Nationals 2021 : Semi-Final Reports

The 2021 British National Championships continued this evening at National Squash Centre in Manchester with four semi-finals on the Glass Court.

There were eight English and five Welsh players still in contention for the titles, with two time champions Sarah-Jane Perry and Tesni Evans favourites to reach the women’s final and a new men’s champion guaranteed after George Parker’s thrilling upset over James Willstrop last night.

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 THREE, SEMI-FINALS

[1] Sarah-Jane Perry (Eng) 3-1 [3] Emily Whitlock (Wal) 7-11, 18-16, 13-11, 11-8 (62m)

[1] Joel Makin (Wal) 3-0 Declan James (Eng)                          12-10, 13-11, 11-3 (70m)

Georgina Kennedy (Eng) 3-1 [2] Tesni Evans (Wal)        14-12, 10-12, 11-5, 11-9 (55m)

[3] Adrian Waller (Eng) 3-2 George Parker (Eng)       11-9, 9-11, 11-7, 9-11, 11-9 (83m)


Perry Battles Past Whitlock to Reach Fifth Nationals Final


Reigning British National Championships champion Sarah-Jane Perry came back from a game down to overcome 2019 runner-up Emily Whitlock in a difficult semi-final clash at Manchester’s National Squash Centre.

Perry had won all eight of their previous meetings, but Whitlock’s quality in the opening game was too much for the No.1 seed to handle as the player from Wales lifted the ball well and played some well-timed boasts to catch Perry off-guard.

With Perry struggling to find her short game, Whitlock came within a whisker of doubling her lead in a dramatic second game in which she had four game ball opportunities, but the 27-year-old couldn’t capitalise, even serving out on the last of those opportunities.

Perry didn’t let the stroke of fortune pass her by either as she did manage to convert her fourth game ball opportunity to win the second by an incredible 18-16 margin.

Whitlock battled back from three game balls down in the third to hold a game ball of her own, but the game would once again be decided by the slimmest of margins as Perry came back to win it 13-11.

And the two-time winner held her opponent at arm’s length in the fourth to complete her ninth straight victory over Whitlock, while she will take on either compatriot Georgina Kennedy or two-time victor Tesni Evans in the 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.

“I’m going to put out a lost and found notice, so if anyone finds my short game, can they give it back please. It wasn’t there today, it came in a little bit just when I needed it, but I wasn’t happy with it at all. If there is one thing I can do, it is fight.

“James [Willstrop] yesterday, I was sat in awe watching that match [Willstrop’s quarter-final with Parker] at the hotel. He was 10-0 down in the fifth and it was a never-say-die attitude. James is my favourite player to watch, I’ve told him many times, and that’s part of the reason why.

“Thank you James, watching you last night inspired me to be able to keep going there and find a way to get through that crucial second game particularly. 

“I am defending champion, but there were a few injuries and people were missing last year. Emily was one of those that sustained an injury in the tournament and didn’t manage to carry on. As much as it was a big achievement, I’m not taking anyone lightly this week.”

Result: [1] Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt [3] Emily Whitlock (WAL) 3-1: 7-11, 18-16, 13-11, 11-8 (62m)

Makin Becomes First Welshman to Reach Two Nationals Finals

Joel Makin takes on Declan James
Joel Makin takes on Declan James

World No.10 Joel Makin has become the first Welshman in history to reach more than one British Nationals final after he ousted England’s World No.29 Declan James in a 70-minute battle.

The first two games took 58 minutes alone as Makin achieved two victories on the tie-break, with James matching his opponent stride for stride for the vast majority of the match as he looked to end a three-match losing streak to Makin.

However, he was unable to win the points at the crucial stages, and Makin stormed to an 11-3 triumph in a one-sided first game to book his place in the final, where he will play either George Parker or Adrian Waller.

“30-minute games are perfect,” said Makin.

“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.

“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.

“Declan was hitting tight through the back and he wasn’t allowing me to play the squash that I wanted to. It’s unfair to say that I wasn’t good because he was limiting me. I need to tidy things up, I’ll have another hit in the morning, and I’m hoping for a better performance tomorrow.

“I’ve got to play good squash and stay tough [tomorrow]. When I’m hitting my spots around the back and hitting it short well, I’m hard to beat, so that’s what needs to be there. It’s the quality going short for me, when it’s there I’m playing well.

“Waller and George is going to be quite close tonight, I think last time they played it was 12-10 in the fifth, so we’ll see how it goes.”

Results: [1] Joel Makin (WAL) bt Declan James (ENG) 3-0: 12-10, 13-11, 11-3 (70m)

Kennedy Ends Evans’ Winning Run

Georgina Kennedy celebrates
Georgina Kennedy celebrates

24-year-old Georgina Kennedy has reached the British Nationals final for the first time after ending Tesni Evans’ 10-match unbeaten run at this tournament.

Both players play a contrasting style of squash, with the languid Evans using her deception to send Kennedy into all areas of the court, but the World No.74 used her impressive physical attributes to chase down balls that most players wouldn’t get.

Those attributes were incredibly important in the first game as the woman from Beckenham saved five game balls to take a one-game advantage. 

Evans – the only Welsh player to win this event – won the Nationals in 2018 and 2019 and wasn’t about to lie down as her fighting spirit saw her draw level, with the tie-break going in her favour this time around.

Kennedy was back on top in the third as she started punishing Evans for some loose shots from the Welsh player and she soon took the fourth too by a narrow 11-9 margin to secure her place in a maiden title decider here at the British Nationals.

“I honestly can’t believe it,” said Kennedy, who will play top seed Sarah-Jane Perry next.

“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.

“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.”

Result: Georgina Kennedy (ENG) bt [2] Tesni Evans (WAL) 3-1: 14-12, 10-12, 11-5, 11-9 (55m)

Fifth Time Lucky for Waller as He Breaks Semis Hoodoo

Adrian Waller (left) in action against George Parker (right)
Adrian Waller (left) in action against George Parker (right)

World No.21 Adrian Waller has secured his spot in a first British Nationals final after making it fifth time lucky in the semi-finals following his win over World No.39 George Parker.

Waller, 31, had reached the last four in 2015, 2016, 2019 and 2020 and he was finally able to take that step into the title decider with an 11-9, 9-11, 11-7, 9-11, 11-9 win in 83 minutes over his fellow Englishman.

Parker almost clawed back a seemingly impossible situation when he fought back from 10-3 down to 10-9 in the fifth game, but a no let awarded against him as he tried to receive a backhand drive ended his resistance, and Waller will line up against top seed Joel Makin in tomorrow’s final.

“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.”

Result: [3] Adrian Waller (ENG) bt George Parker (ENG) 3-2: 11-9, 9-11, 11-7, 9-11, 11-9 (83m)