8:38 am
21 Jun 2024

Waters Waltzes Into Nationals Record Books

13 Feb 2005

In a sensational upset in today's semi-finals of the British National Championships at the National Squash Centre at Sportcity in Manchester, London's Alison Waters beat second seed Rebecca Macree 9-6 10-8 9-2 to become the first unseeded player to reach the women's final in the event's 30-year history.

The 20-year-old from Southgate will meet top seed Linda Elriani, the world No5 from Eastbourne, who beat England team-mate Jenny Tranfield 9-2 4-9 9-4 9-1 in 42 minutes to reach her fifth final in ten years.

The men's semi-finals set up the dream final for Manchester squash enthusiasts - between top seed Lee Beachill and No3 seed James Willstrop, both of whom represent the local Manchester/Pontefract team in the National League.

World No2 Lee Beachill made it through to his fifth successive final - but only after edging past Yorkshire county team-mate Nick Matthew in a five-game thriller. Sixth-ranked Willstrop came back from a game behind to beat Scotland's defending champion John White 8-11 11-6 11-9 11-10.

Waters, the youngest women's finalist for twelve years, was celebrating her first ever win over Macree, the world No9 who was runner-up two years ago. "I've taken single games off her before, but never more than that.

"The second game was crucial - she led three times, but if she had won it, it would have been a different match. I think Rebecca was nervous, the pressure was on her," added the delighted history-maker.

Elriani, one game away from winning her maiden title in her 17th appearance in the event since 1987, was full of praise for her opponent: "Jenny played very well today and I had to play the right game to beat her - it was very open," said the 33-year-old former Miss Charman, now married to French international Laurent Elriani.

The first men's semi-final entertained the packed crowd for 90 minutes. Fourth seed Matthew, from Sheffield and ranked just four places below his top-seeded England team-mate, took the first game and had four game-balls to go into a 2/0 lead. But twice champion Beachill maintained his focus and levelled the match before racing to a 2/1 lead.

The gritty Matthew fought back, however, and forced the match into a fifth game decider. But, undeterred, Beachill bounced back to win the match 6-11 11-10 11-5 9-11 11-6 in the longest match of the tournament.

"It's the toughest match I've ever played against him - Nick played really well, moving well and making very few errors," said the relieved former champion from Pontefract.

"I didn't play badly, but I had to dig deep to come through - and winning the second game was very crucial. If I'd gone 2/0 down, things would have been very different," added the 27-year-old from Pontefract.

Matthew was pleased to have come back in the fourth game. "The fact that I didn't let him run away with it showed the strength of my character. I was pleased with that," said the 24-year-old from Sheffield who was hoping to make his final debut.

After his victory over title-holder White, James Willstrop admitted that he was pleasantly surprised that he felt all right after his five-game semi-final marathon the previous evening against fellow Yorkshireman Simon Parke.

"I did everything right after that match - had some Physio, an ice bath, I ate well, drunk loads and then slept well," explained the 21-year-old. "But the match really did take it out of me, so I was pleased with the way I played today against John.

"It's all down to having confidence in your own ability," added Willstrop, now in his first Nationals final.

White was downcast after missing out on his second successive final: "We both stuck to our game plans - but he did so better than I did. He played really well. His retrieval is great, and his reach is unbelievable."

Men's semi-finals:
[1] Lee Beachill (Yorks) bt [4] Nick Matthew (Yorks) 6-11, 11-10 (5-3), 11-5, 9-11, 11-6 (90m)
[3] James Willstrop (Yorks) bt [5] John White (Scotland) 8-11, 11-6, 11-9, 11-10 (2-0) (61m)

Women's semi-finals:
[1] Linda Elriani (Sussex) bt [3] Jenny Tranfield (Yorks) 9-2, 4-9, 9-4, 9-1 (42m)
Alison Waters (Middx) bt [2] Rebecca Macree (Essex) 9-6, 10-8, 9-2 (45m)