Willstrop enjoys being back on familiar territory

James Willstrop. Picture courtesy of squashpics.com
James Willstrop. Picture courtesy of squashpics.com
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IT’S been a somewhat staggered return to the squash stage for Yorkshire’s James Willstrop but, in London yesterday, it was certainly worth the wait for spectators.

A four-time champion at the Canary Wharf Classic, 31-year-old Willstrop began the 2015 edition of the PSA International 50 tournament with an assured 3-0 victory over Egyptian qualifier Omar Abdel Meguid during the second day of action at the East Wintergarden.

Last September the Yorkshireman underwent an operation for a hip problem when, in the wake of his defeat in last year’s Canary Wharf final to Sheffield’s Nick Matthew, an examination found the problem to be more serious than first thought.

After heading into the operating theatre shortly after winning the China Open, it was then a five-month break from action before Willstrop returned to the court in a Premier Squash League outing for his club Pontefract at the end of January.

He then reached a quarter-final at the Swedish Open, before withdrawing due to injury ahead of his second round match at the British National Championships. Earlier this month, he was knocked out in the second round at the Windy City Open in Chicago - an event won by Matthew.

But he started yesterday’s encounter with 27-year-old Meguid in emphatic fashion, taking the opening game without the loss of a single point as he overwhelmed the World No 33 early on. From then on, however, the former World No1 - currently ranked 13 in the PSA rankings - was forced to earn every point as Meguid rallied and upped his game.

Willstrop displayed no signs of the hip injury that had kept him on the sidelines and, ultimately, had too much class for his opponent, seeing out the match 11-0, 11-9, 11-7 to set up a quarter-final encounter with German World No 9 Simon Rösner on Wednesday night (9pm).

“It feels great to be back out on the court and I really enjoyed it tonight,” said Willstrop.

“It’s lovely to be playing here in this great atmosphere, it’s one that myself and all the other players really enjoy, and I’m trying to enjoy myself more when I’m on court than I maybe used to.

“I’ve got a tough match against Simon tomorrow. He’s a brilliant and ever-improving player so I’m just going to try and soak up the atmosphere and go in with the right attitude and if I can manage to get a win on there I’ll be very happy.”

Matthew, who overcame wild card entrant Eddie Charlton 11-4, 11-5, 11-7 in his first round match on Monday, is scheduled to be the second quarter-final on court when he face Egypt’s Fares Deesouki, who beat Adrian Waller 11-3, 11-4, 11-5 in their opening day clash.

Tuesday results - Round One, (bottom half):

[7] Max Lee (HKG) bt Mazen Hesham (EGY) 3-2: 9-11, 11-3, 11-9, 8-11, 11-9 (76m)

[2] Peter Barker (ENG) bt Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) 3-0: 11-7, 11-5 11-8 (49m)

[4] Simon Rösner (GER) bt Lucas Serme (FRA) 3-0: 11-5, 11-9, 11-6 (52m)

[5] James Willstrop (ENG) bt Omar Abdel Meguid (EGY) 3-0: 11-0, 11-9, 11-7 (39m)

Wednesday’s quarter-finals:

[1] Nick Matthew (ENG) v [8] Fares Dessouki (EGY) (6.15pm).

[6] Daryl Selby (ENG) v [3] Borja Golan (ESP)

[7] Max Lee (HKG) v [2] Peter Barker (ENG)

[4] Simon Rösner (GER) v [5] James Willstrop (ENG) (9pm)