By ANDREW PILLING – Squash Mad Correspondent
Defending British Nationals champions Sarah-Jane Perry and James Willstrop are through to the quarter-finals of this year’s event, after both taking wins on the opening day at Manchester’s National Squash Centre.
The English duo both came through their first round contests on Tuesday to book their last eight spots, defeating England’s Jasmin Kalar and Miles Jenkins, respectively, on the glass court.
Perry, a two-time British Nationals champion, having won the event in 2015 and 2020, needed just 18 minutes to win her opening match in Manchester, getting the better of World No.219 Jasmin Kalar.
The World No.6, who defeated England’s Jasmine Hutton in the final of this event last year, will now face another compatriot, in Rachael Chadwick, in the quarter-finals tomorrow.
“I am one of the more experienced players in the draw,” said Perry following her win.
“I have to try and use that to my advantage in every round. There’s a lot of players nipping at the heels of the more experienced players, which is good for British squash. I’ve just got to try and keep them all at bay, we’ve not actually played before, but I’ve seen her name in a few tournaments recently and she has been doing alright in those.
“I didn’t want to come out here and not give her respect, because she definitely deserves that. I thought she did well and took the game to me – I love to see that in the younger players.
“I think one of the parts of that experience is playing on glass courts and it can be a daunting thing to walk on here. I think for those younger players they seem to have that sorted, they’re a step ahead of where I was.”
Four-time British Nationals champion James Willstrop was the only member of the top two seeds to drop a game in his opening contest of the week, as he fought from behind to defeat compatriot Miles Jenkins to advance to the last eight.
Willstrop, who won the event in 2007, 2008, 2019 and 2020, lost the first game 11-8, but battled back to take the next three, booking his place in the quarter-finals where he will face George Parker on Wednesday evening.
“He’s been playing for a month in a lot of tournaments, he’s really sharp at the moment and I haven’t had as many match sharpeners as he has, so I was mentally ready for it but he didn’t give me any chances,” said Willstrop afterwards.
“We just had to keep rallying down the backhand side, not the most entertaining maybe but the accuracy was great down the left wall. I just couldn’t find the chances to get in, I wanted to but I couldn’t get there and it was credit to the build-up and length play of him, he made it very tough.
“There was a lot of good changes of pace and things, but it was down the left wall and sometimes you have to stick with it and things start to happen in the middle of games. I’ve done it enough times and I know how these things pan out, so I use my experience to try and help that along.
“It the young players’ time very soon, maybe even now. I’ve just been lucky with COVID keeping the old dogs in it, that’s probably favoured us because the young guys haven’t had chance to build up the points. I’ll take it and if I can keep playing like that against someone of that calibre then I’ll take it.”
Men’s top seed Joel Makin produced a Makin-like performance to get the better of Scotland’s Rory Stewart, with their three-game battle lasting over 50 minutes, as the Welshman made the mach attritional from the get-go.
The World No.10 made the final of the tournament last year, where he lost out to reigning champion James Willstrop in a high-quality four-game battle. He will be hoping to go one better this time round, and he started in the perfect fashion.
Compatriot, and two-time champion Tesni Evans, who won the event in 2018 and 2019, also safely made her way into the quarter-finals, thanks to a convincing performance against England’s Saran Nghiem, who was making her debut at the British National Championships.
The young Englishwoman had only played eight matches on the PSA World Tour prior to this tournament in Manchester, and Evans used her greater experience to take a 3-0 victory over the 17-year-old. She will now face last year’s runner-up Jasmine Hutton in the last eight.
Hutton got the better of Wales’ Ali Loke to make it into the quarter-finals, and elsewhere, there were wins for No.3 seed Emily Whitlock and No.4 seed Lucy Turmel, along with Georgina Kennedy, who continued her great form with a victory over Scotland’s Lisa Aitken.
The quarter-finals of the 2021 British National Championships take place today (Wednesday, August 4) with play starting at 12 noon. Action from the glass court inside Manchester’s National Squash Centre will be broadcast live on SQUASHTV and the official Facebook pages of the PSA World Tour and England Squash.
British National Championships 2021, Manchester, England.
Men’s First Round Results:
 Joel Makin (WAL) bt Rory Stewart (SCO) 3-0: 11-4, 11-8, 11-7 (51m)
Nathan Lake (ENG) bt Richie Fallows (ENG) 3-0: 11-9, 11-5, 12-10 (35m)
Declan James (ENG) bt Sean Conroy (IRL) 3-0: 11-9, 11-7, 11-4 (42m)
 Greg Lobban (SCO) bt Sam Todd (ENG) 3-2: 11-8, 4-11, 11-8, 8-11, 11-3 (61m)
 Adrian Waller (ENG) bt Connor Sheen (ENG) 3-0: 12-10, 11-6, 11-6 (33m)
Patrick Rooney (ENG) bt Emyr Evans (WAL) 3-1: 11-4, 9-11, 11-2, 11-7 (47m)
George Parker (ENG) bt Ben Coleman (ENG) 3-1: 11-4, 7-11, 11-2, 11-6 (62m)
 James Willstrop (ENG) bt Miles Jenkins (ENG) 3-1: 8-11, 11-5, 11-2, 11-7 (52m)
Men’s Quarter-Final Draw:
 Joel Makin (WAL) v Nathan Lake (ENG)
Declan James (ENG) v  Greg Lobban (SCO)
 Adrian Waller (ENG) v Patrick Rooney (ENG)
George Parker (ENG) v  James Willstrop (ENG)
Women’s First Round Results:
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt Jasmin Kalar (ENG) 3-0: 11-6, 11-4, 11-4 (18m)
Rachael Chadwick (ENG) bt Nia Davies (WAL) 3-0: 11-4, 11-9, 11-2 (20m)
Alicia Mead (ENG) bt Anna Kimberley (ENG) 3-2: 11-9, 6-11, 7-11, 6-4 rtd (43m)
 Emily Whitlock (WAL) bt Margot Prow (ENG) 3-0: 11-4, 11-1, 11-3 (21m)
 Lucy Turmel (ENG) bt Katie Malliff (ENG) 3-0: 18-16, 11-8, 11-6 (46m)
Georgina Kennedy (ENG) bt Lisa Aitken (SCO) 3-0: 13-11, 11-8, 11-4 (41m)
Jasmine Hutton (ENG) bt Ali Loke (WAL) 3-0: 11-4, 11-3, 11-8 (25m)
 Tesni Evans (WAL) bt Saran Nghiem (ENG) 3-0: 11-3, 11-5, 11-5 (22m)
Women’s Quarter-Final Draw:
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) v Rachael Chadwick (ENG)
Alicia Mead (ENG) v  Emily Whitlock (WAL)
 Lucy Turmel (ENG) v Georgina Kennedy (ENG)
Jasmine Hutton (ENG) v  Tesni Evans (WAL)
Pictures courtesy of England Squash