Friday, December 1, 2023

Overstretched Willstrop: I’m exhausted


James Willstrop last night admitted that he felt “exhausted” after his shock defeat to Jonathan Kemp in the British Nationals – and felt that he should have taken a break during a busy autumn schedule.

Willstrop said:  “I’ve had enough – I’m just not enjoying playing at the moment. There’s no point in carrying on like this – maybe I need to stop playing for a while.

“It’s unnatural for me not to like playing.  The only reason I’m putting the effort in is not to win – but to do justice to all the people who have come to watch me play.

“I just feel exhausted,” continued the 27-year-old England No2 from Leeds.  “Every time I’m on court, it’s like a toil.  I’m just glad I’m not playing tomorrow.

“I played a lot of squash in the autumn – maybe I should have done something to reduce the load.  I don’t feel I can keep playing at this level.

“I had no desire tonight.  In fact the only desire I had was to get off the court – and not play in the semi-finals.

“But I don’t want to take anything away from Jonathan.  I always have to be focussed to play him – and he played well tonight.”

Willstrop’s dedication to the sport meant that he played every major tournament last year, reaching semi-finals or finals in many of them.

The curse of success is that players reaching the latter stages of tournaments may be earning more prize money and collecting more ranking points, but they are giving their minds and bodies little time to rest and recover between events.

Most players deal comfortably with jetlag but I can only imagine how Willstrop copes with fitting his 6ft 4in frame into most economy airline seats. (It’s rare for the players to afford business class).

Willstrop will be glad of a few days’ rest before jumping on another aeroplane to fly to the States to compete in the North American Championships in Richmond, Viriginia.

Willstrop, the number four seed in Richmond, will be glad of an extra day’s preparation before playing. The top half of the draw begins on Sunday with the bottom half playing on Monday.

Fortune has smiled on Willstrop  with the new-style PSA draw method giving him a qualifier in the first two rounds.

No.3 seed Karim Darwish has withdrawn through injury from Kemp’s section of the draw but he now faces a likely second round clash with Amr Shabana!

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