Now ranked outside the world’s top 20 and unseeded for the event, Harrogate-based Willstrop had been handed a tough draw, although that didn’t prevent him from reaching the semi-finals by first disposing of world No 1 and pre-tournament favourite Mohamed Elshorbagy and then world No 5 Miguel Angel Rodriguez.
But the Yorkshireman’s Saturday night clash with France’s Gregory Gaultier proved to be one match too far, the Frenchman winning 11-1, 11-8, 11-8 to set up Sunday night’s final against Egypt’s Omar Mosaad in Bellevue, Washington.
“It’s been an absolute pleasure to play here,” said former world No 2 Willstrop, who had hip surgery earlier this year and still trains out of Pontefract under his father Malcolm.
“I’ve put it together and have only dreamed about doing what I’ve done this week.
“I’m a little bit disappointed now but reaching the semi-final has been beyond whatever I could have expected and hoped for.
“It’s been fantastic and, hopefully, I can just move on a bit now.”
Willstrop’s fellow Yorkshireman, Nick Matthew, was an earlier casualty at the Meydenbauer Centre when he was beaten at the quarter-final stage 5-11, 11-7, 9-11, 11-8, 11-7 by Egypt’s Tarek Momen after an energy-sapping 84 minutes on court.
The quarter-finals provided a third shock when three-time winner Ramy Ashour was also denied going any further, losing out to Mosaad 11-8, 11-7, 1-11, 1-11, 11-5.
Mosaad went on to defeat Momen in the last four to seal his duel against Gaultier.
“I had my chances,” said Matthew. “But sometimes it’s just not meant to be.
“I desperately wanted to win a fourth World Title and with Mohamed (El Shorbagy) and Ramy (Ashour) going out I thought the draw just might be opening up for me.
“It shows the strength of the PSA World Tour that that wasn’t the case.
“All the credit in the world to Tarek for his performance and the way he played in the big points especially.”