‘It’s not an easy sport to keep playing when you’re old’ says National champion Willstrop
By SAM FRANCE – Squash Mad Correspondent in Nottingham
England’s James Willstrop and Wales’ Tesni Evans prevailed on finals day at the AJ Bell British National Squash Championships in Nottingham today after overcoming England’s Daryl Selby and Emily Whitlock respectively to lift the prestigious titles.
Yorkshire’s James Willstrop held off a stern challenge from second seed Daryl Selby to claim his third championship title with a 11-5, 7-11, 11-5, 11-7 victory.
The 35-year-old opened the scoring with a stunning pick-up at the front to win a mammoth opening point, Selby responding in fine fashion moments later with a shot through his legs which brought the admiration of crowd and opponent alike.
The pair traded points up to 5-5 in the opening game, Willstrop eventually closing it out to take the lead in the match with an 11-5 win.
Former World No. 1 Willstrop seized control of the second game, racing into a 6-0 lead but Selby fought back with the grit and determination which had characterised his tournament.
He levelled at 7-7 and took the momentum to level the match with his first game ball and an 11-7 win.
The third game was closely fought and tense, until a let decision in Willstrop’s favour at 7-5 up seemed to swing the momentum his way.
He reclaimed the lead in the match with an 11-5 win, again seizing the initiative with his first game ball.
Selby had pulled up in pain at the end of the third game but his belligerence showed no sign of waning, both players having to earn every point in a fourth game of true quality.
It was anybody’s game with Willstrop 7-6 up and grinding his way towards victory, but the mutual respect between the players was clear even with the stakes at their highest.
Willstrop’s quality and experience shone through winning with his second match ball, the watching crowd having been treated to a true exhibition of a final.
“It’s lovely,” said Harrogate-based Willstrop. “To achieve a big title like that with so many big players is fantastic. My body got through it.
“It’s a huge title and a very special thing to be able to achieve, so I’m very, very happy.
“In a sport like squash, it’s not an easy sport to keep playing when you’re old, and historically speaking we are old squash players.”
Defending champion Tesni Evans retained her crown with a dominant straight-games victory over fourth seed Emily Whitlock.
Third seed Evans became the first Welsh player to win the tournament in 2018 and never looked like relinquishing her title this time around, winning 11-3, 11-6, 11-5 in 31 minutes.
There was a distinctly Welsh feel to the final as Evans beat the Colwyn Bay-based Whitlock, who was appearing in her first final.
Evans was the early aggressor in the match and took the first game in dominant fashion.
After Whitlock had brought an early deficit back to 3-3, Evans forced the issue and took the lead with eight consecutive points, winning the opening game 11-3.
Whitlock had shocked the number two seed Alison Waters in the semi-finals but she was powerless to resist on this occasion as Evans stretched her points streak to 14, storming into a 6-0 lead in the second.
The underdog rallied and levelled at 6-6 but Evans regained her touch and took firm control of the match, taking the second game with her first game ball in an 11-6 win.
The final game had a more back-and-forth feel to it as Whitlock fought tooth and nail, but Evans’ quality showed as she forced her way through to an 11-5 win.
“It’s pretty special,” said Cardiff-born Evans, now based in Rhyl. “It makes it even more special that I can defend it and take it back to Wales, that makes it even better.
“Last year was amazing to win it and I definitely didn’t think I’d be standing here after winning it again.
“I tried to play as fast as I could and take the ball as early as I could and I think it maybe took her a little bit by surprise.
“I’m just happy with how I played because I can’t play much better than that. It was perfect.”
AJ Bell British National Squash Championships 2019, University of Nottingham, England.
 James Willstrop (Eng) 3-1  Daryl Selby (Eng) 11-5, 7-11, 11-5, 11-7 (60m)
 Tesni Evans (Wal) 3-0  Emily Whitlock (Eng) 11-3, 11-6, 11-5 (31m)
Pictures by Steve Cubbins courtesy of England Squash