British National Championships: Tournament History
The British National Championships has a long and storied history, dating back to the first event edition of the tournament, held at Wembley Squash Centre in 1974.
Since then, English players have dominated both the men’s and women’s events, with only five titles being won by either Welsh, Scottish or Irish players.
Wembley Squash Centre hosted the first British National Squash Championships back in 1974, where England’s Jonathan Leslie became the first ever champion of the tournament.
The women’s event dates back to a year later, in 1975, when Sue Cogswell took the crown at Edgbaston Priory Club in Birmingham. The Englishwoman went on to win five of the first six editions of the tournament, with Angela Smith taking the other, in 1976.
For the first decade, the events were held separately. The men’s tournament moved from Wembley to Wimbledon Stadium in 1976, before spending the next eight years at Abbeydale Park. Jonathan Leslie claimed a second crown, while Phil Ayton, Peter Very and Jonah Barrington, who became the first non-English winner of the event, all were victorious.
The women’s tournament was held in Dallington, Hellingly, Chichester and at Wembley Squash Centre, before joining forces with the men’s event at Abbeydale Park in 1983. Lisa Opie claimed her first National crown in 1981 with Alison Cummings winning the final event to be held in Wembley, a year later.
Martine Le Moignan won the first of her three titles in 1984, while Phil Kenyon claimed his third Nationals title a year later, following victories in 1981 and 1983. Lucy Soutter claimed two Nationals crowns during the 1980s, while Lisa Opie went on to become a four-time champion, following wins in 1986 and 1987.
From 1985 to 1988, the event was held at Brunel Old Station, before spending time in Eldon Square in Newcastle until 1991. From then on for the next seven years, the tournament moved around the country, being held in Manchester, Welwyn Garden City, Dore and Birmingham.
Geoff Williams, Bryan Beeson and Paul Carter all won the men’s event during the decade, while Del Harris won in 1987 and 1989. Paul Gregory, Phil Whitlock, Stephen Meads, Mark Cairns, Simon Parke and Paul Johnson all won the title once during the 1990s, with Peter Marshall winning it twice, while Peter Nicol won the first of his two titles, the other coming in 2003.
Martine Le Moignan won the women’s event in 1991, with Suzanne Horner and Fiona Geaves also taking victories in the early 1990s. Cassie Campion and Sue Wright also won their first crowns, with the pair then going on to dominate the event into the mid-2000s.
Campion ended her career as the record-holding six-time Nationals champion, following further wins in 1999 and 2000, before winning three straight from 2002 to 2004. Sue Wright claimed her fourth title in 2001, having won the event three times in the 1990s. Tania Bailey then won in 2006, and since then, every woman to have won the tournament has claimed multiple titles at the British Nationals.
Jenny Duncalf and Alison Waters won alternate titles between 2007 and 2010, with Laura Massaro then winning four titles through the 2010s. Waters went on to win her third and fourth titles in 2013 and 2014, with Sarah-Jane Perry claiming her first title in 2015. The Englishwoman is the defending champion, having won the event in 2020. Tesni Evans became the first non-English female winner of the British Nationals, claiming back-to-back victories in 2018 and 2019.
In the men’s event Lee Beachill won three times in the early 2000s, with Scotland’s John White winning in 2004, and he remains the most recent non-English winner of the men’s tournament. Nick Matthew took the title in 2006, and he went on to dominate the event over the next two decades.
He won in 2009 and 2010, before winning the event in seven consecutive years, from 2012 to 2018. James Willstrop claimed his first two Nationals victories in 2007 and 2008, and has gone on to win the most recent two editions of the tournament, in 2019 and 2020, to become a four-time Nationals champion.
Previous Winners – Men
2021 – Joel Makin (WAL)
Previous Winners – Women
2021 – Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG)