9:26 pm
23 Jul 2024

Prince Willstrop Clinches English Grand Prix Crown

10 Sep 2007

In a dream outcome for event sponsors Prince, new signing James Willstrop clinched the Prince English Grand Prix - Birmingham 2007 title in the Great Hall at the University of Birmingham - upsetting higher-seeded Thierry Lincou in a dramatic climax of the inaugural 5-star PSA Tour championship in the West Midlands city.

Just 24 hours after being hailed as the new global face of the racquet brand, fourth-seeded Englishman Willstrop secured an unexpected place in the English Grand Prix final after battling to a five-game victory in 95 minutes over world champion David Palmer, the top seed from Australia.

And at two games and 6-0 up over third seed Lincou in the final, it looked as if the 24-year-old Yorkshireman had the title in the bag.

But the wily Frenchman, who had also prevailed in a marathon five-game semi-final, had other ideas - and reclaimed the advantage to force the match into a fifth game decider.

However, Willstrop was not to be outdone: The former world junior champion quickly raced to a 7-1 lead - and after 77 minutes secured his fairytale 11-8, 11-8, 9-11, 7-11, 11-3 triumph.

"It's a real honour to win this one, especially as it's my first Prince tournament, absolutely brilliant," Willstrop told the official event website www.englishgrandprix.net. "Thierry is a fantastic squash player - I've been watching him for so long, and he is the king for three things: one, king of starting slow, then, at getting better as the matches go on, and three, at coming back!

"And when I was 2/0 and 7/1 up, I treated it differently as I would have with anybody else, because I've seen him coming back from that position so many times. But he was so accurate, I was scraping balls off the wall and I just couldn't do anything. It's nothing fancy, nothing complicated, simple squash but so efficient. I came through just by sticking at it, and giving it everything I had," added the new champion, after claiming the 7th PSA Tour title of his career.

A disappointed Lincou explained: "I lacked patience in particular in the first two games. I did train and work into a more offensive game, but I would say that I used it wrongly tonight, and that I didn't find the right tempo."

Both players will now be focussing their attention on the forthcoming Dunlop British Open, which takes place at the National Squash Centre in Manchester from 20-24 September. Incredibly, Willstrop is scheduled to meet Palmer in the quarter-finals, with the winner likely to face Lincou in the following round!

[4] James Willstrop (ENG) bt [3] Thierry Lincou (FRA) 11-8, 11-8, 9-11, 7-11, 11-3 (77m)