World Squash Championship 2013: Willstrop & Matthew progress

World Squash Championship 2013: James Willstrop could be on course of joy on and off the court this week after reaching the last-8

By Joel Durston at National Squash Centre
World No3 James Willstrop

James Willstrop could be on course for joy on and off the court this week, having reached the quarter finals without dropping a game, and with girlfriend Vanessa expecting their first child “any second”.

The game started in the manner that it was to continue – long rallies ending with lets, particularly to Borja Golán, as three of the first four did – before Willstrop got the measure of the Spaniard.

Golán replied in the second with some clever boasts and drops to open up a 3-1 lead, before Willstrop brought it back, getting the better off several long tight rallies on his strong backhand side.

Things got very tense at 8-7 to Golán, after which there was five lets in six points, four of which for the world No9, who, exasperated at what he believed to be persistent obstruction from Willstrop, protested “I try…I try, but not possible”.

It was Willstrop, seeded third, that broke the 8-8 deadlock with two delicate backhand volley drops – perhaps his best shot – to set up game ball, which he won at first attempt.

With the help of a new shirt, somewhat awkwardly requested by the ref before the third commenced, Willstrop went on to win the third 11-6, finishing it, fittingly, with a fine backhand drop which Golan couldn’t quite reach.

Chances are, his and Vanessa’s boy will be a pretty talented player as Willstrop’s partner is a former world No1 herself!

And asked about his preparation and philosophy for this week, he said: “The philosophy is very different this week as my girlfriend is expecting, so it adds a bit of extra interest.”

“I’m racing back and forth to Harrogate, and it’s expected any second. Vanessa is doing fine.”

“So perspectives are skewed, but it’s a nice kind of skewed to have.”

In one of Friday’s quarter-finals, Willstrop will play Mohamed Elshorbagy – a repeat of their World Championship semi-final last year in Qatar, where the world No3 admitted the Eygptian “got his number”, though the Brit has won their two meeting this year.

Elshorbagy beat German Simon Rosner 11-1, 11-7, 11-7.

Ramy Ashour might need to pick his game up if he is to win the title from arch-rival Gregory Gaultier, who has not dropped a game so far – the pair being seeded to meet in the final.

Yesterday, the Egyptian laboured – by his incredible standards at least – to his 52nd straight win, beating Australian Cameron Pilley 9-11, 11-8, 11-4, 12-10.

The world No1 will face Saurav Ghosal, the first Indian to make the World Championships quarter-finals, after coming back from two games down to beat Finn Henrik Mustonen 5-11, 8-11, 11-8, 11-4, 11-2, in a game that featured many long rallies between two great retrievers.

There was more home success as Nick Matthew overcame a strong comeback from Omar Mosaad to win 11-4, 11-7, 11-13, 11-4.

It was, Matthew said, his “tenacity” that allowed him to overcome Mosaad’s quality, claiming he would be “half the player” he is, and not able to compete with the skills of Ashour, Gaultier and co, without it.

Speaking about Mosaad and the match, Matthew said: “He looks old, though, doesn’t he. Older than me. He’s so strong at a young age, though. When it got to the end of the third game, he was tough to beat.”

Matthew will tonight play Amr Shabana, whose bag of tricks proved too much for Miguel Rodriguez, who went down 11-6, 11-5, 11-9.

The Colombian’s renowned speed and agility usually sees him compete fiercely with top 10 players (he is ranked 16).

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