James Willstrop hoping to rekindle some Canary Wharf Classic magic

James Willstrop. Picture courtesy of PSA.
James Willstrop. Picture courtesy of PSA.
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JAMES WILLSTROP is hoping to pull off something of a repeat show when he competes in this week’s Canary Wharf Classic.

This year’s event, at London’s East Wintergarden, will see a best-of-three games format trialled up to and including the quarter-finals for a second successive year. The semi-finals and final then revert to a best of five format.

New and innovative formats have really helped the game appeal to a different set of people, and I think that we would be very silly not to keep doing it as an idea.

James Willstrop

Yorkshireman Willstrop, 35, won the inaugural event back in 2004 and has been virtually ever-present at the PSA World Tour Gold event since, adding a further three titles to his collection from a total of seven final appearances.

“I love Canary Wharf, I think that, New York (J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions) and San Fran (Oracle NetSuite Open) are my favourite tournaments,” the Englishman said.

“I love the atmosphere and I’m a big fan of (Tournament Director) Tim Garner, I love his tournaments and he’s a great guy to work with. His events are always a pleasure and he puts on an amazing event at Canary Wharf.

“It’s got a special place for me, I played the first one when it was best of seven games. I love it and it’s just a brilliant atmosphere, people have a few drinks at the top and get really into it, they shout and cheer and thats what we want as players, it’s really good.”

Willstrop gets his tournament under way against Egypt’s Mazen Hesham in round one, and is drawn on the same side of the draw as defending champion Mohamed ElShorbagy and World Championship runner-up Tarek Momen.

Willstrop is a fan of the CWC format which was brought in last year and believes it will help the sport appeal to a new audience.

“I’m not saying the whole game needs to change to best of three,” said the Commonwealth Games gold medallist from Harrogate. “I don’t know whether that’s the right thing at all, but every sport seems to have different formats and I think cricket is a great example.

“New and innovative formats have really helped the game appeal to a different set of people, and I think that we would be very silly not to keep doing it as an idea. I’m also along the traditionalist line a little bit – I think squash is a wonderful game for finding people out over the course of a long match.

“There’s still that side of it, but I don’t know whether it’s the be all and end all, and there’s a big argument for and against best of three. But I loved it last year at Canary Wharf, it was a great tournament and it worked really well.”