9:12 am
21 Apr 2024

Veteran Willstrop Winds Back The Clock In Washington

15 Feb 2024

England's former world No.1 James Willstrop rolled back the years to recover from 2/1 down to upset Portugal's Rui Soares on the opening day of the Squash On Fire Open, the PSA World Tour Bronze event in Washington DC.

The 40-year-old, in his 26th year as a world-ranked player, hadn't taken to the court competitively on the PSA Tour since mid-December, but there were few signs of rustiness as he raced into a one-game lead in the first round at the Squash On Fire club.

Despite world No.61 Soares settling into the match and progressing into a 2/1 lead with some physical squash, Willstrop's experience came to the fore as he set up a deciding game and moved into a slender lead in the fifth.

The 22-time PSA Tour winner, who delighted the packed house with two of his trademark windmill shots in the latter stages of the match, brought up match ball after 53 minutes of action, and at the second time of asking, claimed victory with a forehand winner.

Willstrop, currently ranked 77 in the world, said later: "I haven't played for so long, so I didn't know what to expect. But it was great, I loved every minute of it. I'm constantly seeing how I'm doing with my playing. Obviously, with my coaching, there's much less playing going on, but it was nice to feel good out there and to know why I still want to play out there. To get a win and a good result was a bonus.

"I think I knew before the match that I had to start well and not get embroiled in too many physical rallies. The physicality is a little bit of a doubt, I'm not sure how much of an engine I've got at the minute, so getting that first game quickly was good.

"I just got a run in the fourth and completely changed the match. I'm slightly surprised at myself, but I'll take it."

Elsewhere, American duo Todd Harrity and Spencer Lovejoy both fought back from two-game deficits to progress to the second round. World No.54 Harrity defeated Israel's Daniel Poleshchuk in a 51-minute encounter, while world No.69 Lovejoy came away victorious from his 70-minute clash against Malaysia's Addeen Idrakie.

Meanwhile, in the women's draw, Egypt's ournament wildcard Menna Walid recorded her maiden PSA World Tour victory following a back-and-forth five-game duel with Kenzy Ayman. The 19-year-old, who claimed her spot in the draw thanks to victory at the Squash On Fire Open 2024 Wild Card Challenge event on Sunday, defeated her compatriot by a 6-11, 13-11, 11-7, 5-11, 11-6 scoreline.