JAMES Willstrop remains on course for another final showdown with fierce rival Nick Matthew, but knows he has a difficult obstacle to overcome in order to get there.
The 28-year-old, from Leeds, recovered from a game down in his British National Championships quarter-final with Chris Ryder to reach the last four in an 8-11, 11-3, 11-3, 11-1 triumph.
The world No 2 - top seed for the the event - spent just under 45 minutes on the glass show court at Manchester’s National Squash Centre as the main draws moved to the big stage from the side courts for the first time,
But with Sunday’s final within touching distance, Willstrop acknowledges he will have to overcome his toughest test yet in fourth seed Grant to actually get there where, potentially, world No 1 Matthew will be waiting.
“Adrian’s a very experienced player and has been playing the game for many years,” said Willstrop.
“On his day he can cope with the best players - he took a win over me here in September so there’s no way I would ever take him lightly.
“I’ve got to be totally on my game. His squash is good and he’s shown recently that he can still compete with anyone.”
Willstrop acknowledged he had been given the ideal preparation for his semi-final clash after being seriously tested by sixth seed Ryder.
He added: “The first two games were really well-contested. There were some really intense rallies and he played some unbelievable drop shots.”
Runner-up in 2009 is Grant’s best result at the tournament Grant so far and his path to the semi-finals was far from easy as he was forced to battle for just over 45 minutes to see off Eddie Charlton, a quarter-final debutant from Nottingham. The 11-5, 11-9, 13-11 result saw Grant reach the last four for the sixth time.
A win over Willstrop in the second round of last year’s British Grand Prix at the same venue will give him added belief going into Saturday afternoon’s match.
“Winning the title would be huge,“ he said. “Even in the junior days you’re thinking of winning the senior title. There are some big names on that trophy and even to win it once would be massive.”
Matthew takes to the court again on Friday night to face seventh seed Chris Simpson, from Harrogate, as he attempts to join Willstrop and Grant in the last four. Defending champion Daryl Selby faces
Adrian Waller in the other quarter-final.
The enforced withdrawal of top seed Jenny Duncalf has opened up the women’s draw more with the first quarter-finals also taking place on the glass court on Thursday.
Lancashire’s defending champion, Laura Massaro, sailed into the semi-finals for the sixth successive year after a 19-minute 11-3, 11-2, 11-4 rout of Victoria Lust, the sixth seed from Cheltenham.
Massaro, who beat Duncalf in last year’s final, will find Ireland’s Madeleine Perry in her way in the semi-finals after the world No 4 beat Emma Beddoes, from Warwickshire, 13-11, 11-4, 11-2.
In Friday’s quarter-finals, qualifier Laura Hill, from Derbyshire - the one to benefit most from Duncalf’s withdrawal as it saw her go straight into the last eight - will take on seventh seed Lauren Briggs, from Essex. Alison Waters, winner in 2008 and 2010, will face fourth seed Sarah Kippax.
Men’s quarter-finals (top half of draw):  James Willstrop (Yorks) bt  Chris Ryder (Herts) 8-11, 11-3, 11-3, 11-1 (43m),  Adrian Grant (Kent) bt  Eddie Charlton (Notts) 11-5, 11-9, 13-11 (47m)
Women’s quarter-finals (lower half of draw):  Laura Massaro (Lancs) bt  Victoria Lust (Beds) 11-3, 11-2, 11-4 (19m);  Madeline Perry (Ireland) bt  Emma Beddoes (Warwicks) 13-11, 11-4, 11-2 (35m)