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21 Apr 2024

Pilley Revenge Denies Clean Sweep For England At Canary Wharf

13 Mar 2008

Australian Cameron Pilley upset Londoner Peter Barker in the quarter-finals of the ISS Canary Wharf Classic to deny the hosts an all-English semi-final line-up in the 5-star PSA Tour squash event in its fifth year at East Wintergarden in Canary Wharf, London.

Pilley's 66-minute victory over the fourth seed avenged his defeat by Barker in the deciding match in last December's World Team Championship final in India, where England clinched victory over Australia to retain the prestigious title.

In their first meeting since December, before a sell-out Canary Wharf crowd, seventh seed Pilley began like lightning - striking the ball crisply and finding plenty of nicks at the side of the court as he won the opening game for the loss of just one point.

Barker slapped the wall in frustration at the end of the game but came out firing in the second. The left-hander advanced to 9-1 and weathered a five-point run from Pilley before taking it 11-6 to draw level.

The third game was a tense affair with Pilley clinching the big points at the end to nick it 11-9. Barker led 7-4 in the fourth but lost his concentration and was docked a conduct stroke for throwing his racket in anger. The tall, athletic Pilley launched a huge recovery to win seven of the final eight points to win 11-1, 6-11, 11-9, 11-8 and clinch a surprise place in the semi-finals.

The UK-based 25-year-old from New South Wales now faces underdog Alister Walker, the unseeded Englishman who continued his giant-killing run by removing a second French opponent to reach the semi-finals. Having beaten top seed Gregory Gaultier in the first round, Walker produced another stylish and determined performance to overcome No8 seed Renan Lavigne from Marseille.

The more experienced Lavigne, ranked 28 in the world, won the opening game but Walker admitted his concentration had been affected by the previous evening's match highlights being replayed on the giant screen above the glass court.

"I know the crowd enjoyed it, but I was trying to blank it from my mind and concentrate on this match," said Walker, from Gloucestershire but now based in Leeds. "Renan is a great pro and I knew it was going to be a difficult match.

"It's a great feeling to be in the semi-finals and I just hope I can continue to move well and play well," added the 25-year-old after his 5-11, 11-7, 11-6, 11-4 victory in 56 minutes.

Yorkshire's Lee Beachill avenged his defeat by Joey Barrington in their last Tour meeting in Saudi Arabia to beat his fellow Englishman in four games to reach the semi-finals.

Barrington, son of squash legend Jonah, fought valiantly and won the second game after a prolonged tie-break to draw level at one game all. However, third seed Beachill's vast experience told in the end as he edged the third game and powered home in the fourth to win 11-8, 10-11 (3-5), 11-9, 11-2 after 76 minutes.

"It was a bit scrappy at times, probably because we were both trying to go for the same space on court," admitted Beachill. "But I was moving well and that's the pleasing thing for me."

A vice president of the PSA, the governing body of the men's world tour, Beachill said he was delighted to see every seat sold at the fabulous East Wintergarden venue at Canary Wharf.

"This is one of the world's great squash venues and it's fantastic to see the place absolutely full.

"If more people were to come here and see the world's top players in action, they would soon realise what squash today is all about. The product is fantastic and the presentation of the sport is getting better all the time with venues like this and the giant screen above the court," added Beachill.

The former world number one will now face his Pontefract club-mate James Willstrop in the semi-finals after the second seed beat Welsh veteran Alex Gough in four games.

Gough produced an inspired spell in the middle of the match to run Willstrop close during the second game and take the third with some ease, but Willstrop regained control to win the fourth for the loss of just two points.

Willstrop is hot favourite for the tournament following the shock exit of top seed Gregory Gaultier, but the world No4 refused to believe it made his task of winning the tournament any easier.

"The depth of ability in this game is so high that anybody can win the tournament," said the 24-year-old England number one who is now one match away from his fourth successive PSA Tour final. "It would be ridiculous of me to think any other way. Every player in this tournament is a quality performer and I respect every one of them."

Willstrop, who has won four of his last five tournaments, achieved his first career victory over Beachill on his way to winning last year's Canary Wharf title, and added: "I am just enjoying the way I am playing at the moment and taking each match as it comes."

Alister Walker (ENG) bt [8] Renan Lavigne (FRA) 5-11, 11-7, 11-6, 11-4 (56m)
[7] Cameron Pilley (AUS) bt [4] Peter Barker (ENG) 11-1, 6-11, 11-9, 11-8 (66m)
[3] Lee Beachill (ENG) bt Joey Barrington (ENG) 11-8, 10-11 (3-5), 11-9, 11-2 (76m)
[2] James Willstrop (ENG) bt [6] Alex Gough (WAL) 11-3, 11-10 (2-0), 4-11, 11-2 (42m)