10:57 am
21 Apr 2024

Willstrop & Waters Win In Manchester

17 Feb 2008

While Yorkshireman James Willstrop successfully defended his men's title in the British National Championships today in Manchester, it was third time lucky for Londoner Alison Waters who upset her higher-seeded England team-mate Laura Lengthorn-Massaro to win the women's crown at the National Squash Centre.

After a highly successful year on the world tour since winning this title 12 months ago, Willstrop arrived in Manchester as firm favourite to retain his title.

But his Pontefract club-mate Lee Beachill - a three times champion who underwent hernia surgery at the beginning of the New Year - had battled through to a record seventh final appearance against the odds.

Willstrop edged ahead after a finely-balanced first game - then turned the screw as Beachill's lack of match fitness began to show. The 24-year-old world No6 raised his arms in delight as he celebrated his 11-9, 11-8, 11-4 triumph in 39 minutes - becoming only the second person in history to win back-to-back men's titles.

"I didn't know what to expect - and maybe I was just too cautious to start with," said Willstrop, the England number one. "I couldn't dwell on his shortcomings - I had to constantly keep my focus.

"I was pleased to have closed it out - I couldn't afford to give him a sniff.

"The Nationals is a tough event - it's a big tournament and a very important one to me."

Willstrop's next major target is the Hi-Tec World Championship - which will be staged at the National Squash Centre in Manchester, for the first time, in October.

"The World Open is my biggest focus this year - and, being here in Manchester, it will clearly be a massive event," added the new champion.

Beachill was not happy with his performance: "I went onto the court expecting to be further away from him than I was - then I was disappointed that I wasn't able to capitalise on that," explained the 30-year-old former world number one afterwards.

"I was more disappointed with the way I was mentally than physically," said Beachill, who survived a hard-fought 91-minute semi-final less than 24 hours earlier.

"If that's the top standard in the world, then I'm not that far away.

"On reflection, I can't be too unhappy: I've not got a lot more to prove in this tournament."

In the women's final, local favourite Lengthorn-Massaro, from Preston, took control of the first game, but Waters came back to take the next two.

At 4-8 down in the fourth, Waters mounted a final charge to record her impressive 6-11, 11-7, 11-8, 11-9 win in 49 minutes.

"I really wanted it this year after missing out twice before," said the 23-year-old world No11 who became the first unseeded player to reach the final in 2005 and last year lost out after squandered a two-game lead. "It's been my focus since the beginning of the year.

"It's a nice title to have - my first senior title - and at least I get to hold onto it for a year!

"It'll give me a lot of extra confidence on the WISPA World Tour - where my ambition is to get into the world's top eight.

"My next event is the Malaysian Open - where I meet Vicky Botwright in the first round," concluded the new champion.

Men's final:
[1] James Willstrop (Yorks) bt [2] Lee Beachill (Yorks) 11-9, 11-8, 11-4 (39m)

Women's final:
[4] Alison Waters (Middx) bt [3] Laura Lengthorn-Massaro (Lancs) 6-11, 11-7, 11-8, 11-9 (49m)