Georgina Kennedy is through to the final of the British National Championships for the first time after she took down two-time champion Tesni Evans in the semi-finals at the National Squash Centre in Manchester, becoming the first woman ranked outside the top 50 to make the final in the tournament’s 46-year history.
The in-form Kennedy has now lost just one of her last 28 matches, having claimed five titles on the PSA Challenger Tour over the course of the last three months, and she has continued that momentum into the British Nationals.
In a battle of playing styles, it was Kennedy that took the first game on a lengthy tie-break 14-12, and she had her chances to double that lead, but Evans fought back, levelling up the match with a tie-break victory of her own.
It was the World No.74, who is playing well above her ranking right now, who came to the fore over the last couple of games, and although Evans saved a couple of match balls, it was the Englishwoman that succeeded, booking her place in the final for the first time.
“I honestly can’t believe it. I came into this tournament with full confidence that I could potentially get to the final but also with full confidence that I could get knocked out in the first round. I just want to say well played to Tesni, she’s had a really tough year with her injuries and stuff, so it’s great to see her playing to a good level again,” Kennedy said.
“The games were so close, they could have gone either way, and I’m literally just risking everything with those shots at the end, they could have gone up or down, so it was just lucky in the end, but I’m so happy to be in the final tomorrow.
“I like to go into a tie-break with the mentality where if they beat you, then fair enough, but don’t go in and lose it for yourself. I try and do that but sometimes make silly decisions. You have to make yourself hard to beat and make every single point really difficult.
“It’s massive having someone to talk to between games and Camps [David Campion] is really helpful calming me down and making sure I stick to the plan. He reminded me not to go for silly shots, which I did, so sorry about that, Camps, but it paid off.
“I just want to see how far I can go and climb up the rankings. I love competing, I love training, and I feel lucky that this is my job. I’m really excited to keep going and seeing what happens.”
Kennedy will play fellow Englishwoman, and reigning British Nationals champion, Sarah-Jane Perry, in the final on Friday evening, after the World No.6 overcame a tough challenge from Welshwoman Emily Whitlock.
The event’s top seed has cruised through her opening two rounds, but came up against Whitlock who was near her best. The Welshwoman took the first game, and had several game balls in both the second and third games, but was unable to capitalise, with Perry taking both, before securing a 3-1 victory to reach her fifth Nationals final.
“I don’t feel like I played my best squash but some of that is credit to Emily for playing squash and not letting me get away with anything that wasn’t really good,” Perry said.
“She played some great stuff and I said that to her at the end. I’m just pleased to get through really, and we’ll see if I improve tomorrow.”
Men’s top seed Joel Makin is through to a second consecutive British National Championships final after he got the better of England’s Declan James in an attritional, 70-minute battle.
The World No.10, who lost out to England’s James Willstrop in the final of the 2020 edition, will contest the final for a second time, thanks to putting work into the legs of James over the course of their lengthy three-game affair.
It took an hour for the first two games, as Makin continued to lengthen rallies, and it paid off for him in the end, after winning both on tie-breaks. He then won the third game 11-3 to secure his place in the final, where he will aim to become the first Welshman to win the title.
“30-minute games are perfect. He was getting in front of me and hitting his kills, and I had to get my width because he’s so big through the middle. The middle of the second game was messy… but you’ve got to adapt to that, find a way around him, and use that to your advantage, and that’s what I started to do at the start of the third,” he explained.
“I always want to back myself as soon as it goes long. It’s something that has to be there because if your squash isn’t working then that has to be there to fall back on. It wasn’t at the start of the match, but you’ve got hit your spots around the back and work your way into it.”
The ‘Golden Tiger’ will face No.3 seed Adrian Waller in the men’s final on Friday evening, after the Englishman defeated compatriot George Parker in the semi-finals in a well-fought five-game battle the end the evening’s action.
Both men had come through epic battles in the quarter-finals, with Waller getting the better of Patrick Rooney, while Parker took out defending champion James Willstrop make the last four.
The World No.21 held the lead twice in the match, after winning both the first and third games, but twice Parker fought back into it, levelling up the contest. Waller was able to run clear in the fifth game, and he had six match balls. The man from Leicester saved five of them, but Waller held on to take the last of them, booking his place in his first final at the British Nationals.
“I think the first half of that game [the fifth], George started really slowly and gave me some errors,” said Waller.
“When he changed his game and stepped back into the pace that we were playing in the first couple of games, it caught me off guard, and it took me a long time reset, if at all. I was so close to the finish line, but he completely changed his game, so I’m just glad to get off really.
“Joel is a really good player, he’s very strong, very fit, and he hits nice, clean lines. I’m going to have to match that, today’s match wasn’t the best from me and George, we were both a little off the pace, so I’m going to need to step it up tomorrow and find more quality, otherwise Joel will be all over it.”
 Joel Makin (WAL) 3-0 Declan James (ENG) 12-10, 13-11, 11-3 (70m)
 Adrian Waller (ENG) 3-2 George Parker (ENG) 11-9, 9-11, 11-7, 9-11, 11-9 (83m)
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) 3-1  Emily Whitlock (WAL) 7-11, 18-16, 13-11, 11-8 (62m)
Georgina Kennedy (ENG) 3-1  Tesni Evans (WAL) 14-12, 10-12, 11-5, 11-9 (55m)