Nationals 2021 : Quarter-Finals – Player Reaction

The 2021 British National Championships continud at National Squash Centre in Manchester  with eight quarter-finals, all on the Glass Court.

All the top seeds were still in contention with competitors from England, Wales and Scotland all vying to claim the National titles come Friday.

You can watch the matches live, follow the updates on our social media feeds, and we’ll have reports, reaction and photos right here, with an end of day roundup once it’s all over.

British National Squash Championships 2021 : Day TWO, QUARTER-FINALS

 [3] Emily Whitlock (Eng) 3-1 Alicia Mead (Eng)        8-11, 11-6, 11-2, 11-4 (37m)
Declan James (Eng) 3-2 [4] Greg Lobban (Sco)         11-6, 8-11, 11-7, 11-7 (73m)
[1] Sarah-Jane Perry (Eng) 3-0 Rachael Chadwick (Eng)    11-1, 11-6, 11-7 (20m)
[1] Joel Makin (Wal) 3-0 Nathan Lake (Eng)                      11-6, 11-5, 11-7 (45m)

Georgina Kennedy (Eng) 3-1 [4] Lucy Turmel (Eng)           10-12, 14-12, 11-4, 11-5 (54m)
[3] Adrian Waller (Eng) 3-2 Patrick Rooney (Eng)  11-6, 12-14, 6-11, 12-10, 12-10 (76m)
[2] Tesni Evans (Wal) 3-0 Jasmine Hutton (Eng)                          11-8, 11-8, 11-6 (34m)
George Parker (Eng) 3-2 [2] James Willstrop (Eng)  13-11, 11-9, 3-11, 10-12, 11-7 (80m)


Whitlock First Player into Semis

Wales’ World No.23 Emily Whitlock came from one game down against England’s World No.89 Alicia Mead to reach the semi-finals of the British National Championships taking place at Manchester’s National Squash Centre this week.

Mead, who was featuring in her first quarter final at the Nationals, gave a good account of herself by starting brightly to take full advantage of a sluggish start from the higher seed, seeing out the first game by an 11-8 margin, with Whitlock struggling to find her targets.

The Welshwoman managed to get back on track in the second, putting together some better rallies as she began to settle into her rhythm, finding her length and range to draw back level with England’s Mead still able to put the pressure on at times.

It was a complete momentum shift in the third however, as 27-year-old Whitlock showed why she is one of the main contenders for this year’s title as she took control of the ‘T’ and forced Mead into some tired looking lunges, with the Welsh No.2 eventually sealing the win 8-11, 11-6, 11-2, 11-4 in 37 minutes.

“Alicia is a good player, I was a bit irritated at how I started but maybe that’s because she started so well,” said Whitlock.

“I felt like I found my groove a bit more and that was the difference at the end of the day, but she’s mobile, athletic, takes the ball in early, does the right things and so it was just a case of who had a better day. Once I started to get less irritated by everything, there’s stuff on the floor, times have changed for the draw multiple times, she’s playing well and so it’s just a case of blocking as much of the extras out as you can. Every time I served, I thought ‘just have a good rally, focus on the rally.’ Stop cleaning the floor, people should be doing that for us – I’m pleased with how I turned around mentally today.

“The top players in the world have mini crises in matches, my dad always says when the tennis is on and it’s best of five for the men and Djokovic and Nadal are on, they are all finding themselves down and manage to get through in the second round and win the whole thing. Just because I lose a game doesn’t mean I’m a bad player. I found my targets, got used to the court again and just try and do the right things again to be right for the next match.”

Result: [3] Emily Whitlock (WAL) bt Alicia Mead (ENG) 3-1: 8-11, 11-6, 11-2, 11-4 (37m)

James Pushed All the Way in Big Lobban Battle

England’s Declan James booked his place in the semi-finals in Manchester following a brutal 73-minute battle with Scotland’s Greg Lobban in the second match of the day.

The two players are no strangers to each other having faced one another eight times previously in all competitions, with James leading the head-to-head 6-2. However, going into this week it was Lobban who was seeded at No.4 for the event, despite just one place separating them on the PSA rankings.

