Friday, March 1, 2024

Defending champions through to last four

Roles reversed: Daryl Selby (right) knocked out Tom Richards (left) to avenge his 2013 quarter-final defeat

Selby sets up Matthew meeting as Kippax suffers again in the quarters

World number 10 Daryl Selby avenged his 2013 quarter-final defeat to 5/8 seed Tom Richards to book a last four encounter with defending champion and top seed Nick Matthew in Manchester.

Selby, who reached the quarter-finals of the Swedish Open last week, needed 51 minutes to end Richards’ challenge 11-7, 11-9, 11-8 and inflict his first victory over the world number 26 since the Edinburgh Open in January 2013.

“We’ve played a few times and that may be the first or maybe second time it’s finished 3-0, so I’m happy to take that,” said the 3/4 seed.

Selby, who has lost his last four matches against Matthew, shocked the joint world number one in the 2011 final and will be hoping to advance into his fourth final in the last five months.

However, Matthew will now be looking to protect a 13-match unbeaten streak at the Nationals following a straight games victory over world number 34 Joe Lee in 37 minutes.

The triple world champion eased through the opening game in under 10 minutes and despite a spirited response from his fellow compatriot, Matthew sealed an 11-2, 11-7, 11-7 win at the National Squash Centre.

“Joe’s improving all the time and the younger players are definitely keeping us on our toes,” said Matthew. “It’s great to be here but a shame it’s on Valentine’s Day, it’s not doing me any favours with my wife. But I’m really looking forward to tomorrow – the crowd is always great over the weekend.”

After the match, Matthew was presented with his Team England Best Male Athlete award after winning two gold medals at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games.

In the women’s draw, Sarah Kippax suffered her seventh successive quarter-final loss at the Manchester event as Jenny Duncalf remained on course for her third National title and first since 2009 with a comfortable 3-0 win. 

Embedded image permalinkDuncalf, the world number nine, raced into early leads in all three games and barely surrendered control as she prevailed 11-4, 11-6, 11-6 in 38 minutes.

“It was good to get those starts, so I needed to make sure I kept the momentum and I managed to do that,” said Duncalf (pictured right).

Second seed Alison Waters became the fourth former National champion to advance into the semi-finals with a battling 11-3, 6-11, 11-8, 11-6 victory against world number 23 Emma Beddoes.

Waters, who will face Duncalf for a place in the final, cruised through the opening game before Beddoes levelled the scores in the second.

The world number four and defending champion reclaimed the advantage in a tense third game before surging ahead in the fourth to claim victory with her fourth match ball.

“She played well,” revealed Waters, “you think you’ve won the rally but she keeps getting it back. It was a bit of a scrap but it’s always nice to win matches like that and I’m looking forward to another semi-final.”

Two-time champion James Willstrop remains on course for a third successive National final after overcoming 5/8 seed Adrian Waller in straight games.

Willstrop, 30, has failed to reach a final since winning the Canary Wharf Classic in March but has yet to drop a game this week after swatting aside Waller 11-7, 11-4, 11-5.

“That scoreline was ridiculous for the intensity of the match,” admitted Willstrop. “There’s a great bunch of players coming through, men and women, and players like Adrian and Joe [Lee] are going through a huge improvement cycle so they’ll be getting there very quickly.”

Willstrop’s reward is a last four meeting with world number 20 Adrian Grant, who needed 70 minutes to defeat Guernsey’s Chris Simpson in three games.

Grant, 33, was forced to save two game balls before taking a tight, first game tie-break and recovered from a 9-7 deficit in the second to reel off four consecutive points and double his advantage.

An error-strewn third game confined Simpson to his second successive quarter-final exit at the National event, while Grant moved one game away from his second final appearance in a row following his runner-up finish at the Edinburgh Open last month.

“He’s improved a lot over the last couple of years and I class him as a huge threat,” said Grant. “There wasn’t much between us, I just tried to relax at the crucial points at the end of the games and it paid off.”

In the second women’s semi-final, top seed and world number two Laura Massaro will face Irish number one Madeline Perry after the duo progressed at the expense of Sarah-Jane Perry and Emily Whitlock respectively.

Sarah-Jane, who reached the quarter-finals of the Tournament of Champions and Greenwich Open last month, fought back from losing the opening game to convincingly open up an 8-3 lead in the second against the England number one.

However, a succession of unforced errors ultimately proved her undoing as Massaro rattled off six of the next seven points before edging the tie-break 12-10.

Massaro, 30, continued in the ascendancy during the third game and sealed an 11-5, 12-10, 11-2 win to advance into her ninth semi-final in 12 months.

Madeline (pictured right) joined Massaro, seven years her junior, in the last four after overcoming Whitlock 11-9, 11-6, 11-6.

The world number seven was given a stern test in the first game but was barely troubled thereafter as she capitalised on a series of sloppy mistakes from her opponent to progress in 36 minutes.

“When you’re almost 20 years older than your opponent there’s definitely some pressure on you,” admitted Perry. “I knew she’d be hungry to make a breakthrough and come out firing, so I was definitely ready for that.

“I keep coming here and losing in the semis but it must be my turn soon and hopefully I can finally make the final.” 

Saturday’s semi-finals will be shown live on SquashTV, with play due to commence at 13:00pm (GMT).

British Nationals draw

Pictures by Steve Cubbins (SquashSite) 

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