World's top two squash players James Willstrop and Nick Matthew begin British Open bid

 

James Willstrop is in the form of his life; Nick Matthew is defending champion and aiming for a third title.

The world's top two players begin their British Open bid at the 02 in London today and recent history suggests that one of these two Yorkshiremen will be in the final come Sunday.

British squash has never had it so good. Yet the sport continues to be shunned by the International Olympic Committee and will play no part at London 2012. That's a shame as far as medals go: the last time either Willstrop or Matthew failed to make a World Series final came 13 tournaments ago in November 2010.

The pair have been drawn apart at the British Open, which returns to the capital for the first time since Jahangir and Jansher Khan dominated the event up until the mid Nineties.

Willstrop, who lost to Matthew in an energy-sapping two-hour British Open final in 2009, is top seed for the first time. His rise to world No 1 also makes a mockery of how he felt in February last year when the 28-year-old came close to quitting the sport.

In a new book - Shot and a Ghost, which charts a “brutal” year on the world circuit and written by the player himself - Willstrop admits he was “too far gone” after constant travelling.

After an early exit at the British National Championships, he writes: “I have lost the love of playing that I had as a child. Every match is preceded by build-up and tension, constant thinking and dissecting.

”The heart races in anticipation and I spend hours wasting energy dealing with nerves. It's taken its toll.“

Now, on the eve of the sport's oldest tournament, he is in fine fettle. ”It has been fairly incredible,“ said Willstrop, who has reached the last seven world tour finals in a row, winning four of them. ”It also looks good with two English players, let alone Yorkshire, at the top.

“Nick and I have already played a lot of finals and it feels like it could be a year where we do the same again. It is a great challenge and an exciting one too.”

Willstrop, though, will have to cope with Egypt's Ramy Ashour in the top half of the draw. Regarded as the finest racket player of his generation, Ashour is fresh from a hamstring injury and seeded to meet Willstrop in the semi-finals.

Meanwhile, Matthew, the double world champion, will become the first Englishman to win three titles in the tournament's 83-year history with another victory.

“The manner in which I won in 2009, after my shoulder surgery in 2008, was memorable and I would dearly love to get my hands on the trophy,” said the 31-year-old. “All of this year's training has been building up to this event.”

'Shot and a Ghost: a year in the brutal world of professional squash' is available from www.willstrop.co.uk, priced £9.99.

News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Extras
indybest
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
travel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Sport
football
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home