Willstrop exit follows Selby as top seeds bow out
By ALAN THATCHER and DAVID HURST
Tom Richards flies the flag for England against Mathieu Castagnet of France in the final of the Squash Squared Open 2018 at the Wimbledon Club after James Willstrop followed top seed Daryl Selby out of the competition.
Willstrop fell to a determined and resurgent Mathieu Castagnet as Richards ended the glorious run of Germany’s Raphael Sandra, who had played outstanding squash to beat Selby in the quarter-finals.
Castagnet’s last trip to Wimbledon, a mile up the road at the Wimbledon Racquets and Fitness Club, had resulted in defeat to Ben Coleman in the Canary Wharf qualifying competition.
Here he had the opportunity to gain revenge for that defeat, which he dutifully performed in the first round against the Essex-based wild card, and followed that up with a solid performance against Egyptian qualifier Youssef Soliman.
In the semi-finals he encountered the imposing figure of Willstrop, who is close to repeating the quality of the peak years in his career and who was looking to fine-tune his preparations for the imminent Commonwealth Games in Australia.
Castagnet won the opening game 11-6 and edged the second 11-9 before Willstrop enjoyed a period of ascendancy to take third 11-6-11. Back came the Frenchman in the fourth to win it 11-6 and complete victory in 74 minutes of top-quality squash.
Surrey star Richards was determined to put on a good show for his vociferous supporters and held his nerve to win an extended opening game 15-13. Kandra hit back to win the second but Richards maintained his focus throughout the third and fourth games to clinch his place in the final after just over an hour of play.
He will be looking for one more massive push against Castagnet tonight as he bids to take home the top prize in a superb tournament that has been elevated in terms of prize money and quality this year.
DAVID HURST WRITES: Although number two seed and 2016 Squash Squared tournament winner, James Willstrop, played some of his signature long-reach-and-drop shots against charismatic Frenchman and winner of the 2016 Canary Wharf Classic, Mathieu Castagnet, the number five seed proved too strong overall.
Castagnet build good rapport with the Wimbledon crowd and amused us by challenging the referee on one decision against him for crowding his opponent with his Gallic shoulder shrug and the plea, “but I was in Paris and he was in London”!
Terrific stuff as, although Willstrop recovered from 0-2 down to take the third game, Castagnet’s fast-paced aggression and error-free play saw him win wear down a tiring Willstrop for the fourth game, taking the match 3-1.
A familiar face at the Wimbledon Club, number seven seed, Tom Richards, had determination written all over his game as he challenged for a place in the final for the second year running against the impressive man from Paderborn in Germany, unseeded Raphael Kandra.
Playing forward on the court in most rallies, Tom gave his usual fist pump as he nicked the first game 15-13. Although Raphael’s court coverage and retrievals were equally as athletic as in his earlier rounds, Tom went for his shots making winners from 4 out of 5 backhand overhead volleys into the front right corner nick helping him to take the match 3-1.
Tom’s semi-final win sees him return to his second Squash Squared Open final where he will meet Mathieu in a classic Anglo-French duel, with klaxons and cries of “Allez les Bleus” expected from the galley this evening!
Quarter-final shock as Kandra sinks Selby
Quarter finals day at the Squash Squared Open 2018 at the Wimbledon Club saw two Frenchmen, “Les Deux Bleus” and one German compete for places in the semi-finals.
A terrific battle between Frenchman, Mathieu Castagnet, and the young Egyptian, Yousef Solimann, saw them both dance around the court with silken feet and, while Youssef had his chances after winning the first game 11-9, his time of nearly four hours on court in his previous three matches started to show and unforced errors crept in as Mathieu took the match 3-1.
Local hero, Tom Richards, was too strong for Welshman, Joel Makin, and the tiring effects of Joel’s demanding five set win the day before began to show. Tom’s consistency and largely error-free game delivered him the result he wanted as he aims for a place in the final for the second year running.
The second French quarter final player, Lucas Serme, had a battle on his hands against the huge reach and impressive pick-ups of 2016 Squash Squared tournament winner, the 6 foot 3 inches tall James Willstrop who always appeared to be in control winning this tie 3-0.
But the TWC Match of the Day goes to the intriguing tussle between number one seed and favourite, Daryl Selby, and (until now) the relatively unknown German player from Parderborn, Raphael Kandra.
With seemingly superhuman gets from throwing himself about the court, Raphael adapted his game to match Daryl’s slower and more tactical approach in a thrilling game of cat and mouse and, by the fourth game, Daryl had no answers as Raphael won the match 3-1.
PSA M35 Men’s Squash Squared Wimbledon Club Open 2018, The Wimbledon Club, London, England.
 Tom Richards (ENG) v  Mathieu Castagnet (FRA)
 Tom Richards (ENG) bt Raphael Kandra (GER) 15-13, 9-11, 11-7, 11-6 (63m)
 Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) bt  James Willstrop (ENG) 11-6, 11-9, 6-11, 11-6 (74m)
Raphael Kandra (GER) bt  Daryl Selby (ENG) 11-9, 11-5, 7-11, 11-1 (62m)
 Tom Richards (ENG) bt Joel Makin (WAL) 11-8, 11-5, 11-7 (42m)
 Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) bt [Q] Youssef Soliman (EGY) 9-11, 13-11, 11-3, 11-4 (65m)
 James Willstrop (ENG) bt  Lucas Serme (FRA) 11-4, 11-6, 11-5 (41m)
LIVE STREAMING FROM THE FINAL: Here is the link for the finals on Friday. The final starts at 6.30pm
The Wimbledon Squash Squared Open 2018 is made possible by our generous sponsors, London property developers and agents Strawberry Star Developments, Tooting based estate agents Mercer Taylor and financial research company Pelham Smithers Associates located in the City of London.
Pictures by MARK WESTWOOD