Tuesday, December 5, 2023

James Willstrop pulls more magic out of the bag to reach U.S. Open quarter-finals

‘I’ve been at it long enough so I can draw on my experience,’ says 38-year-old Marksman

James Willstrop produced another stunning performance to reach the quarter-finals of the 2021 U.S. Open, presented by Truist. He backed up his win over Marwan ElShorbagy with a brilliant comeback to beat another Egyptian, Mohamed Abouelghar, in five thrilling games.

Willstrop, 38, now faces former world champion Tarek Momen in the last eight of this PSA World Tour Platinum event at the Arlen Specter Center in Philadelphia.

Momen advanced with a comeback of his own after losing the opening game to Willstrop’s frequent training partner Patrick Rooney.

Willstrop showed few signs of tiredness after his round two epic and looked the stronger of the pair in the first game, which he took 11-9.

Abouelghar came back strongly in the second, wrestling momentum from Willstrop with a dominant 11-7 win.

The third game was a competitive one, with Willstrop initially taking the lead only to be reeled in by Abouelghar. After levelling at 7-7, Abouelghar kept the pressure up, taking the game 11-9 to put himself in the driving seat.

Willstrop fought back hard in the fourth, dominating the court to take an 11-4 win in just seven minutes to force the match into a fifth game.

The decisive final game began at a slower pace, perhaps unsurprisingly given the effort expended during the previous four. Willstrop was the first to make a move, beginning to build a lead and move ahead. As Willstrop pulled further and further ahead, a win soon appeared inevitable, with the World No.31 eventually recording a crushing 11-3 win to seal a memorable victory.

Speaking after the match, Willstrop said: “Training must have gone pretty well in San Fran.

“I was doing some coaching, doing some training, just trying to get myself together. August wasn’t brilliant, so I was just trying to get myself together. It must be the experience, I’ve been at it long enough, so I’ve got to draw on it sometimes.

“I’m continually being very careful, and I work with my physio constantly to look after the body because I love this and being on there. I’ve missed this (being interviewed) and I don’t even know if I’m looking at the right place! It’s just great, I love playing and I try and keep myself in shape.

“I just have to be a bit careful with the sessions I put in because it takes it out of you. But if I apportion it really carefully I can get to a high level.

“I haven’t played these levels of matches in three days for a long time. I can’t expect too much of myself. I just love it. This is a great tournament. I don’t know how longer I’ll be able to do this sort of stuff, so I’ll just get stuck in.”

Tarek Momen (right) volleys against Patrick Rooney

World No.4 Tarek Momen fought back from a one-game deficit to overcome England’s Patrick Rooney in the second match of the day on Glass Court East.

Rooney, the World No.42, came back from two games down to overcome Frenchman Auguste Dussourd in the previous round but he made a much faster start this time around, displaying his fine racket skills at the front of the court to take the opener 11-8.

Momen, a former world champion, stayed relaxed and really hit his stride in the second and third games to take control of the match.

The 33-year-old found himself 7-5 down in the fourth as Rooney re-established his rhythm, but again the Egyptian didn’t panic and played some immaculate squash to rattle off six unanswered points, sealing the win.

Momen said: “After that tough battle he had last night, I wasn’t sure if he had enough in the tank to push this hard today.

“I had to be prepared that he would give it his best. I watched a couple of his matches last night and looked him up a bit. He’s really good with his hands, with his anticipation, and his presence on the ’T’ is quite significant.

“I thought I started well and then I lost my way a little, I started to open up the court way too much thinking that I had exposed his movement, but I was wrong and he cut if off every single time with a really nice winner.

“The fourth was a bit tricky, he came back again and I made the same mistakes and opened up the court too much. I’m really proud with how I kept my composure at this critical moment because 7-5 down in the fourth was very critical. I had to be at 110 per cent, and I think I played the last six points really well.”

Meanwhile, World No.3 Paul Coll and World No.10 Mostafa Asal will renew their rivalry after respective wins over Karim El Hammamy and Baptiste Masotti.

Asal has won both of their previous matches on the PSA World Tour and received both praise and criticism on social media for his exuberant celebrations, which saw him tear off his shirt both times in jubilant scenes.

“Paul is a very nice person and I have all the respect for him and what he’s achieved in the last couple of years,” Asal said.

“As Mohamed ElShorbagy and Ali Farag have said, he’s a really nice guy outside of the court and inside the court. I’m sorry about my celebrations, but I was in front of my country and in front of my home and I was getting excited every time.

“It’s always been a pleasure to play with him because I think he’s a legend of his country and the rest of the world.”

Defending champion Ali Farag got the better of compatriot Mazen Hesham in his third round fixture and he will take on Welshman Joel Makin, who defeated France’s Sebastien Bonmalais.

Three-time U.S. Open champion Mohamed ElShorbagy will take on Peru’s Diego Elias in the other men’s quarter final after they completed wins over Youssef Soliman and Raphael Kandra, respectively.

The quarter finals will take place today (October 4) and play will begin at 17:30 (five hours behind UK time). All of the action will be shown live on SQUASHTV.

2021 U.S. Open Championship presented by Truist, Arlen Specter US Squash National Center, Philadelphia, USA.

Men’s Third Round:
[1] Ali Farag (EGY) bt Mazen Hesham (EGY) 3-1: 11-5, 11-3, 10-12, 11-7 (65m)
Joel Makin (WAL) bt Sebastien Bonmalais (FRA) 3-1: 11-6, 6-11, 11-5, 11-9 (61m)
James Willstrop (ENG) bt Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) 3-2: 11-9, 7-11, 9-11, 11-4, 11-3 (63m)
[4] Tarek Momen (EGY) bt Patrick Rooney (ENG) 3-1: 8-11, 11-5, 11-8, 11-7 (43m)
[3] Paul Coll (NZL) bt Karim El Hammamy (EGY) 3-0: 11-2, 11-3, 11-3 (35m)
[8] Mostafa Asal (EGY) bt Baptiste Masotti (FRA) 3-2: 10-12, 11-7, 5-11, 11-7, 11-3 (77m)
[7] Diego Elias (PER) bt Raphael Kandra (GER) 3-1: 11-2, 11-4, 10-12, 12-10 (48m)
[2] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt Youssef Soliman (EGY) 3-1: 11-8, 12-10, 9-11, 11-6 (61m)

Men’s Quarter Finals:
[1] Ali Farag (EGY) v Joel Makin (WAL)
James Willstrop (ENG) v [4] Tarek Momen (EGY)
[3] Paul Coll (NZL) v [8] Mostafa Asal (EGY)
[7] Diego Elias (PER) v [2] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY)

Pictures courtesy of PSA


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