By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor
Commonwealth Games bronze medal winner Declan James and World No.42 George Parker will contest the final of the AJ Bell England Squash Championships 2021 in Manchester today after prevailing in yesterday’s riveting semi-finals.
The 24-year-old Parker, who captured the England Squash Challenge title three months earlier on the same court, overcame a stern test from World No.134 Nick Wall in a dramatic last four clash which went the full distance.
After sweeping aside top seed James Willstrop in straight games in the previous round, 20-year-old Wall refused to go down without a fight.
The duo battled for a gruelling 70 minutes but it was Parker’s experience and physicality that came to the forefront in the last game to prevail 11-8, 9-11, 12-10, 8-11, 11-6.
Meanwhile, World No.23 Declan James claimed an equally thrilling four-game battle against World No. 53 Richie Fallows. Profiting off a series of strokes from his opponent, James’s consistency and steely determination kept Fallows at bay to close out 11-8, 6-11, 11-9, 11-5 in 74 minutes.
In the women’s event, top seed Sarah-Jane Perry and England Squash Challenge champion Georgina Kennedy will go head-to-head in today’s final after topping their respective groups following a clean sweep of victories.
British National champion Perry has been rarely tested all week, and put on a clinical masterclass in her last group match against World No.99 Grace Gear, storming to a 11-2, 11-5, 11-1 victory in 18 minutes.
Kennedy, meanwhile, outmanoeuvred and stunned second seed Millie Tomlinson in a hard-fought four-game encounter to prevail 11-6, 11-6, 5-11, 11-2 (41m).
Kent girl Kennedy, whose professional career has been delayed by Covid after multiple successes in American college squash at Harvard University, claimed another important victory against Jasmine Hutton, from neighbouring Sussex.
The 3/4 and 5/6 play-offs commence at 3pm today with the finals scheduled for 5pm. You can watch all the action live on englandsquash.tv and Facebook.
AJ Bell England Squash Championships 2021.
George Parker 3-2 Nick Wall 11-8, 9-11, 12-10, 8-11, 11-6 (70m)
Declan James 3-1 Richie Fallows 11-8, 6-11, 11-9, 11-5 (74m)
Women’s Group Stage A:
Julianne Courtice 3-0 Lucy Beecroft 11-4, 12-10, 11-4 (27m)
Sarah-Jane Perry 3-0 Grace Gear 11-2, 11-5, 11-1 (18m)
Grace Gear 3-1 Anna Kimberley 11-7, 7-11, 11-6, 11-2
Women’s Group Stage B:
Georgina Kennedy 3-0 Jasmine Hutton 11-4, 11-8, 11-9 (32m)
Kace Bartley 3-2 Alicia Mead 11-8, 6-11, 4-11, 11-8, 13-11 (40m)
Georgina Kennedy 3-1 Millie Tomlinson 11-6, 11-6, 5-11, 11-2 (42m)
Men’s 5/6 play off semi-finals:
James Willstrop 3-1 Patrick Rooney 11-8, 6-11, 11-8, 12-10
Charlie Lee 3-1 Miles Jenkins 11-9, 10-12, 11-4, 11-3
Official site: englandsquash.com/englandsquashchampionships
Pictures by Steve Cubbins courtesy of England Squash