11:15 am
21 Apr 2024

Grant Stems Selby Comeback In Manchester

14 Feb 2008

Londoner Adrian Grant booked the first place in the men's semi-finals after stemming a comeback by Essex's ninth seed Daryl Selby in today's quarter-finals of the British National Championships on the first day's play on the all-glass court at the National Squash Centre in Manchester.

The Leeds-based left-hander led all the way through the first two games, but Selby put more pressure on the fourth seed in the third, before reaching his first game-ball at 10-8.

However, the experienced Grant raised his game to reclaim the advantage, before clinching an 11-5, 11-9, 11-10 (3-1) victory in 49 minutes - and his third appearance in the event's last four.

"It was tight in the third game, but as I was 2/0 up in games I thought I should just go for it - and played some risky shots which worked," explained Grant, the first black player ever to play for England.

"Even though Daryl had had two marathon matches in the previous rounds, he still kept going - I definitely didn't take him lightly.

"I've been working on a few things on my game recently - and now have much more confidence to play winners from the centre of the court."

When asked about the importance he places on the National Championships, Grant was quick to reply: "All the top English guys want to win this one. With an arena like that, everybody wants to do well.

"It's a lot more open this year. I'm playing well - and if I stick to what I know, I could go all the way," added the 27-year-old.

Grant will meet second seed Lee Beachill in Saturday's semi-finals after the Yorkshireman beat experienced Welshman Alex Gough, the fifth seed, 11-7, 11-4, 11-5 in 31 minutes.

Beachill, appearing in his 11th successive quarter-final, is appearing in his first event on home soil since undergoing hernia surgery at the beginning of the year.

"I'm pretty delighted with the way I'm playing - I keep having to remind myself that it was only six weeks ago that I was having surgery! If you'd said then that I would be on court now, in this form, I would have said you were mad," said the 30-year-old three-time winner of the title.

Beachill was full of praise for Gough, the 37-year-old who is also competing in the Over-35 championship. "I think the squash he's played over the last 18 months or so has been his best ever. We've played loads of times - and the last few have been great matches - he's so tough."

Beachill sustained a freak neck injury midway through last year's event - causing him to withdraw on the eve of the semi-finals. "That was a real low point in my life last year - it took a while to get over it.

"But I always seem to fulfil my aim here and love playing in the event," added Beachill, who has notched up a record six successive final appearances.

"I don't feel under any pressure this year as I have no expectations. But I'm hitting the ball so well - and I know that when I walk on court, I'm tough to beat.

"I don't think I've got anything to prove here," concluded the former world number one.

In the women's event, Lancashire's Laura Lengthorn-Massaro beat her long-time rival Dominique Lloyd-Walter in straight games to claim a semi-final berth for the second successive year.

"It's good to be back in the semi-finals again - but there's more pressure this year as I am seeded to do so," said the 24-year-old third seed from Preston after her 11-9, 11-7, 11-5 victory in 34 minutes.

"We've had some battles over the years - in juniors she was a couple of years older and always beat me then. So I know how to play her."

But there has also been a new Manchester influence in her game since Laura started working with local star Nick Taylor, head coach at the National Centre.

"I started working with Nick just before Christmas - he's been helping me with my technique," explained the England international.

"I feel good here - I definitely like playing here," added the world No12 who now meets England team-mate Tania Bailey for a place in her first final.

Bailey, the 2006 champion from Lincolnshire, beat Cheshire's Sarah Kippax 11-7, 11-7, 11-7.

"That's definitely the best she's ever played against me," said Bailey of her opponent, the No8 seed who is now based in Halifax.

"I feel as strong as I've ever been," added Bailey, who sustained a ham-string injury two weeks ago which hampered her Nationals' preparation. "My match practice is a little bit lacking - but I'm just so glad I'm playing."

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

Men's quarter-finals (bottom half of draw):
[4] Adrian Grant (Kent) bt [9] Daryl Selby (Essex) 11-5, 11-9, 11-10 (3-1) (49m)
[2] Lee Beachill (Yorks) bt [5] Alex Gough (Wales) 11-7, 11-4, 11-5 (31m)

Women's quarter-finals (top half of draw):
[1] Tania Bailey (Lincs) bt [8] Sarah Kippax (Cheshire) 11-7, 11-7, 11-7 (27m)
[3] Laura Lengthorn-Massaro (Lancs) bt [6] Dominique Lloyd-Walter (Middx) 11-9, 11-7, 11-5 (34m)