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Willstrop Wows

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Selby continues winning week

James Willstrop was head shaking brilliant in his 3-0 victory over fellow Englishman Peter Barker in the quarterfinals of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions in Grand Central Terminal. “I played really well,” said the world’s top ranked-squash player, massively understating the extraordinary quality of his play. “I was pretty close to being in the zone.”

Willstrop started especially strong, jumping out to a 6-1 lead in the first game and a 6-2 lead in the second, winning the games with seeming ease, 11-3,11-4. His pinpoint accuracy never wavered, whether he was hitting the ball tight on the rail, or volleying a deft drop shot. Barker had a momentary surge in the third game when he snagged a 5-3 lead, but it was short lived. After going ahead 7-5, Willstrop allowed Barker only two more points before winning the game 11-6.

“He controlled every aspect of the match,” said Barker. “James showed tonight why he is the number one player in the world. He has set the bar very high for the rest of us.” The world #1 moniker is new for Willstrop, having achieved the status at the beginning of the month. “It can be a double edged sword,” says Willstrop. “Of course, as an athlete this is what you strive for, but once it is achieved, the expectations can be quite high. It gives you a bit of lift, but you still have to continue to do all the things that got you to number one. Ultimately, it doesn’t mean anything unless you win tomorrow.”

Tomorrow for Willstrop is a semifinal contest with Daryl Selby, who defeated the tournament’s wunderkind Marwan Shorbagy 11-8,11-8,11-8. The 18-year-old World Junior champion finally ran out of gas against his more experienced opponent whose strategy was to capitalize on the fact that El Shorbagy was playing his fourth match of the tournament and had been pushed to the limit in his five-game battle with Tom Richards the night before.” In the first game and a half especially, I tried to make the rallies long and hard,” said the delighted Englishman after the match, whose efforts resulted in his first ever trip to the semifinals of major PSA event. “This has been a really great week,” said the world’s number 11- ranked player, referring to his opening round defeat of fourth seed Karim Darwish, “I have managed to make that win against a top ranked player really mean something by getting to the semis.”

Results

[2] James Willstrop (ENG) bt. [6] Peter Barker (ENG) 11-4,11-3,11-6
43 mins

Daryl Selby bt. [Q] Mohamed El Shorbagy 11-8,11-8,11-8
44 mins.

Schedule of play Tuesday, January 24, 2012

6:45 PM – [1] Nick Matthew (ENG) v. [7] Mohamed El Shorbagy (EGY)

7:45 PM – [3] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v. [5] Amr Shabana (EGY)