2:45 pm
14 Jul 2024

Hosts Delight In Dream Day At Birmingham 2022

31 Jul 2022

Birmingham 2022 hosts England enjoyed a dream start in their bid to capture Commonwealth Games medals on home courts after every member of the Team England team picked up victories in straight games in round two at the University of Birmingham Hockey and Squash Centre.

Former world No.1 James Willstrop was one of the stories of the 2018 Games when he won singles gold at the fourth attempt - and the 38-year-old made the ideal start to his title defence on day two.

After receiving a first round bye alongside his England teammates yesterday, Willstrop was at his crowd-pleasing best against Gibraltar's Christian Navas, putting on a typically smooth display to put away the 44-year-old.

Willstrop pinned Navas at back a number of times throughout the match, with the crowd showing particular appreciation for the trademark 'windmill' as Willstrop went 2/0 up with 11-1 and 11-2 wins.

To his delight and rapturous applause, Navas took a 1-0 lead in game three. While he was unable to hold on for an unlikely win, he left the court with plenty of credit after a hard-fought 11-6 defeat that sent Willstrop through to the last 16.

Willstrop - who will play Nasir Iqbal tomorrow after the Pakistani's compatriot 9/16 seed opponent Tayyab Aslam was forced to withdraw through injury during their match - will be joined by all of his teammates tomorrow after No.2 seed Sarah-Jane Perry beat Jade Pitcairn, 3/4 seed Georgina Kennedy eased past Yemeni Kuruppu, and 5/8 seed Lucy Turmel beat Amity Alarcos in the women's draw, while 3/4 seed Patrick Rooney and 5/8 seed Adrian Waller beat Julian Jervis and Jake Kelly, respectively.

Paul Coll, Willstrop's opponent in the 2018 final, was also involved for the first time as the top seed and World No.2 from New Zealand breezed past Niall Engerer of Malta.

Although Engerer, who has Maltese family but was born in England, was unable to get the better of Coll, he won plenty of fans with an entertaining attacking display that caught the Kiwi out a number of times, particularly in the third game.

Speaking after his 11-4, 11-2, 11-4 win, Coll said: "It was good fun. I've never played him before and it's nice to play someone new. It was a great and clean match and he's got great skills.

"It's amazing seeing the New Zealand supporters. It's my favourite time of year playing for New Zealand."

Engerer said: "I'm English born and bred so I had a lot of friends and family up today which was really special and I felt the love on there!"

Joelle King, Coll's compatriot and top seed counterpart in the women's draw, also went into her match, which was the first of the day on the show court, against Botswana's Leungo Katse as the overwhelming favourite.

Any fans hoping for an opening match miracle were quickly brought back down by King, who put away the 17-year-old 11-1, 11-4, 11-3 in brutally efficient fashion.

Today also saw Rachael Grinham became the first Australian woman to compete in six Commonwealth Games as she went down to compatriot and 9/16 seed Donna Lobban.

The 45-year-old, who has won eight Commonwealth Games medals since she appeared at squash's Commonwealth Games debut in Kuala Lumpur 1998, went into today's match with a 5-5 head-to-head record versus Lobban, though Lobban had won the last three encounters.

It initially appeared that Grinham was going to write a fairytale and reverse this trend as she took a hard-fought first game 11-6 to the delight of the crowd.

Lobban, however, never looked flustered and levelled with an 11-4 win in the second game before taking the match with two 11-7s.

Afterwards, Lobban said: "It's definitely bittersweet. We were gutted we had to play each other because we wanted to beat someone else! I have so much respect for Rachael as a teammate and a friend.

"She's been world No.1 and World Champ and I was lucky enough to grow up looking up to her and with her inspiring me."

Elsewhere, Indian 14-year-old Anahat Singh's Commonwealth Games campaign came to an end at the hands of Wales' 5/8 seed Emily Whitlock, Canada's Nick Sachvie fought from 2/1 down to beat New Zealand's 9/16 seed Lwamba Chileshe and Wales' Emyr Evans downed Malaysian 9/16 seed Mohammad Syafiq Kamal 3/1.