It was World No.29 James who started stronger, taking the first game 11-6 after settling into his range and winning what proved to be a pivotal first game, but it was clear from the outset that it was going to be a tough day at the office for both players, who train together along with former World No.1 Nick Matthew.

Lobban soon fought back in the second as he put work into the legs of James and forced his way back into the tie. The third was a big tussle between both players with Lobban looking to use his physicality to force the Englishman into some tough movements, however, it was James that was able to hold onto the lead and push ahead once again to take a 2-1 lead.

The Scot was not going down without a fight, however, and threw everything he had at James in the fourth but despite the long bruising rallies, the 28-year-old was taking the ball in well, finding his targets and closed out 11-6, 8-11, 11-7, 11-7 in 73 minutes.

“The start was as good as it could have been,” said James in his post-match interview.

“Me and Greg train together a lot and we know each other very well. I’ve got maximum respect for him because I know what he’s capable of and it was just a tough match and really hard all the way through.

“It’s what we train for. This is the sort of easy part, I can say that the training is hard, we’re breaking our bodies down week in, week out and if we don’t do that in training then you can’t play three or four matches in a row. As hard as that was today, I know that whoever I play tomorrow it will be another step on.

“It’s unbelievable, you can’t imagine what a difference a crowd makes. For 18 months we’ve been playing behind closed doors and when you’re on the back courts and it’s you, your opponent and the ref it’s quite dark. So to be playing in my back garden, with a crowd is a privilege for me.”

Result: Declan James (ENG) bt [4] Greg Lobban (SCO) 3-1: 11-6, 8-11, 11-7, 11-7 (73m)

Perry Continues Nationals Run

English No.1 Sarah-Jane Perry is through to the last four of the British National Championships after a dominant display, which saw her win 11-1, 11-6, 11-7 against compatriot Rachael Chadwick.

A near flawless first game for Perry set the tone of the match with the World No.6 comfortable as she showed her artillery of shots to take the first game for the loss of just one point.

Chadwick grew into the match and showed some strong glimpses with some outright winners of her own but ultimately she did not have enough to trouble the defending champion, who moves into the semi-finals where she will face Wales’ Emily Whitlock for a place in the final.

 “I’ve been playing Rachael for quite a few years now, she is younger than me though,” said Perry in her post-match interview.

“She’s a really dangerous player and you saw that in the second and third game, even when I was hitting some pretty good length and stuff she was still attacking. I like that, I don’t like it when people back down or anything, so I love it when they keep attacking. Apart from the first game where I hit in tin, I think everything went exactly where I wanted it to and unfortunately for Rachael hers hit the tin and I knew they were just clipping the tin and I had to keep my foot on the gas. The second and third were a bit up and down and she hit some outright winners, which were really good shots, so fair play to her for that. I focused on hitting my corners and my options to set out my stall and I thought I did that alright.

“I’ve been working hard, particularly during the lockdown, so physically I’m good, I feel like I’ve had a couple of niggles which are hopefully behind me now, so I feel like I’m in good shape to do some damage this week.” 

Result: [1] Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt Rachael Chadwick (ENG) 3-0: 11-1, 11-6, 11-7 (20m)

Makin Advances to Semis

Wales’ top seed Joel Makin has reached the semi-finals of the British Nationals for a second year running after defeating England’s Nathan Lake 11-6, 11-5, 11-7 in 45 minutes.

Makin, who finished runner-up to former World No.1 James Willstrop at this event last year, is the favourite to take the title this year around following an impressive season on the PSA Tour and he ensured he continued his good start in Manchester with a straight-games victory over World No.46 Lake.

The 29-year-old Englishman made it tough for Makin all the way through the match, staying with him in the rallies and was even 4-0 up in the third before the Welshman regained his focus and mounted a comeback to take the match in three, despite Lake saving two match balls.

“I was enjoying it, had another hit this morning and felt a bit better on the glass,” said Makin.

“It was a bit scrappy yesterday and I knew Nathan was going to be really tight because he has that quality and even when he’s standing still on the ball, he hits it as well as any top player and so I knew I had to be on the ball because he’s really gutsy and tough – something he’s not given enough credit for. The last few points he was down and out and he’s still making it difficult, that’s just his attitude, whereas someone else around that level might have been lost mentally by that point.

