No.1 Seed ElShorbagy Victorious In First Nationals Appearance

World No.3 and new England No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy was victorious in his first appearance at the British National Championships, beating Wales’ Peter Creed in straight games at Manchester’s National Squash Centre.

The No.1 seed looked completely at home on the Manchester glass court as he overcame longtime friend and training partner Peter Creed in straight games. ElShorbagy was able to control the pace from the outset of the match and made Creed cover a lot of ground in order to stay in the rallies.

After securing the opening game 11-7, the World No.3 continued to work Creed into the four corners of the court at different paces, disrupting the rhythm that the Welsh No.3 was trying to settle into. ElShorbagy took the following two games both 11-8 to move into the quarter finals and capture his first win at the British Nationals. El Shorbagy had this to say fate the match:

“Peter [Creed] was one of the first people that I knew from the first day I came to England from Millfield School, we’ve seen each other progress all the way so it’s quite fitting that I played one of my Bristol training partners.

“It’s such a prestigious title to win and tournament to play. I’ve watched all the big finals throughout the years, all of the battles between Nick [Matthew] and James [Willstrop] and I’ve seen how much it meant to them. It would be an honour to put my name on the trophy alongside the great names that are already on there.

“I was struggling mentally throughout the season, it’s very important that when you’re on top to know where your weaknesses are and when you’re not playing well, to be honest with yourself and tell yourself that you need changes. I phoned him up [Gregory Gaultier] and said that I need some help and just a couple of things he said to me have made a difference and I’m very grateful for him.

“World Tour Finals is the last event of the season and all the players will be trying to finish on a high. I feel good with my form right now, I’m focusing on this week and trying to put all my focus here. It means a lot to have David [Campion] and James [Willstrop] here watching my first match here, it really means a lot to me.”

The rest of the top four seeds will join ElShorbagy in the quarter finals as no seeding upsets took place in the men’s draw in round one as defending champion Joel Makin beat Charlie Lee and third seed Adrian Waller set up a quarter-final meeting with four-time champion James Willstrop.

The closest match of the day featured two North West players, No.3 seed Patrick Rooney and European Junior Champion Finnlay Withington. 

Withington showed no fear as he took the game to the World No.21 and displayed excellent attacking flair to test the movement of Rooney. Despite the rallies becoming increasingly dominated by Rooney, Withington showed great resilience to keep testing his older opponent and find winners from all areas of the court to force a fifth game.

Rooney managed to regroup and control the final game and take it 11-2 to survive the scare and reach the next round but admitted that he struggled to find the right tactics:

“He got in my head a little bit, I couldn’t get the tactics right against him today, I know his game very well and I thought I had the answers but I was doing all the wrong things. He’s got no pressure on and his confidence is high and he started hitting his winners so I needed to figure it out. 

“I’ve been in his position of having no pressure and playing a higher seeded player, and if you’re skilled you can get games of these players like he shows today. I’m learning that side of the game now, having to try and fend off players like Finn and be more structured and disciplined but you also have to attack at the right times. But it can be hard.

“It’s been a very good season, I think a year ago I was about 40 in the world. So getting to a high of 20 I’m pleased, I’ve got loads of stuff to work on and I’m looking to get towards the top 10 and further if I can but I’m also trying to keep my feet on the ground.”

In the women’s draw, it was a straight forward day for all of the top eight seeds in the event as they all progressed through to the quarter finals apart from No.5 seed Millie Tomlinson who was forced to withdraw prior to her match with Alicia Mead, who will meet third seed Jasmine Hutton in the quarters.  Top seed Emily Whitlock will face 8th seed Anna Kimberley after both enjoyed three-nil wins.

No.4 seed Julianne Courtice was pushed the furthest as she battles past 18-year-old Torrie Malik in a 39 minute four games to reach the last eight. World No.53 Courtice is renowned for her accuracy and touch at the front of the court but was having a difficult time displaying this against the aggressive play of Malik.

After securing the opening game 14-12, Malik struggled to regain control of the middle of the court and Courtice started to control proceedings, moving her younger opponent into all four corners of the court with great accuracy. Despite a close third game, Courtice was able to finish off the last three games 11-4, 12-10, 11-4 to move into the third Nationals quarter final of her career and admits it’s not easy to do so:

“She played her game better than I played mine there. She was in position and she was making the most of it so well played and it’s harder than it looks. I wouldn’t say I felt the most comfortable on there but you’ve got to dig in and keep putting the ball in the right place and eventually I did it enough so her winners happened a little bit less.

