11:15 am
23 Jun 2024

Richards Rallies To First Nationals Semi-Final In Manchester

11 Feb 2011

Surrey's sixth seed Tom Richards battled for 42 minutes to keep Scotland's Alan Clyne at bay before earning his first appearance in the men's semi-finals of the British National Squash Championships at the National Squash Centre in Manchester.

The Guildford-born 24-year-old, in only his sixth appearance in the championships, took the first game and led 9-8 in the second before Scottish number one Clyne clinched the game to draw level.

Tenth seed Clyne, from Edinburgh, was celebrating his first appearance in the quarter-finals after a shock defeat of fourth seed Adrian Grant, runner-up two years ago, in the previous round.

However, Richards built up early leads in the next two games before recording his 11-5, 9-11, 11-6, 11-4 victory.

"I knew Alan would fight until the very end," said Richards, the world No31, of his opponent ranked 16 places lower.

The quarter-final stage of the event saw action move from the conventional courts onto the Centre's spectacular all-glass showcourt.

"It's great to be in the semis for the first time - though it's a strange feeling, as it feels like a new tournament, now that we're playing on the glass court. It's a real inspiration being on there," Richards continued.

"Now that I've beaten two or three of the top players in the world, it has given me a lot of confidence. I now feel I can hold my own with players in the world's top ten. But it's one thing thinking about it; it's another thing doing it!"

Later, the event's top seed and defending champion Nick Matthew survived a 51-minute clash with Chris Simpson, beating the Guernsey-born eighth seed 11-8, 11-7, 11-6.

"It would be fantastic to play Nick in the next round," added Richards. "I know he's played on the court a lot more than I have, but I already feel comfortable on it. There'll be no pressure on me - it'll all be on him."

Matthew, the world number one and world champion from Sheffield who is bidding to win the national title for a record-equalling fourth time, was full of praise for his opponent. "Chris is a tough competitor - even from when he was young, he always got stuck in.

"He and Tom are very strong - it's good to see players like them getting to the later stages of this tournament."

Simpson, the world No45 who represented Guernsey in the Delhi Commonwealth Games, was delighted with his performance. "I feel I played really well," said the Harrogate-based 23-year-old. "My aim was to get a game off him - or at least compete for the whole match and not let him get a good run.

"The stuff I was working on really worked today.

"You can't go on court with someone of Nick's calibre without learning something. In fact, I found myself seeing things he was doing in the match, and trying to play some of those shots myself! It was a great experience."

Laura Massaro, bidding to become the first Lancashire player to win the women's title, cruised into her fifth successive semi-final when she beat Welsh number one Deon Saffery in today's quarter-finals.

The world No9 from Preston, who arrived back on home soil after the biggest international title win of her career in the USA last week, took just 22 minutes to ease past the unseeded Saffery 11-3, 11-3, 11-7.

"I think Deon took a bit of time getting used to the court," said 27-year-old Massaro. "In the third she played a bit better and I probably tried to finish it off a little too quickly.

Third seed Massaro lives less than an hour from the venue: "I really like the court here - but it's more the atmosphere of the whole place than just the court.

"It was brilliant winning in Cleveland last week, but it was a squash club with just a hundred or so watching. The setting here is much bigger. I feel at home here because it's where I have my physio and do my training. And I've got lots of friends and family here - you don't get that anywhere else."

Massaro will meet Irish rival Madeline Perry in the semis in a repeat of their semi-final clash in Cleveland. The No2 seed from Banbridge, near Belfast, beat Victoria Lust, the 21-year-old sixth seed from Cheltenham, 11-4, 11-5, 11-6.

"I've been in a few semis now," Massaro added. "But I'm really looking forward to playing Madeline again. There'll be no pressure according to the seedings, but I'll have the confidence after my Cleveland win."

Perry, who has never before made the Nationals final - yet reached the finals of the British Open on the same court in 2009 - was delighted with her progress: "It was nice to be back on the showcourt," said the 33-year-old world No7.

"It would certainly be nice to get to the final for the first time - and hopefully, being seeded two, will help," Perry added.

"It's been a big goal of mine to win this title for a few years - and back home it would really make a big difference."

About her latest meeting with Massaro, Perry said: "I feel we're pretty evenly-matched. But she played so well in Cleveland.

"It should be a great game."

Men's quarter-finals:
[1] Nick Matthew (Yorks) bt [8] Chris Simpson (Hants) 11-8, 11-7, 11-6 (51m)
[6] Tom Richards (Surrey) bt [10] Alan Clyne (Scotland) 11-5, 9-11, 11-6, 11-4 (42m)

Women's quarter-finals:
[3] Laura Massaro (Lancs) bt Deon Saffery (Wales) 11-3, 11-3, 11-7 (22m)
[2] Madeline Perry (Ireland) bt [6] Victoria Lust (Beds) 11-4, 11-5, 11-6 (30m)