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15 Apr 2024

Castagnet Conquers Willstrop In British Open Shock

22 Mar 2017

France's world No.19 Mathieu Castagnet upset England's three-time finalist James Willstrop on day one of action in the Allam British Open in Hull, sending 'The Marksman' out at the first hurdle.

Castagnet played out an entertaining, 71-minute encounter with Willstrop as both players treated the spectators to some absorbing rallies. Honours were shared after the opening two games before the lower-ranked Frenchman eventually took the next two games to close it out 11-9, 10-12, 12-10, 11-9.

"To beat James, who is in great form at the moment and sixth in the world is something special for me," said Castagnet, who will play Hong Kong's Max Lee next.

"I can feel his depression, it's such a big tournament for him, it's so important for him to represent his country at the British Open. It is a big tournament for me, but it is different because it is not my country."

Castagnet will line up against Max Lee in round two after the Hong Kong underdog completed a stunning comeback from two games down to beat Egypt's world No.7 Marwan Elshorbagy.

"It was amazing, but I have no idea how I did it," said Lee, ranked 17 in the world.

"I've been ready to play the last three tournaments, but it didn't go well. The matches were even, long matches but my body cramps have been quite strange. That's why I rested a bit after Windy City. I didn't play Canary Wharf or any other tournaments and I'm a bit fresher."

Top seed Mohamed Elshorbagy, the world No.1, was pushed hard by fellow Egyptian Fares Dessouky - finally clinching the match 11-8 in the fifth as he bids to become the first player since the legendary Jansher Khan in the 1990s to win three British Open titles in a row.

The Bristol-based 26-year-old will hope to keep his winning run going in Hull - where his status as World No.1 is also on the line with both Karim Abdel Gawad and Gregory Gaultier in a position to overtake Elshorbagy at the top of the standings.

"I'm playing with no expectations right now - but if I can be the first player since Jansher to win three in a row I'd love that," said Elshorbagy.

"I've been No.1 for 28 months, and I think it's natural for that to catch up on you at some point.

"I knew there was going to be a point where my level would drop and the motivation went a little. I think having that when I'm 26 is good for me though because I can learn so much from this and come back stronger - I've seen Nick [Matthew], Greg [Gaultier], [Amr] Shabana and all those players go through these kind of times, so I know I can come out stronger again at the end."

Gawad and Gaultier both won on day one against Omar Mosaad and Miguel Angel Rodriguez, respectively, while three-time winner Nick Matthew defeated Spain's Borja Golan.

It was in the women's event that biggest upset took place, when 2016 runner-up Nouran Gohar fell to a shock defeat to 16-year-old Egyptian qualifier Nada Abbas.

Abbas, a two-time PSA World Tour title winner, counteracted Gohar's trademark hard-hitting style brilliantly - the teenager ranked 45 in the world slowing the pace right down and controlling the ball well at the front of the court to claim a stunning 12-10, 14-12, 5-11, 11-8 victory.

"It's a great feeling, it's the first time I've ever beaten anyone in the top 10, I can't believe it," said Abbas, who will play Australian Donna Urquhart in the next round.

"I tried to break her game and to not let her play a fast game. I tried to slow things down a little bit and go for shots in the front more.

"There's no pressure on me, so I want to play my best squash. I want to go as far as I can, if I play like this then I could go to the quarter-finals."

Abbas will be joined in round two by defending champion Nour El Sherbini, who eased past Denmark's Line Hansen in straight games.

El Sherbini looked comfortable as she eased her way into the tournament with a 21-minute 11-5, 11-7, 11-3 victory to set down a marker for the rest of the week.

"I feel like I'm playing well and I'm looking forward to seeing how it goes this week," said El Sherbini.

"Winning here last year was very big for me. But I'm trying not to think about being the defending champion - I'm trying to just win the title again.

"I haven't won a tournament for a while, but I'm happy with how I'm playing and I'm pleased to back towards some of my best form."

There were also wins for 2015 champion Camille Serme, world No.3 Raneem El Welily and five-time winner Nicol David - while home hero Laura Massaro also got off to a winning start on day one.

"I'm happy to be back at the British Open," Massaro said.

"Being British myself makes this event even more special. There's so much history and prestige and it's the first of the big events that I won - and I made the final three years in a row as well, so it's very special for me."