The 2021 British National Championships got under way at the National Squash Centre in Manchester today, with sixteen first round matches. Here’/s what happened on the side court …
Mead Through After Kimberley Retires
Alicia Mead is in to the quarter-finals of the British National Championships for the first time after her first round opponent, Anna Kimberley, had to retire through injury midway through the fourth game.
The Englishwoman, who currently sits at World No.89, nine places below her opponent, won the first game, but found herself 2-1 down after Kimberley fought back to put herself ahead in the match.
In the early part of the fourth game, Kimberley went down and required treatment on a hamstring injury, and although she attempted to play on, she eventually had to retire from the match, with score at 6-4 in the fourth.
Mead will now face Welshwoman Emily Whitlock in the last eight of the tournament, and will feature on the glass court for the first time.
“First time for me actually, so I am really excited, really pleased to be here. It was a shame for Anna though, and unfortunate that she had to pull out through injury. I thought I was doing alright, it could have gone either way in the fourth, but I hope she gets better soon anyway!” Mead said.
“It is difficult, it is quite easy to bogged down in it when a player is injured and they come back on. I jut had to move, stay focused and not make any mistakes. I saw she was struggling and I thought it would only be a matter of time before she had to stop.
“I don’t get much chance to play on a glass court. I was here for the England Squash event in February and that was the first time I had played on glass in two years. A quick practice on there and I am really excited to play on it and it’s a great opportunity for me!”
Result: Alicia Mead (ENG) bt Anna Kimberley (ENG) 3-2: 11-9, 6-11, 7-11, 6-4 rtd (43m)
James Downs Conroy To Advance
England’s Declan James is through to the last eight of the British National Championships after he got the better of the sole Irish competitor in the tournament, Sean Conroy.
James got a quick start in each of the three games, but he found the Irishman fighting back in the first two. He was able to maintain his composure to take the victory in three, though, booking his place in the quarter-finals against Scotland’s Greg Lobban.
“It was good. It is always tough on the back courts, it’s bouncy, it’s hard to get the ball away so you know you have to be solid. I tried to come out with a lot of intensity, but in the first two games I let him come back into it a bit. In the third, I managed to be intense all the way through so it is great to get through in the early rounds 3-0,” James said.
“We have trained together a couple of times, you have to have the same amount of respect for players, whatever tournament you are in these days. There are no easy matches. I had full respect for him going out there and I knew that he wouldn’t lie down and make it easy, so you have to go with the approach that it will be hard.
“It is great to have the crowds back, to be playing these glass court matches, having that intensity and competition is exactly what we have been missing and what we need, so I am very grateful to have these opportunities.”
Result: Declan James (ENG) bt Sean Conroy (IRL) 3-0: 11-9, 11-7, 11-4 (42m)
Chadwick Beats Davies To Make Last Eight
England’s Rachael Chadwick got the better of Welshwoman Nia Davies to make it through to the quarter-finals at the National Squash Centre in Manchester.
After taking the first game comfortably, Chadwick found herself fighting to win the second, and after she eventually did, winning it 11-9, she took the momentum to go on and win the third and book her spot in the last eight.
The Englishwoman will now face World No.1 Sarah-Jane Perry in the quarter-finals on Wednesday afternoon.
“I feel great, really happy with my performance, and really looking forward to playing SJ [Perry] on the glass court tomorrow!” Chadwick said.
“It’s going to be tough, SJ on a glass court it will be really tough. I will just try to enjoy it, play my game and see what happens. I am just glad to be back on court really!
“[It’s] not been great. Had to get some work so I haven’t played any events since Manchester last year. I am just trying to enjoy it and get that buzz back rather than putting any pressure. Just more trying to play well and seeing what happens! Playing again is more my feeling right now!”
Result: Rachael Chadwick (ENG) bt Nia Davies (WAL) 3-0: 11-4, 11-9, 11-2 (20m)
Lake Downs Fallows In All-English Encounter
Nathan Lake got the better of compatriot Richie Fallows in an all-English battle on the opening day of the British Nationals in Manchester.
The pair had met a couple of times recently on tour, with Fallows coming out on top in both, but it was the higher-ranked Lake that took the victory this time round.
After going 2-0 up, Lake held a comfortable lead in the third, but his fellow Englishman fought back to send the game into a tie-break. However, Lake was able to pull that back, and move into the last eight, where he will face top seed Joel Makin.
“Very happy. I thought it would be a 50/50 game with Richie. He has beaten me the last few times so I am really happy to come through that, especially 3-0,” he said.
