Friday, February 23, 2024

Illness forces James Willstrop to quit Nationals

Joe Lee at full stretch against James Willstrop

Joe Lee takes walkover to meet Adrian Waller in semi-finals


Two-time National champion James Willstrop was forced to retire from the tournament in today’s quarter-finals after he was unable to recover from illness.

The former World No.1 fought valiantly to take 5/8 seed Joe Lee to a fifth game but came back on court only to shake Lee’s hand and announce he would play no further part in the Manchester tournament.

World No.45 Lee, 27, of Surrey, raced into the lead in the first game, eventually winning 11/7. Willstrop then took the next two games, with the final score 11/7, 6/11, 9/11, 11/7. Lee advances to his first Nationals semi-final where he will meet his friend and former junior rival Adrian Waller [5/8], of Middlesex.

Lee was delighted to reach the last four but did give credit to Willstrop. He said: “I noticed he wasn’t quite right from the word go because I went a few points up early on. Normally James has a massive emphasis on starting well.

“Understandably, when you’re a bit under the weather it doesn’t happen like that and he got into it as the match went on. I could see he was taking longer between points (towards the end of the match). There had been some punishing rallies.”

Willstrop said he had been suffering from flu all week but had recovered enough to step on court on Wednesday and progress through his first round tie against Mark Fuller on Thursday.

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The other semi-final will be played out between eight-time champion Nick Matthew [1] and Declan James [5/8]. Both had straightforward routes through the semi-finals, as Matthew, who is pursuing a record ninth title at the championships, beat unseeded Jaymie Haycocks 11/7, 11/2, 11/6 in 34 minutes. Meanwhile, James’ opponent Tom Richards [3/4] also conceded his match after sustaining an injury in the second game and falling 2-0 down, 11/7, 11/6.

World No.5 Laura Massaro, the favourite to win the women’s title, survived an early scare against Fiona Moverley [5/8] to win 9/11, 11/7, 11/1, 11/3 after 32 minutes. She faces World No.15 Emily Whitlock [3/4] in the first women’s semi-final. Former world champion Massaro said: “She came out firing and I thought ‘Wow’, I just had to dig in and start getting the ball back as best I could.”

Sarah-Jane Perry [3/4] is set to play four-time National champion Alison Waters [2] in the other tie. Both overcame five-game matches against Victoria Lust [5/8] and Tesni Evans [5/8] respectively. World No.8 Perry defeated Lust 13/11, 6/11, 8/11, 11/3, 11/8 in 54 minutes. Waters needed 75 minutes to knock out Welsh No.1 Evans 12/10, 9/11, 13/11, 5/11, 11/9 in a pulsating afternoon of women’s squash. 

The Nationals semi-finals and finals will be streamed online via the official Nationals website:


Pictures courtesy of England Squash 


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