Tuesday, May 28, 2024

ESR: Waters reaches semi-finals on comeback mission

British National Squash Championships News

RESULTS: British National Championship, Manchester, England

Men’s quarter-finals (lower half of draw):
[3] Daryl Selby (Essex) bt [8] Adrian Waller (Herts) 11-1, 11-3, 11-13, 11-4 (50m)
[2] Nick Matthew (Yorks) bt [7] Chris Simpson (Hants) 12-10, 11-4, 11-4 (54m)

Women’s quarter-finals (top half of draw):
[7] Lauren Briggs (Essex) bt [Q] Laura Hill (Derbyshire) 12-10, 11-9, 11-2 (32m)
[8] Alison Waters (Middx) bt [4] Sarah Kippax (Cheshire) 11-5, 11-4, 11-8 (31m)

Waters Waltzes Into Nationals Semis

Former champion Alison Waters showed that she is back in contention for another women’s title when she upset Sarah Kippax, the fourth seed from Cheshire, in tonight’s quarter-finals of the British National Squash Championships at the National Squash Centre in Manchester.

Winner of the title in 2008 and 2010, Waters suffered an Achilles injury in the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India and, after failing to respond to treatment, underwent surgery in May last year. After a long period of rehabilitation – during which her world ranking plummeted from three to 44 – the 27-year-old from London is making her long-awaited comeback in Manchester.

Eighth seed Waters was on song from the outset and after 31 minutes wrapped up her 11-5, 11-4, 11-8 victory.

“I was a bit nervous to start with, but once I was into the knockup I was fine,” said the Londoner, now just one win away from her sixth final appearance since 2005.

“Sarah is a great athlete and will run everything down. But there was no pressure on me to do anything.

“I feel quite close to my best – the more I play the better I feel. And I’m relaxed.

“Thankfully my injury problems are now well and truly behind me – and if I’m down in a game, I just think of what I’ve been through.”

Kippax, the world No20 now based in Halifax, was disappointed at being lined up against her England team-mate at the last eight stage: “It was a bit of an unfortunate draw for me,” said the 28-year-old.

“She seems to be playing as well as ever and taking the ball early. She put me under a lot of pressure – it was hard to find her weaknesses.

“There are a few things I could have done better – but I certainly played better than I did last year.

“It’s hard to move onto the glass court from the other courts – and she’s really experienced on glass.

“But I’m happy that she’s back playing – and she’s playing as well as she’s ever done. She’s certainly in with a chance of the title.”

The evening’s second women’s quarter-final featured Lauren Briggs of Essex and Laura Hill from Derbyshire – both eager to make their semi-final debuts.

Hill, a qualifier, was marking her first appearance in the quarter-finals – a beneficiary of the mid-event withdrawal of favourite Jenny Duncalf, the world No2 from Harrogate.

Seventh seed Briggs opened up commanding leads in all three games – but had to contend with significant fightbacks by her lower-ranked opponent in the first and second before emerging victorious 12-10, 11-9, 11-2.

“You could say I’m a little bit pleased,” said Briggs, beaming from ear to ear. “I’m absolutely chuffed!

“Obviously with Jenny going out it’s a different scenario,” continued the 32-year-old from London. “The opportunity was there but you still have to win the match. I was surprisingly relaxed before I went on, but once I got to nine I started thinking I’d won the game already – crucial error – but I managed to rectify that in the third.

“I overheard someone saying that the more you play on this court the more you like it – that’s my third time and I really like it now!

“I haven’t played Alison for a few years – in fact I think the last time was on this court. I got a good hiding then so hopefully I can do better tomorrow.”

Defending champion Daryl Selby claimed his anticipated place in Saturday’s men’s semi-finals after a 50-minute battle with tall opponent Adrian Waller. The world No12 from Essex dropped a game before beating quarter-final first-timer Waller 11-1, 11-3, 11-13, 11-4.

Selby, who won the 2011 title against expectations after shocking world number one Nick Matthew in the final, was full of praise for his 22-year-old opponent.

“I train with Adrian a lot so I know he’s a good player,” said 29-year-old Selby. “You could see he was nervous to start with – I remember that, you can’t help it.

“It’s another good experience for him – he’s a good young player, he works hard and has a good attitude.

“I felt I played well in the first two games – but in the third he showed what he’s all about and he deserved that game.

“I played well in the fourth. But I’m a bit worried that I can’t seem to win 3/0!”

When asked what his last year has been like, Selby told the crowd: “It’s been a fantastic year being introduced as ‘British champion’.

“It would be nice to be able to say ‘double champion’, but it’s going to be tough.”

In the final match of the day, Yorkshire’s world number one Nick Matthew edged closer to his fifth final in a row when he beat Chris Simpson, the No7 seed from Guernsey, 12-10, 11-4, 11-4.

Simpson, the world No48 celebrating only his second appearance in the quarter-finals, led in the first two games – but the experienced 31-year-old from Sheffield was always able to raise his game to make up the deficit before recording his expected victory in 54 minutes.

“Chris played very well – the first game was incredibly tough,” said Matthew, who topped the world rankings throughout 2011.

“In fact, he reminded me of me – he’s very competitive, you can’t get rid of him!”

The seeding predicts an all-Yorkshire final between Matthew and world No2 James Willstrop – one which would be the first ever between the top two players in the world.

“Playing Chris reminded me that it’s not all about the rivalry between me and James – there is stiff competition before that.”

When asked about playing in the National Championships in Manchester, the three-time champion said: “There are not many world tour events put on as well as this – and you saw earlier how nervous Adrian Waller was, even though there are no ranking points at stake.

“That gives an idea of how important the event is,” concluded Matthew.

Simpson went into the match 2/0 down on previous meetings with Matthew – but agreed that this was his best performance: “I’m happy with the way I played, but I was a bit disappointed with the way I flagged a bit at the end,” said the Harrogate-based 24-year-old.

“But it’s hard against him – he’s just relentless. If you switch off for one second, the game goes.”

Were lessons learnt from the match? “Every time you go on court with Nick you pick up something – but often you don’t realise until the next time you play him.

“But perhaps the biggest thing I learnt tonight is that I can contain him. But then he comes back!”

Men’s semi-final line-up:
[1] James Willstrop (Yorks) v [4] Adrian Grant (Kent)
[2] Nick Matthew (Yorks) v [3] Daryl Selby (Essex)

Women’s semi-final line-up:
[7] Lauren Briggs (Essex) v [8] Alison Waters (Middx)
[2] Madeline Perry (Ireland) v [3] Laura Massaro (Lancs)


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