Squash: It was best of British... - Willstrop

Nick Matthew.

Nick Matthew.

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Pontefract’s world number one James Willstrop gives the inside track on the competitive world of sport.

The final event of a long season came to its conclusion last week. The British Open Championships ran all week long at the world’s biggest cash-generating behemoth for cultural events, the O2 arena in London.

The British has not been staged since 2009, so Dr Assem Allam’s pledge to support the event was badly needed. And what a success it turned out to be.

The London crowds on semi-finals and finals day were huge, befitting of the most famous squash title on the planet, and pleasingly redolent of the most glorious of all the days in the event’s history, when it was staged at the Wembley Conference Centre in the late eighties and early nineties during which period Jahangir and Jansher Khan enjoyed their well-publicised and lengthy hold of the title.

I lost in my semi-final match to Ramy Ashour 3-1 and, disappointingly, couldn’t find a great deal of rhythm in my play.

His pace and intensity was solid and probably contributed to this, but even so I needed to find greater accuracy on such a big occasion.

Nick Matthew won the final 3-0 in a display which emphatically revoked the Egyptian’s attacking intentions.

Ashour’s free-flowing, nick-hitting inclinations were stifled by the Englishman, who won his third British title on Sunday.

Nicol David continues in her efforts to establish herself in the pantheon of squash history as the greatest women’s player of all time. In the final she came up against 16-year-old starlet Nour El Sherbini, the Egyptian sensation who played with carefree tenacity and exuberance.

She had had a bruising week of hard matches and nobody expected her to make serious inroads against David, but she acquitted herself as well as she could and looks to have an exciting future ahead. David closed out Sherbini’s threat in three games.

Laura Massaro was England’s representative in the women’s semi-finals; she lost out to David, and another notable performance was Peter Barker’s win over Gregory Gaultier in the quarter-finals. Spurred on by a keen London audience, he managed to produce his best win of the season in the last event.

So the British Open came back on the calendar with a bang, and was a big success. Playing at the 02 was certainly an exhilarating experience for the players and, after a great week, we hold high hopes that the same buzz can be created in Hull for next year’s event.