Squash off to a winner at Queen’s - Willstrop

MISSING OUT: Sheffield's Nick Matthew.

MISSING OUT: Sheffield's Nick Matthew.

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Squash players and fans didn’t have to wait very long going into the new year for the world-class competition to start.

Four days in and the British Junior Open Championships, staged at the Abbeydale and Hallamshire clubs in Sheffield and the World Series Finals in London, were under way.

The junior event showcases the cream of the globe’s young squash talent and of the age group titles available, the dominant Egyptians won seven out of eight events, continuing a dominant trend over the last 10 years.

My first tournament as the world number one began on Wednesday at the well-known Queen’s Club in west London where the top-eight points scorers for the men and women in World Series events over 2011 gathered in two groups to battle for the title of world series tour champion.

It was a fabulous week for the sport. The event was attended to with great professionalism by its sponsors and organisers and the arena, in which stood the futuristic new Z-court in all its purple pristine glory, proved to be a fitting setting.

Injuries to Sheffield’s Nick Matthew and Ramy Ashour meant that LJ Anjema from the Netherlands and Mohamed El Shorbagy from Egypt came in at short notice, confirming the strength of the PSA players outside of the eight.

After the group stages, which were played to the best of three games, making for a shorter and more explosive format, I lost 2-0 to Amr Shabana on Saturday and Gregory Gaultier beat Karim Darwish 2-0 in the other last-four match.

Shabana, who pulled out of the last world series event of the year in New Delhi, beat Gaultier in a best-of-five games final chock full of long, accurate and energy-sapping rallies, winning 11-8 in the fifth game.

It was a thrilling encounter played in front of the Sky television cameras live and British viewers enjoyed an afternoon of high-quality professional squash.

those in any way involved in the sport believe that it will benefit greatly from this exposure.

In the women’s event Nicol David and Madeline Perry eliminated English interest with wins over Laura Massaro and Harrogate’s Jenny Duncalf respectively in the semi finals and world champion David beat Yorkshire-based Irish girl Perry in three closely-contested games in the final.

There now follows a short break before the Tournament of Champions in New York, which begins on January 19.

The Premier Squash League starts again today when Yorkshire’s only representative, Pontefract, play Duffield.