“I think the discipline of training hardens you and that’s what gets you mentally tough, when you have confidence in what you do. If you do something enough times, you’re going to have confidence in what you do. I think that’s what gets you tough mentally as well.

“If you’re in professional sport, then you have to believe you can come back from 2-0 down or you’re in the wrong job. You’ve got to hang in there and it’s got to be done, that’s what you train for. You shouldn’t be off court at 2-0 down and let your head drop, like Nath did there, he was tough all the way through and until the last point.”

Result: [1] Joel Makin (WAL) bt Nathan Lake (ENG) 3-0: 11-6, 11-5, 11-7 (45m)

Kennedy Reaches Semi-Finals

Georgina Kennedy in action
Georgina Kennedy in action

World No.74 Georgina Kennedy has reached the semi-finals for the first time in her career after coming back from a game down to oust World No.30 Lucy Turmel.

Kennedy was appearing in her maiden British Nationals quarter-final following her round one win over Scotland’s Lisa Aitken and she put Turmel to the sword too as she won 10-12, 14-12, 11-4, 11-5.

It was Turmel who played the better squash in the early stages as she marched into a 7-2 lead. Kennedy soon found her rhythm though and charged through to take eight of the next nine points on offer to hold two game balls.

But it was Turmel’s turn to fight back and the 21-year-old won four points in a row to take a one-game advantage. She led all the way to 8-6 in the second too, but Kennedy held her nerve to force a tie-break and this time she converted after her third game ball.

That extinguished any hopes of a Turmel victory as Kennedy closed out the third and fourth games to secure her place in the last four.

“That match was tough,” Kennedy said.

“Lucy was giving me nothing today. I had to fight so hard for every single point and I really struggled today. Well done to her, that could have gone either way and that second game was crucial. I feel lucky to be standing here, it could have been either one of us.

“Going 2-0 down would have been a challenge. The first two games were very physical and I felt in the third that I started to get on top of her a bit more. And in the first two she had me all over the shop, I was so lucky to win that.

“If I had gone 2-0 down it would have been a completely different story. I felt like I had to speed things up a bit and the pace I was playing in the first two games was just too comfortable for her. She’s so accurate, and I could barely get it off the wall most of the time.

“I honestly don’t know how I got through that, I need to analyse.”

Kennedy will play either two-time winner Tesni Evans or last year’s runner-up Jasmine Hutton in the last four.

Result: Georgina Kennedy (ENG) bt [4] Lucy Turmel (ENG) 3-1: 10-12, 14-12, 11-4, 11-5 (54m)

Waller wins Five-Game Scrap Against Rooney

Adrian Waller
Adrian Waller

No.3 seed Adrian Waller is through to a fifth British Nationals semi after coming through an almighty tussle with the in-form Patrick Rooney in which he overturned three match balls.

Waller had won both of their previous matches but Rooney has been in fine form recently after some impressive showings on the PSA World Tour which have seen him break into the world’s top 40.

Despite a strong start to proceedings, Waller looked to be struggling after seeing his one-game lead wiped out and Rooney forced his opponent into some tough movements to build up a 10-8 lead in the fourth game.

However, Waller dug in his heels and played some wonderfully-crafted rallies to turn defence into attack as it was Rooney’s turn to scamper around the court.

And after rattling off four points to draw level, Waller again found himself on the wrong end of a Rooney onslaught in the fifth game as the man from St Helens held another match ball.

Waller battled on though like he did in the fourth game and, after grafting to the next two points, secured the win on his first match ball opportunity with an inch-perfect drive into the backhand corner.

“I was pushing constantly to stay in it,” Waller said.

“I didn’t want to give him cheap rallies, which I’d done a little bit. I tried to knuckle down when I could and stick in there, I honestly don’t know how it worked, but I hit one good shot at the end.

“I started really well and I thought I played brilliantly in the first, and then Patrick got into his stride and really challenged me. The second one was really big, I think if I had won that then I could have got off in three, but after that his short drop shots were taking too much out of me. I had to manage that and reset my strategy because he was just dominating me.