“I think I’ve learnt the most about myself in this season more so than any other season and it’s a battle. Not being able to play the way you want to and backing up performances is hard. I’d like to have a good finish to a tough season.”

Fellow Englishwomen and No.2 seed Lucy Turmel also booked her place in tomorrow’s quarter final in convincing style by defeating Wales’ Lowri Roberts in straight games. The World No.25 has been in terrific form throughout this season and displayed that from the start of the match, hitting with intent and purpose to the back of the court to set up attacking opportunities, which she finished superbly.

After taking the first game 11-5, Turmel continued to find winners of her own and force errors from her Welsh opponent to pull away on the scoreboard. Roberts was able to fire in a few severe boasts to surprise Turmel but the England No.3 was not to be denied a place in the final eight. She took the second and third games 11-4, 11- to advance.

“I’ve seen her play before as she was a few age groups above me, but everyone is here to win so I gave her my full respect and wanted to get the job done.” Said Turmel.

“I think we wouldn’t have minded the top girls being in the draw so we could play them and see where we are in comparison to them. But it’s a good opportunity for a few of us now and I just want to see what I can do this week.

“I had my eyes on top 20 for a while and it’s something was looking to do this season so I’m glad I cuts do it and although I’ve dropped a bit I feel that my level is there and hopefully next season I can push up higher.”

British National Championships Men’s Results:
[1] Mohamed ElShorbagy (ENG) bt Peter Creed (WAL) 3-0: 11-7, 11-8, 11-8 (33m)
[8] Nick Wall (ENG) bt Sam Todd (ENG)  3-0: 11-2, 11-4, 11-3 (22m)
[5] James Willstrop (ENG) bt Ben Smith (ENG) 3-0: 11-5, 11-8, 11-8 (29m)
[4] Adrian Waller (ENG) bt Tom Walsh (ENG) 3-0:  11-7, 7-11, 11-5, 11-7 (49m)
[3] Patrick Rooney (ENG) bt Finnlay Withington (ENG) 3-2: 9-11, 11-8, 11-2, 5-11, 11-2 (44m)
[6] Greg Lobban (SCO) bt Miles Jenkins (ENG) 3-1: 11-5, 8-11, 11-4, 11-7 (50m)
Curtis Malik (ENG) bt [LL] Oscar Hill (IoM) 3-0: 11-0, 11-6, 11-0 (19m)
[2] Joel Makin (WAL) bt Charlie Lee (ENG) 3-0: 11-5, 11-8, 11-7 (45m)

British National Championships Women’s Main Draw:
[1] Emily Whitlock (WAL) bt Alison Thomson (SCO) 3-0: 11-4, 11-4, 11-3 (25m)
[8] Anna Kimberley (ENG) bt Katie Cox (ENG) 3-0: 11-8, 11-4, 11-7 (26m)
Alicia Mead (ENG) bt [5] Millie Tomlinson (ENG) w/o
[3] Jasmine Hutton (ENG) bt Katie Wells (ENG) 3-0: 12-10, 11-5, 11-7 (25m)
[4] Julianne Courtice (ENG) bt Torrie Malik (ENG) 3-1: 12-14, 11-4, 12-10, 11-4 (39m)
[6] Lucy Beecroft (ENG) bt Asia Harris (ENG) 3-0: 11-1, 11-6, 12-10 (23m)
[7] Grace Gear (ENG) bt Amy Royle (ENG) 3-0: 11-7, 11-3, 11-3 (17m)
[2] Lucy Turmel (ENG) bt Lowri Roberts (WAL) 3-0: 11-5, 11-4, 11-4 (22m)

British National Championships Men’s QF Draw:
[1] Mohamed ElShorbagy (ENG) v [8] Nick Wall (ENG)
[4] Adrian Waller (ENG) v [5] James Willstrop (ENG)
[3] Patrick Rooney (ENG) v [6] Greg Lobban (SCO)
[2] Joel Makin (WAL) v Curtis Malik (ENG)

British National Championships Women’s QF Draw:
[1] Emily Whitlock (WAL) v [8] Anna Kimberley (ENG)
[3] Jasmine Hutton (ENG) v Alicia Mead (ENG)
[4] Julianne Courtice (ENG) v [6] Lucy Beecroft (ENG)
[2] Lucy Turmel (ENG) v [7] Grace Gear (ENG)

Action continues from the British National Championships tomorrow, with sixteen players looking to claim places in the semi-finals. Play starts at 12:00 (GMT+1) live on the England Squash YouTube and Facebook channels as well as SQUASHTV.