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PSA: Willstrop stays calm to conquer Cam

Eyes on the prize: Willstrop and Pilley battle in the quarter-finals. Picture by STEVE CUBBINS
Eyes on the prize: Willstrop and Pilley battle in the quarter-finals. Picture by STEVE CUBBINS

Calmed Willstrop Carves Out British Open Comeback

25 May 2013

RESULTS: PSA World Series Allam British Open, Hull, England

[1] Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt [8] Borja Golan (ESP) 11-7, 11-4, 11-7 (33m)
[3] James Willstrop (ENG) bt Cameron Pilley (AUS) 9-11, 9-11, 14-12, 11-6, 11-2 (107m)
[4] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt Tarek Momen (EGY) 11-8, 11-7, 15-13 (59m)
[2] Nick Matthew (ENG) bt [5] Karim Darwish (EGY) 11-6, 11-2, 12-10 (40m)

At two games down and two points away from a major collapse, England’s James Willstrop credited the calming influence of his coaches – father Malcolm Willstrop and brother David Campion – for helping him through to the semi-finals of theAllam British Open Squash Championships after beating Australian rival Cameron Pilley in the longest match of thePSA World Series event in Hull in the English county of Yorkshire.

Adverse weather conditions meant a temporary venue change for the 2013 Allam British Open as play was moved from the outdoor all-glass showcourt at KC Stadium to nearby Hull & East Riding Squash Club – a club that title sponsor Dr Allam has also invested in with a brand new 100-seater showcourt opened just a few weeks ago, now centre stage for the quarter final matches.

It was all go for the event organisers who managed to swap everything over in time for a midday start on a day when several sporting events fell foul of the weather – including the Giro d’Italia and the Test match in Leeds.

The event’s biggest seeding upset seemed on the cards when world No15 Pilley was on the verge of recording a career-first win over English hope Willstrop, the world No4 from Yorkshire who has three British Open final appearances to his credit.

Willstrop is floored, but not for long
Willstrop is floored, but not for long

Willstrop later admitted that he was struggling to ‘concentrate mentally’ at the beginning of the match.

Unseeded Pilley – who had reached the quarter-finals after a major upset over sixth seed Mohamed Elshorbagy – played tight, accurate squash and his trademark powerful hitting caused the former world No1 all sorts of problems.

At 12-12 in the third game, the match swung in favour of Willstrop after several let balls – and the Yorkshireman finally converted game ball at 13-12, much to the delight of the vocal crowd.

Willstrop suddenly woke up after some firm words from his coaching team – and drew level before crushing the fatigued Pilley, who was starting to suffer from cramp, 11-2 in the fifth.

Struggling to catch his breath, the third seed expressed his gratitude to the team around him for pulling him through the 107-minute match. “At 2-0 down, I needed calm people – so thank you to them. I wanted to win it for them. I can’t tell you how hard it was,” explained the 29-year-old from Harrogate.

“The intensity of that squash is like brain ache – I have to concentrate so hard – but I’m really pleased to say I’m a semi-finalist,” added Willstrop.

Pilley feels the pain
Pilley feels the pain


Fellow Yorkshireman Nick Matthew also made it through to the last four. The three-time British Open champion from Sheffield has had a slight dip of form of late – but seems to be recapturing his hunger as he stormed through his quarter final encounter against fifth seed Karim Darwish.

Nick Matthew moves past Karim Darwish
Nick Matthew moves past Karim Darwish

The Egyptian is a class act: the pair have met eleven times previously, with Matthew only one win ahead of his opponent – but, with renewed fight and passion, the second seed was relentless in his attacking. Darwish seemed under constant pressure and the Egyptian lost the first game 11-6.

The second game was much of the same with Darwish seeming to tire from the world number two’s energy and precision.

The 31-year-old from Cairo mounted a comeback in the third – but there was no stopping title-holder Matthew who held his nerve to take the match 11-6, 11-2, 12-10.

A pleased Matthew told the crowd he was happy the squash was able to continue despite the weather. “We hear today about so many sport events that have been cancelled all over the country, but at least squash is able to go on. My heart goes to the people that bought tickets today and weren’t able to come due to the change of circumstances, but I hope we’ll be back on the glass court tomorrow.

“It took a lot of effort from a lot of people to make sure that we would be able to play, thanks very much to all of them for making it happen, and you know, there is always a little hiccup or two when somebody is trying to take the sport to the next level,” explained Matthew.

Matthew will be hoping to continue his form into Saturday’s semi-finals when he faces Frenchman Gregory Gaultier, who came through in three against the unseeded Egyptian Tarek Momen.

The former British Open champion from Aix-en-Provence was clearly fired up for his quarter final match – coming out the more aggressive of the two to take a 1/0 lead.

An entertaining second game saw both players taking the ball in short at every opportunity, which made for some incredible rallies with unbelievable pick-ups from two of the fastest players on the PSA World Tour.

A few fist pumps and great retrievals with a combination of fast paced hitting saw Gaultier go 2/0 up. Despite a closer third game the fourth seed managed to keep collected and close out the match 14/12.

“He’s quick to the front and moves you there so well that I managed to keep my body and mind focused all the way through,” said Gaultier – who added that he was looking forward to returning to the glass court and a passionate crowd.

Top seed Ramy Ashour looks to be the man to beat as he eased past Spain’s Borja Golan in just over half an hour. The Egyptian world number one was at his typical best – sublime movement mixed with extraordinary racket skills.

The 25-year-old from Cairo is now unbeaten since losing the 2012 British Open final – with 39 successive Tour wins to his credit.

“I can’t forget that I am on a winning streak as everybody keeps talking to me about it every three/five minutes,” said the event favourite. “So I thank them for the compliment when they are telling me that I did a good job.

“Then I put it out of my mind, and concentrate on what’s important – today’s match!”

Semi-final line-up:
[1] Ramy Ashour (EGY) v [3] James Willstrop (ENG)
[2] Nick Matthew (ENG) v [4] Gregory Gaultier (FRA)

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