7:01 am
26 Jun 2017

Defending Champions Cruise In Nationals Openers

10 Feb 2017

Defending champions Nick Matthew and Laura Massaro cruised through their first round matches in the Blowers Jewellers British National Squash Championships in Manchester.

Yorkshireman Matthew overcame Hallamshire club-mate Ashley Davies, a qualifier from Derbyshire, while Lancastrian Massaro comfortably despatched Deon Saffery of Wales on day one of main draw action at the National Squash Centre.

Thursday brought the first glimpse of the all-glass show court, with three-time women's champion Massaro first to take to the court. The world No.5 from Preston needed just 24 minutes to beat Saffery 11-2, 11-6, 11-3.

Second seed Alison Waters, who has four Nationals titles to her name, and fellow English players Sarah-Jane Perry and Emily Whitlock - both 3/4 seeds - all also advanced to the quarter finals with ease.

But Jenny Duncalf, the two-time winner from Yorkshire who is celebrating a record 19th successive appearance in the championship, was taken to a decider in her match against Derbyshire's world No.35 Millie Tomlinson, emerging victorious 11-8, 7-11, 11-5, 6-11, 11-7 after 62 minutes.

"That was a bit of a scrap," said Duncalf. "We play different games, Millie plays a lot of length and I like to go short more, so finding the right balance between attack and defence is tricky, and I was maybe trying to force it too much at times."

Meanwhile, 36-year-old Matthew is bidding for a record ninth British National title. His opponent Ashley Davies, a 22-year-old from Chesterfield, came through a five-game thriller against England Squash Academy player George Parker on Wednesday evening. World No.4 Matthew only required three games to seal the first round tie, winning 11-7, 11-2, 11-7 in 37 minutes.

Fellow Yorkshireman James Willstrop, the No.2 seed with two titles and eight final appearances to his credit, also advanced to the last eight, beating Nottinghamshire qualifier Mark Fuller 11-5, 11-8, 11-5 in 31 minutes.

The day's main upset came when Warwickshire's unseeded Jaymie Haycocks beat Ben Coleman, a 5/8 seed from Essex, 7-11, 11-9, 11-6, 11-3 in 49 minutes to reach the quarter-finals for the first time in 12 attempts.

"I just had to battle my way into the match, trying to break him out of his rhythm, and thankfully I managed to get back into it," said the Birmingham-based 33-year-old. "I knew he'd been out for a while so I tried to make it hard and it paid off. Really pleased to be through to the quarters for the first time."

A final between two of the most exciting veterans in the game remained on course in the men's Over-45s after seven-time Masters champion and World O45 champion Nick Taylor and former world No.2 Peter Marshall both advanced through to Friday's quarter finals. The pair will be joined by England Squash's Senior National Coach David Campion.

The men's over-40s draw went according to seed with top seeds Peter O'Hara and Daniel Massaro both safely into the next round.

Meanwhile, Manchester's Yawar Abbas, the top seed representing Durham and Cleveland, made it through to the quarter-finals of the over-50s.

Number two seed Mandy Akin, of Kent, required just 21 minutes to book her place in the quarter-finals of the women's over-50s draw, beating Bev Vatcher, of Dorset, in straight games.

In the men's O-55 draw, Mark Woodliffe of Gloucestershire will play Durham and Cleveland's 5/8 seed Neil Harrison after beating Mark Taylor, of Avon, 11-4, 14-12, 11-3.

Rustom Bativala, of Warwickshire, the favourite for the men's over-60s title, came through a major scare in the second round. After five games - and 59 minutes - he eventually beat Brian Duke, of Durham and Cleveland, with a nervy finish to the decider. The final score was 13-15, 15-9, 12-15, 15-11, 17-15. Bativala now faces David Clarke, of Surrey, in the quarter finals.

And there were no surprises in the over-65s draw either, with John Rae, the top seed from Scotland, and second seed Ian Graham, of Sussex, both through.