It’s Two for SJ
Kenilworth’s Sarah-Jane Perry managed to negotiate three tightly contested games to defeat Sussex’s Jasmine Hutton in the final of the AJ Bell British National Championships in Nottingham today.
Jack Flintham reports
Hutton, whose route to the final was unconventional after receiving two byes due to player withdrawals, pushed the British number one hard but Perry used her experience to find a way through to capture her second British National crown.
A tight opening first between these two was only separated at the end when Perry, the 2015 champion, played a cleverly disguised shot which evaded Hutton who was stuck at the back of the court.
The 29-year-old then took her momentum from the first into the second but was pegged back from 7-3. Hutton managed to save one game ball but could not avoid succumbing to the second as Perry took it 11-9.
Hutton continued her spirited effort into the third game, led 7-6 but paid the penalty for unforced errors and the top seed only needed one Championship ball to secure the title.
“I’m really pleased to win a second National title because I’ve been stuck on one for a little while.” said Perry who trains at Kenilworth Tennis, Squash and Croquet Club.
“Jasmine played fantastic. She came out with no signs of nerves and played some really fearless squash. She has improved so much in the past six, 12, 18 months.
“She is definitely pushing in that crop of young players trying to challenge the slightly older guard like myself. I am sure she will have many more finals.
“My goals for the rest of the season is to try and push on a bit further in some of the platinum events and try and get into that top four or five in the world.”
James wins a thriller to claim a fourth title
Second seed James Willstrop secured his fourth title at the AJ Bell British National Squash Championships after outlasting Joel Makin in a riveting final at the University of Nottingham.
Elizabeth Botcherby reports
Both players struggled to get a stranglehold on the match, but it was World No.18 Willstrop – appearing in his 11th National final – who triumphed in 76 minutes.
World No.11 Makin started the brighter of the two, capitalising on a flurry of errors from Willstrop to race into a 10-4 lead. However, the defending champion soon got his eye in, saving six game balls to take the first game 12-10.
The Welshman quickly banished the disappointment of the previous game, winning 11 unanswered points to level the match at 1-1.
Momentum changed hands again at the start of the third as Willstrop cruised into a 6-1 lead. Makin pulled it back to 8-all but it was the Yorkshireman who came out on top, taking another marathon game 12-10.
Willstrop had one hand on the trophy leading 8-5 in the fourth game, but Makin won four of the next five points to level at 9-9 in an increasingly physical game. The number one seed saved two championship points, but it was Willstrop who ultimately emerged victorious, winning 12-10, 0-11, 12-10, 14-12.
“The British Nationals has prestige and history. Some of the greats have played it and to play and compete with someone like Joel who’s one of the top players at the moment is great.
“He’s incredibly hard to break down. The bagel in the second sums it up. That’s how hard it is to win a rally. He goes for everything and once I got 6-nil behind it seemed impossible.
“I came back though and it’s great to be able to compete at that level and win. It’s special anytime to win the Nationals but especially against a field like this!”