“It took until the middle of the fourth to feel like I was getting somewhere. Maybe all the work was getting to him as well because he was putting in a good pace, so it gave me a little bit of an opening.

“I don’t think I’ve been to a final considering I’ve lost 3-2 in about three of those (previous semi-finals). Maybe tomorrow’s the one.”

Result: [3] Adrian Waller (ENG) bt Patrick Rooney (ENG) 3-2: 11-6, 12-14, 6-11, 12-10, 12-10 (76m)

Evans Axes Hutton

Tesni Evans in action
Tesni Evans in action

Two-time British Nationals champion Tesni Evans is through to the last four for the third time in a row after an assured performance saw her dispatch 2020 runner-up Jasmine Hutton in straight games.

Evans hasn’t lost at the Nationals since 2017 and, after missing last year’s event through injury, the Welsh star looks like she is looking to make up for lost time after a fine display which saw her beat England’s Hutton by an 11-8, 11-8, 11-6 scoreline.

“Each round gets tougher and tougher,” Evans said.

“Jaz has been playing some really good squash and she’s another one of the up-and-coming group right behind us. I had to play properly there, at the end of each game I think it was having a little bit more experience of playing these matches that snuck me through 3-0.”

Evans will take on Georgina Kennedy in the next round and said of her opponent: “We played a few months ago now and she beat me. We play completely contrasting styles of squash, so I think it will be a good match and it will be really tough.

“I’m definitely up for the challenge and I want to get my revenge. I need to stay patient, it’s too easy to get caught up in her style of squash. I need to enjoy the game rather than seeing it as a pressure match.”

Result: [2] Tesni Evans (WAL) bt Jasmine Hutton (ENG) 3-0: 11-8, 11-8, 11-6 (34m)

Parker Ends Willstrop’s Title Defence

George Parker in actionWorld No.39 George Parker is through to the semi-finals of the British Nationals for the second time in a row after the 25-year-old ended the title defence of former World No.1 James Willstrop in an impressive display.

Willstrop is a four-time British Nationals champion and has 11 final appearances to his name, but Parker’s victory perhaps suggests a changing of the guard as he played a mature, composed game plan to overcome the 37-year-old by an 13-11, 11-9, 3-11, 10-12, 11-7 margin.

There were certainly signs of The Marskman’s class as Willstrop cut Parker’s lead in half courtesy of winning a one-sided third game, while he kept Parker at bay in the fourth to draw level, leaving the prospect of a thrilling comeback on the cards.

Parker then stormed to a 10-0 lead in the decider and, while a gutsy Willstrop clawed back 7 points, the lead was too much to for the Yorkshireman to overhaul, and it will be Parker who competes for a spot in the title decider tomorrow.

That win sees Parker avenge his semi-final defeat to Willstrop here last time out, while it is his first win over the English veteran after four previous attempts.

Parker will go up against compatriot Adrian Waller for a place in the final.

“With James, it’s difficult because his squash is always so good,” Parker said.

“You have to be moving so well from the start. I started warming up from around 6pm because I got here early and it was on late. I felt a bit sluggish, but when I got into the game I thought it was probably 50/50 all the way through.

“We were both playing attacking squash and it was quite short and sharp. As it went on I started to break him down physically, but I always had it in the back of my mind that he was never going to go away. He’s so tough and I had a bit of doubt in my mind from losing the fourth when I was up and it was getting edgy in the end.

“I needed that and I think if he won that last point it would have gone to a tie-break because he is so tough mentally. I struggled a bit during the lockdown, we were playing in Egypt a lot and I was losing the first round every time. It knocks your confidence every time because you’re not playing for six weeks off the back of a bad loss and all you’re thinking about is how you played last time.

“In the past few weeks I did quite well at the Worlds and I’m playing more. I’m doing exhibitions with Joel [Makin] and I feel more confident and match sharp. It’s nice to get to the semi-finals two years in a row because it’s nice to play home players on home soil.”

Result: George Parker (ENG) bt [2] James Willstrop (ENG) 3-2: 13-11, 11-9, 3-11, 10-12, 11-7 (80m)