“It definitely crossed my mind [losing 3-2], I had lost about six weeks ago from 2-0 up. You never want to lose that momentum so it did play on my mind a bit. I tired to just focus, stay on task, and even if I had lost that third, I would have come out and given it my all in the fourth.
“It is what we play squash for, to be on the glass, playing top quality players. Really looking forward to having a good go at him and seeing where I go. I believe in myself, looking to get stuck in and seeing what happens.”
Result: Nathan Lake (ENG) bt Richie Fallows (ENG) 3-0: 11-9, 11-5, 12-10 (35m)
Rooney Moves Into Quarter-Finals
England’s Patrick Rooney is into the last eight at the National Squash Centre after a four-game victory over Welshman Emyr Evans.
Rooney has been in great form on the PSA World Tour in recent months, and also tasted success in one of the AJ Bell England Squash events in Manchester earlier this year.
He continued that good run into this first round contest, and after letting the second game slip, he came out fighting to make his way into the last eight, winning 3-1 in just over three-quarters of an hour.
“It felt good to win and get the first one out the way. I felt good on court and I have played Emyr loads of times since we were young. We know each other’s games really well, which is why it was quite a close encounter,” the Englishman said.
“The second game was disappointing to lose because you want to get off in three games early doors but he played well to be fair and he capitalised on that. Towards the end, I put the work into him and maybe it got a bit tough and then I started being more positive, going all the way through from there. I feel good and sharp on court, and ready for tomorrow.
“Really looking forward to it, and especially with the crowd, which will be the good. If I can play like I played at the Black Ball Open and the AJ Bell events, then it will be a really good match. Looking forward to it and looking to win.”
Result: Patrick Rooney (ENG) bt Emyr Evans (WAL) 3-1: 11-4, 9-11, 11-2, 11-7 (47m)
Hutton Overcomes Loke To Make Quarters
Last year’s British Nationals runner-up Jasmine Hutton has started her 2021 campaign with a victory over Welshwoman Ali Loke.
Hutton, who made it through to the final of last year’s tournament following walkovers in both her quarter-final and semi-final contest, was in complete control of this match throughout.
The Englishwoman only dropped seven points across the first two games, and although Loke played better in the third, Hutton was able to get over the line to book her place in the quarter-finals, where she could play World No.11 Tesni Evans, should the Welshwoman defeat Saran Nghiem.
“Really happy. I had to use my mentality and to stay mentally strong in that match so I am pleased to come out in three to be honest,” Hutton said.
“For me, the Nationals last year was a weird one. I came, won my first round match and then had two walkovers to get to the final, which is probably the weirdest thing in squash history. But, to be able to play in the final of the Nationals and to have my name on the list of Nationals finalists is nice. It is a strong field this year so I am really looking forward to giving it my best.
“I am really excited if I do get to play her [Tesni Evans]. I am hoping that it would be a nice match, especially on the glass. I get on well with her and she is such a nice girl so there should be no issues, it should be nice on there. I’m looking forward to it and I will give it my best.”
Result: Jasmine Hutton (ENG) bt Ali Loke (WAL) 3-0: 11-4, 11-3, 11-8 (25m)
Parker Beats Coleman To Make Last Eight
George Parker is through to the quarter-finals at the National Squash Centre after getting the better of compatriot Ben Coleman.
Towards the end of the second game, there was a lengthy injury break, with Coleman requiring treatment on a back problem. He came back to secure the second game, but from then on, Parker was the man in control.
Over the course of the next two games, the man from Leicester dropped just eight points, as he booked his place in the quarter-finals in Manchester, where he will face ether Miles Jenkins or World No.19 James Willstrop.
“It was a tight match up to 1-1. I probably lost a bit of concentration in the second and he capitalised on that. Then, we had a decent injury break which I don’t think helped either of us but once I started pushing in front and getting that backhand volley drop in well, I started making him do a bit of work and he seemed to drop off but it was a tight game, and it could have gone either way. Happy to get through and have a crack at [James] Willstrop, if it is him,” Parker said.
“I had a quiet word with myself, tried to keep loose. I put my jacket on, kept an eye on how he was doing, practice a few volley drops. For me, it was just trying to forget about everything else and thinking about the few shots I needed to use to make it go my way. That was all I did really, I just popped around on court and tried to keep my mind occupied.
“We all play on it quite a lot. When I get in front and I play attacking squash, it takes a good dying length and it is not the bounciest of courts which probably suits me. It is pretty much even for all of us who train up here. We are up here three times a week in the summer, during the lockdown, so we got to play here a lot.”
Result: George Parker (ENG) bt Ben Coleman (ENG) 3-1: 11-4, 7-11, 11-2, 11-6 (62m)