PONTEFRACT’S James Willstrop endured a mammoth two-hour epic before prevailing against Mohamed El Shorbagy to secure a place in the semi-finals of the Hong Kong Open.
The 30-year-old – who won the event in 2011 on his way to enjoying a long stint as world No 1 – was kept on court for a remarkable 122 minutes by his Egyptian opponent, who has just gone above him in the PSA world rankings.
Willstrop fought back from two games down to see off 22-year-old Shorbagy 9-11, 9-11, 11-9, 11-9, 20-18, leaving him the difficult task of trying to recover in time for today’s semi-final with Spain’s Borja Golan – the seventh seed who benefitted from a hamstring injury suffered by top seed and current world No 1 Ramy Ashour.
“It was a tough match, but that’s part of the sport,” admitted Willstrop afterwards.
“I’ve got to do as much as I can to recover as quickly as I can – it’s a big challenge over the next 24 hours.
“It was a really close match – we were very tightly-matched. It was so close all the way – no player had any dominance at any stage, which is very unusual as you usually get a phase where one player gets a lead but there was hardly any of that.
“I think we were both at the top of our games, both playing some quite brilliant – and tough – squash.
“I’m happy to have won the match – there are a lot of positive thoughts.”
Despite his exertions at the Hong Kong Squash Centre yesterday, Willstrop will still go into today’s match with Golan as favourite to reach the final, where he could meet fellow Yorkshireman and long-time rival Nick Matthew.
The 33-year-old, from Sheffield, had a tough encounter himself during his quarter-final before seeing off the threat of Egypt’s Amr Shabana 9-11, 11-4, 11-8, 11-8 in just over an hour.
He will face second seed Gregory Gaultier in the second semi-final today.
In the women’s draw, Harrogate’s Jenny Duncalf struggled against top seed Nicol David, losing 11-4, 11-3, 11-3 in 24 minutes.