-class clash with Matthew that lasted 86 minutes.

The pair have played several similar matches, notably at the 2010 Canary Wharf Classic when Matthew won on a tie-break in the fifth after more than two hours of play, and in the final of the 2009 British Open, which also ended in a tie-break in the fifth.

In reaching the semi-final, Willstrop beat a succession of English players.

Alister Walker, now resident in America, was defeated 3-0 as was world number 11 Daryl Selby.

Willstrop then triumphed 3-1 over world number seven Peter Barker to book his place in the semi-final, which took so much out of Matthew that he was unable to resist Egypt’s Amr Shabana in the final.

The World Tour now moves to Doha for the prestigious Qatar Classic, which Willstrop won in 2004.

This is the last tournament before the World Championships in Rotterdam at the end of the month, the draw for which will be made this week.

Vanessa Atkinson, who lived in and represented Holland all her professional life before moving to Leeds, will be the presenter at the World Championships.

Although no longer active on the World tour, she still features regularly in Pontefract’s National League and Yorkshire League teams.

Pontefract’s first Yorkshire League Premier side suffered their first defeat of the season, losing narrowly to Queen’s Halifax.

Atkinson and Simon Gittins celebrated victories but Neil Cordell and Alex Hodgetts both lost in the fifth game, Hodgetts having been 2-0 up.

Cordell again played well in defeat to Eddy Charlton, who plays on the world tour.

Currently based in Nottingham, Charlton and his girlfriend, England international Emma Beddoes, may soon be relocating to Leeds, so are likely to be seen training at Pontefract in future.

Harinder Pal Sandhu, the Indian number three, is due to return to Pontefract having spent two years at the club previously.

That will mean India’s top three players will all be based at Pontefract.

The National League season begins this week but Courtcraft Pontefract’s first match is an away fixture at Oxford in a fortnight’s time.

Pontefract have a strong squad but much will depend on the availability of its leading players.

This was proved last season when a full-strength team went unbeaten.

Pontefract Squash Club members would like to congratulate Rob Burrow on his performance in the Super League XVI Grand Final and on his deserved man of the match award.

He and his wife have a physiotherapy practice based at the club.