11:47 am
21 Feb 2019

Willstrop Wilts As Matthew Marches Into Dunlop British Open Semi-Finals

16 Sep 2006

The battle between England team-mates James Willstrop and Nick Matthew in today's quarter-finals of the Dunlop British Open at the University of Nottingham proved to be a match too far for England number one Willstrop, who retired after two games when it was clear that he was still suffering from the effects of the illness which prevented him from competing in the World Open in Egypt earlier this month.

Struck down by a severe bout of food-poisoning, the 23-year-old world No4 from Pontefract was hospitalised in Cairo and ultimately laid low for ten days.

But, in the Yorkshire pair's tenth tour meeting in five years, Willstrop admitted that he just couldn't cope with "one of the best players in the world at the moment", and conceded the match at 11-7 11-5.

"I've been feeling fine generally, but it's the first time I've had to push myself against somebody of Nick's calibre," said a tired-looking Willstrop afterwards.

"I felt weirdly tired during some points of the match, which just wasn't right. There was no way I was going to win it," explained the fourth seed.

It was coach Malcolm Willstrop, his father, who advised James not to go on. "He's so good at things like that," said the younger Willstrop.

"I'm absolutely devastated - this event's really buzzing and it's awful to be missing out. Events with an atmosphere like this don't come along too often."

Matthew will face Karim Darwish for a place in the final after the eighth-seeded Egyptian came back from 2/0 down to beat local hope John White, the former world No1 who was based at the University for nearly five years.

Darwish's victory immediately followed a surprise win by his fiancée Engy Kheirallah over England's Alison Waters, ranked five places higher in the world.

"Usually, if I win, she loses, or the other way round, so it's one of the happiest days of my life that we have both won - especially in a British Open, which has such great importance in our country," said Darwish after his 6-11, 9-11, 11-8, 11-8, 11-4 victory over White in 57 minutes.

On the match, the 25-year-old from Cairo added: "I just couldn't live with the pace of the match for the first game and a half - he played so well - but then I was able to slow down the pace."

A despondent White rued the missed opportunity of not capitalising on his sensational first round win over another Egyptian, the world number and top seed Amr Shabana. "I shouldn't have let him get back in the third game.

"But overall I am playing better that I have for a long time - so at least I can take that away with me," added White as he made plans to head back to his new home in Philadelphia, USA.

Engy Kheirallah's earlier 8-10, 9-7, 9-2, 3-9, 9-6 triumph in 74 minutes over Waters makes her the first Egyptian woman to reach a British Open semi-final.

"I don't think I've ever played that well in my life," said the ecstatic 24-year-old from Alexandria. "Doing well in the British Open is something you dream about."

Kheirallah will now face Australia's Egypt-based third seed Rachael Grinham in the semi-finals. In a battle between two former world number ones, the two-times British Open champion crushed USA qualifier Natalie Grainger 9-2, 9-1, 9-1 in 26 minutes.

Younger sister Natalie Grinham later set up the possibility of an all-Grinham final when she booked herself a place in the semi-final in the top half of the draw, by beating England's seventh seed Tania Bailey 9-4, 9-7, 7-9, 9-1. Bailey, from nearby Lincolnshire, was a finalist four years ago - but was unable to prevent Commonwealth Games gold medallist Grinham from beating her in the event for the second time in a row.

Australia's David Palmer continued his relentless charge towards a fourth British Open crown with a hard-fought 11-9, 11-10 (2-0), 11-6 win over Malaysian qualifier Ong Beng Hee in 51 minutes.

The second seed is in buoyant form after winning the World Open title for a second time earlier in the month - and happy to have gained revenge for his loss to the world No14 from Kuala Lumpur last year.

"It was nice to give him a pay back," said the 30-year-old from New South Wales.

When asked about his success in Egypt, Palmer said: "I was happy to win the Worlds, but it would be good to do the British again as well.

"These are the two titles you're remembered by."

Palmer will face Thierry Lincou after the third seed maintained his 100% PSA Tour record against his French compatriot Gregory Gaultier. The former world number one from Marseille raced to a first game lead for the loss of just a single point, but Gaultier - runner-up in this year's World Open - recovered to forge a two-games-to-one lead.

"I'm relieved - I was chasing the score for most of the time, just trying to stay in the game," admitted the 30-year-old former world number one after his 11-1, 5-11, 9-11, 11-7, 11-6 victory in 80 minutes.

Men's quarter-finals:
[8] Karim Darwish (EGY) bt John White (SCO) 6-11, 9-11, 11-8, 11-8, 11-4 (57m)
[6] Nick Matthew (ENG) bt [4] James Willstrop (ENG) 11-7, 11-5 ret. (33m)
[3] Thierry Lincou (FRA) bt [7] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 11-1, 5-11, 9-11, 11-7, 11-6 (80m)
[2] David Palmer (AUS) bt [Q] Ong Beng Hee (MAS) 11-9, 11-10 (2-0), 11-6 (51m)

Women's quarter-finals:
[1] Nicol David (MAS) bt [5] Vicky Botwright (ENG) 9-4, 9-0, 9-0 (34m)
[4] Natalie Grinham (AUS) bt [7] Tania Bailey (ENG) 9-4, 9-7, 7-9, 9-1 (60m)
[3] Rachael Grinham (AUS) bt [Q] Natalie Grainger (USA) 9-2, 9-1, 9-1 (26m)
Engy Kheirallah (EGY) bt Alison Waters (ENG) 8-10, 9-7, 9-2, 3-9, 9-6 (74m)