Malik meets Makin as up and coming England players make their mark in Manchester
By ALAN THATCHER (Squash Mad Editor)
Mohamed ElShorbagy enjoyed his first experience of playing in the British National Championships under the England flag as he beat regular Bristol training partner Peter Creed in yesterday’s first round.
The world No.3 and the new England No.1 achieved his greatest triumph inManchester when he won the 2017 Men’s World Championship.
And this week’s top seed looked completely at home on the glass court at Manchester’s National Squash Centre as he overcame longtime friend and training buddy Creed in straight games. ElShorbagy was able to control the pace from the outset of the match and made Creed cover a lot of ground in order to stay in the rallies.
After securing the opening game 11-7, the World No.3 continued to work Creed into the four corners of the court at different paces, disrupting the rhythm that the Welsh No.3 was trying to settle into. ElShorbagy took the following two games both 11-8 to move into the quarter finals and capture his first win at the British Nationals.
ElShorbagy had this to say after the match: “Peter [Creed] was one of the first people that I knew from the first day I came to England from Millfield School, we’ve seen each other progress all the way so it’s quite fitting that I played one of my Bristol training partners.
“It’s such a prestigious title to win and tournament to play. I’ve watched all the big finals throughout the years, all of the battles between Nick [Matthew] and James [Willstrop] and I’ve seen how much it meant to them. It would be an honour to put my name on the trophy alongside the great names that are already on there.
“I was struggling mentally throughout the season. It’s very important that when you’re on top to know where your weaknesses are and when you’re not playing well, to be honest with yourself and tell yourself that you need changes. I phoned him up (Gregory Gaultier) and said that I need some help and just a couple of things he said to me have made a difference and I’m very grateful for him.
“The World Tour Finals is the last event of the season and all the players will be trying to finish on a high. I feel good with my form right now, I’m focusing on this week and trying to put all my focus here. It means a lot to have David [Campion] and James [Willstrop] here watching my first match here.”
ElShorbagy meets Nick Wall in the quarter-finals after Wall dominated an all-Yorkshire clash with Sam Todd to win 11-2, 11-4, 11-3.
Todd’s Pontefract mentor James Willstrop beat an equally tall opponent in Ben Smith and now faces another opponent of similar stature in Adrian Waller, who beat Tom Walsh.
No.2 seed Joel Makin overcame the talented Charlie Lee and now faces Curtis Malik in the quarter-finals. Crawley-based Malik beat lucky loser Oscar Hill from the Isle of Man 11-0, 11-6, 11-0 in just 19 minutes and is looking forward to one of the biggest matches of his career against the reigning champion.
Scotland’s Greg Lobban beat Miles Jenkins and now faces No.3 seed Patrick Rooney, who was taken to five in the closest match of the day by European junior champion Finnlay Withington.
Withington showed no fear and displayed formidable attacking flair, hitting winners from all areas of the court to force a fifth game.
Rooney eventually found a way through to win 9-11, 11-8, 11-2, 5-11, 11-2 in 44 minutes and revealed: “He got in my head a little bit and I couldn’t get the tactics right against him today. I know his game very well and I thought I had the answers but I was doing all the wrong things. He’s got no pressure on and his confidence is high and he started hitting his winners so I needed to figure it out.
“I’ve been in his position of having no pressure and playing a higher seeded player, and if you’re skilled you can get games of these players like he shows today. I’m learning that side of the game now, having to try and fend off players like Finn and be more structured and disciplined but you also have to attack at the right times. But it can be hard.”
In the women’s draw, it was a straight forward day for all of the top eight seeds in the event as they all progressed through to the quarter finals apart from No.5 seed Millie Tomlinson who was forced to withdraw prior to her match with Alicia Mead.
No.4 seed Julianne Courtice was pushed the furthest as she battleD past 18-year-old Torrie Malik in a 39 minute four games to reach the last eight. World No.53 Courtice is renowned for her accuracy and touch at the front of the court but was having a difficult time displaying this against the aggressive play of Malik.
After securing the opening game 14-12, Malik struggled to regain control of the middle of the court and Courtice started to control proceedings, moving her younger opponent into all four corners of the court with great accuracy. Despite a close third game, Courtice was able to finish off the last three games 11-4, 12-10, 11-4 to move into heR third Nationals quarter final.
