Stait Celebrates 'Home' Win In Manchester

13 Feb 08

Manchester-based Alex Stait pulled off "easily my best result ever" when he upset England international Peter Barker, the third seed, in today's second round of the British National Championships at the National Squash Centre in Manchester.

The 28-year-old from Stroud in Gloucestershire, who moved to Alderley Edge more than three years ago, was celebrating his ninth appearance in the event since 2000. However, his shock 11-6, 11-4, 11-10 (4-2) victory over Barker, the world No12, takes Stait into the quarter-finals for the first time.

"I just played out of my skin," summed up Stait after his breakthrough 33-minute win. "I know that on my day I can really play well - and this was my day.

"I moved to Manchester more than three years ago with my fiancée Karen - and since then I've been coaching at the club in Alderley Edge.

"It was great to get so much support from local friends and club-mates tonight - they gave me a real lift. This tournament has always had the feel of a local tournament to me - which is why it's so good to do well in it."

Barker admitted afterwards that he had been suffering with a fractured toe. "My physio assured me that I wouldn't do any further damage to it if I played - and I didn't want to pull out of the tournament. But it did restrict my movement. I will now rest it and give it a chance to heal before playing in the Canary Wharf Classic in London next month."

The surprise win takes Stait into an all-Gloucestershire quarter-final - against school-mate Alister Walker! Originally from Gloucester, Walker has also moved north - to Leeds. "We've played loads of times before - it'll be a great match," added Stait.

Top-seeded Yorkshiremen James Willstrop and Lee Beachill claimed their anticipated places in the quarter-finals after straight games second round wins. Favourite Willstrop, the defending champion from Leeds, beat 16th seed Ben Ford, from Kent, 11-8, 11-7, 11-5 in 26 minutes while second seed Beachill, from Pontefract, defeated county colleague Simon Parke 11-6, 11-5, 11-2 in 33 minutes.

Essex's No9 seed Daryl Selby pulled off a minor upset when he overcame Somerset's Joey Barrington, the seventh seed, 11-4, 11-7, 7-11, 11-6 in an 89-minute marathon.

Less than 24 hours after considering withdrawing from the women's event, top seed Tania Bailey coasted to a straight games first round victory over Irish international Laura Mylotte.

The world No5 from Lincolnshire had not been able to train or compete for almost two weeks, since picking up a ham-string injury during a quarter-final match against the Australian world No2 Natalie Grinham in the Apawamis Open in New York.

"Even up to yesterday, I wasn't sure I was going to be able to play," said the 28-year-old England No1 after her 11-4, 11-6, 11-5 win in 24 minutes. "But thanks to the brilliant efforts my fantastic physio Jim Webb (the Head Physiotherapist at the English Institute of Sport, North West) - including a two-hour session I had with him yesterday - I felt absolutely fine during my first match for nearly two weeks.

"I was a little bit nervous when I went on court - but my body felt fine. Hopefully, I'll get stronger with every match - and I'm looking forward to playing my next match on the all-glass court. I love that glass court," added the 2006 champion from Stamford.

The women's event is being played using 'Point-A-Rally' scoring for the first time - falling in line with PAR scoring to 11 points a game that has considerably enhanced the spectator appeal of the men's game.

"I like it - it makes the games much more exciting for the crowd," said Bailey after her first round match. "We'll need to get used to it - but it puts pressure on the higher-seeded players as their opponents can just let rip. But it's worked so well for men's squash."

In the longest women's match of the day, sixth seed Dominique Lloyd-Walter, from Harrow in Middlesex, battled for 44 minutes to overcome Yorkshire qualifier Lauren Siddall 11-8, 6-11, 11-6, 11-10 (2-0).

"Before I knew it, we got to five-all in our first game, when the score would still have been love-all under the old system," explained Siddall, the 23-year-old world No42 from Pontefract. "I definitely prefer it - but you've got to come out ready. It keeps you on your toes!"

There was local disappointment in the women's event when Manchester's Rebecca Botwright - the younger sister of No2 seed Vicky Botwright, who was forced to withdraw from the event with a viral infection - went down 11-8, 11-2, 11-4 to No7 seed Lauren Briggs.

"She played well and I made too many errors," said the 26-year-old who is now a Special Educational Needs teacher's assistant at Walkden High School in Swinton.

In the last match of the day, defending champion Jenny Duncalf eased to an 11-10 (3-1), 9-11, 11-8, 11-4 win over Birmingham qualifier Vicky Hynes. The 25-year-old second seed from Harrogate, who won the title for the first time last year, will now face Ireland's Madeline Perry in a repeat of last year's semi-final.

Fifth seed Perry, playing in her first UK tournament since sustaining a serious head injury in Italy last October, beat qualifier Emma Beddoes, from Warwick, 11-4, 11-4, 11-5.

RESULTS: British National Squash Championships, National Squash Centre, Manchester

Men's 2nd round:
[1] James Willstrop (Yorks) bt [16] Ben Ford (Kent) 11-8, 11-7, 11-5 (26m)
[6] Jonathan Kemp (Shropshire) bt Tom Richards (Surrey) 11-2, 11-6, 11-9 (28m)
[15] Alex Stait (Glos) bt [3] Peter Barker (Essex) 11-6, 11-4, 11-10 (4-2) (33m)
[8] Alister Walker (Glos) bt [13] Andrew Whipp (Cheshire) 11-1, 10-11 (3-5), 11-10 (3-1), 11-2 (50m)
[9] Daryl Selby (Essex) bt [7] Joey Barrington (Somerset) 11-4, 11-7, 7-11, 11-6 (89m)
[4] Adrian Grant (Kent) bt Jonathan Harford (Glos) 7-11, 11-3, 11-9, 11-3 (48m)
[5] Alex Gough (Wales) bt [11] Chris Ryder (Herts) 7-11, 9-11, 11-4, 11-4, 11-6 (73m)
[2] Lee Beachill (Yorks) bt [10] Simon Parke (Yorks) 11-6, 11-5, 11-2 (33m)

Women's 1st round:
[1] Tania Bailey (Lincs) bt Laura Mylotte (Ireland) 11-4, 11-6, 11-5 (24m)
[8] Sarah Kippax (Cheshire) bt [Q] Kirsty McPhee (Yorks) 11-7, 11-9, 11-4 (27m)
[3] Laura Lengthorn-Massaro (Lancs) bt Sarah-Jane Perry (Warwicks) 11-4, 11-3, 11-5 (18m)
[6] Dominique Lloyd-Walter (Middx) bt [Q] Lauren Siddall (Yorks) 11-8, 6-11, 11-6, 11-10 (2-0) (44m)
[7] Lauren Briggs (Essex) bt Rebecca Botwright (Lancs) 11-8, 11-2, 11-4 (29m)
[4] Alison Waters (Middx) bt Laura Hill (Derbyshire) 10-11 (0-2), 11-4, 11-7, 11-4 (36m)
[5] Madeline Perry (Ireland) bt [Q] Emma Beddoes (Warwicks) 11-4, 11-4, 11-5 (23m)
[2] Jenny Duncalf (Yorks) bt [Q] Vicky Hynes (Warwicks) 11-10 (3-1), 9-11, 11-8, 11-4 (39m)