She said: “She played her game better than I played mine there. She was in position and she was making the most of it so well played and it’s harder than it looks. I wouldn’t say I felt the most comfortable on there but you’ve got to dig in and keep putting the ball in the right place and eventually I did it enough so her winners happened a little bit less.
“I think I’ve learnt the most about myself in this season more so than any other season and it’s a battle. Not being able to play the way you want to and backing up performances is hard. I’d like to have a good finish to a tough season.”
Fellow Englishwomen and No.2 seed Lucy Turmel also booked her place in tomorrow’s quarter final in convincing style by defeating Wales’ Lowri Roberts in straight games. The World No.25 has been in terrific form throughout this season and displayed that from the start of the match, hitting with intent and purpose to the back of the court to set up attacking opportunities, which she finished superbly.
After taking the first game 11-5, Turmel continued to find winners of her own and force errors from her Welsh opponent to pull away on the scoreboard. Roberts was able to fire in a few severe boasts to surprise Turmel but the England No.3 was not to be denied a place in the final eight. She took the second and third games 11-4, 11- to advance.
“I’ve seen her play before as she was a few age groups above me, but everyone is here to win so I gave her my full respect and wanted to get the job done.” Said Turmel.
“I think we wouldn’t have minded the top girls being in the draw so we could play them and see where we are in comparison to them. But it’s a good opportunity for a few of us now and I just want to see what I can do this week.
“I had my eyes on top 20 for a while and it’s something was looking to do this season so I’m glad I cuts do it and although I’ve dropped a bit I feel that my level is there and hopefully next season I can push up higher.”
British National Championships, National Squash Centre, Manchester.
Men’s First Round:
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (ENG) bt Peter Creed (WAL) 3-0: 11-7, 11-8, 11-8 (33m)
 Nick Wall (ENG) bt Sam Todd (ENG) 3-0: 11-2, 11-4, 11-3 (22m)
 James Willstrop (ENG) bt Ben Smith (ENG) 3-0: 11-5, 11-8, 11-8 (29m)
 Adrian Waller (ENG) bt Tom Walsh (ENG) 3-0: 11-7, 7-11, 11-5, 11-7 (49m)
 Patrick Rooney (ENG) bt Finnlay Withington (ENG) 3-2: 9-11, 11-8, 11-2, 5-11, 11-2 (44m)
 Greg Lobban (SCO) bt Miles Jenkins (ENG) 3-1: 11-5, 8-11, 11-4, 11-7 (50m)
Curtis Malik (ENG) bt [LL] Oscar Hill (IoM) 3-0: 11-0, 11-6, 11-0 (19m)
 Joel Makin (WAL) bt Charlie Lee (ENG) 3-0: 11-5, 11-8, 11-7 (45m)
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (ENG) v  Nick Wall (ENG)
 James Willstrop (ENG) v  Adrian Waller (ENG)
 Patrick Rooney (ENG) v  Greg Lobban (SCO)
Curtis Malik (ENG) v  Joel Makin (WAL)
Women’s First Round:
 Emily Whitlock (WAL) bt Alison Thomson (SCO) 3-0: 11-4, 11-4, 11-3 (25m)
 Anna Kimberley (ENG) bt Katie Cox (ENG) 3-0: 11-8, 11-4, 11-7 (26m)
Alicia Mead (ENG) bt  Millie Tomlinson (ENG) w/o
 Jasmine Hutton (ENG) bt Katie Wells (ENG) 3-0: 12-10, 11-5, 11-7 (25m)
 Julianne Courtice (ENG) bt Torrie Malik (ENG) 3-1: 12-14, 11-4, 12-10, 11-4 (39m)
 Lucy Beecroft (ENG) bt Asia Harris (ENG) 3-0: 11-1, 11-6, 12-10 (23m)
 Grace Gear (ENG) bt Amy Royle (ENG) 3-0: 11-7, 11-3, 11-3 (17m)
 Lucy Turmel (ENG) bt Lowri Roberts (WAL) 3-0: 11-5, 11-4, 11-4 (22m)
 Emily Whitlock (WAL) v  Anna Kimberley (ENG)
Alicia Mead (ENG) v  Jasmine Hutton (ENG)
 Julianne Courtice (ENG) v  Lucy Beecroft (ENG)
 Grace Gear (ENG) v  Lucy Turmel (ENG)
Pictures courtesy of England Squash