It’s Finals Day in Manchester : SJ Perry beats Gina Kennedy for a third title, Joel Makin bets Adrian Waller to become the first Welsh men’s winner …
England’s Sarah-Jane Perry and Welshman Joel Makin were victorious on finals night at the National Squash Centre in Manchester, with the pair claiming the 2021 British National Championships titles.
Perry, the World No.6, defended the British National crown she claimed last year, with her third victory overall in the tournament, six years after she took her first back in 2015.
She came up against the in-form Georgina Kennedy, who was featuring in her first Nationals final, but had lost just one of her last 28 matches on the PSA World Tour, winning five titles in the process.
From there, though, Perry’s experience shone through. She moved slightly further up towards the ’T’ and that was key, as she was able to get in front of Kennedy and that saw her hold the advantage. She won the next three games quite comfortably to secure her third Nationals title, putting her alongside Martine Le Moignan, who also won this event three times during her career.
“I had to give myself a team talk every rally today. The one beforehand clearly didn’t give me a kick up the bum enough, she started like a rocket as you’d expect and she caught me out with so many short balls in that first game, where I hit ok shots but she was fearless in attacking it,” the now three-time champion said.
“She’s playing really well, I had to really force myself up the court today and it’s not something I’ve done amazingly well over my whole career but I know it’s better when I do. I felt a bit sluggish and a bit tired today but I knew I had to do that and I’m really pleased I managed to cover the short balls and get on the volley more.
“It’s not too much of a secret that I almost didn’t play this week. I was struggling a bit with a niggle in my knee, not the one that was a problem yesterday, the other one! But it cleared up just in time and it’s a special title, so I really wanted to come and defend it and I’m glad I did. Some of my family have come today, my mum is a little unwell so she couldn’t make it, but my dad, my partner and my god-kids are all here, so they were my coaches in between games. If you add their IQs together then you get about double Rob’s [Owen]!
“Last few points, I was just saying ‘push, push’. If I can inspire any of these kids that are watching, I’ve got to leave everything out there, so that’s what I was thinking about towards the end.”
Kennedy said: “It’s been a really good week for me. Always disappointed to lose but I have to give credit to SJ because she made me really uncomfortable on the court today and I didn’t really have an answer for how she was playing, so it’s thoroughly deserved.
“I can’t have any complaints about my week, it’s the first time I’ve played Nationals since 2016 before I went off to Uni, so if you had of told me a few months ago, I would’ve been standing here in the final – I’d have taken that all day long. Thank you to everyone for putting this event on.”
The men’s event was always destined to have a first-time winner etched into its history, as both Joel Makin and Adrian Waller were aiming to win their maiden British Nationals crown.
The Welshman had come through the tournament without dropping a game, while Waller had had to battle his way through two brutal five-gamers to make this stage, against Patrick Rooney and George Parker.
That freshness helped Makin in his bid for the title, and once he had claimed the first game 11-7, it was plain sailing for the World No.10, as he restricted Waller to just three points over the next two games, to complete a dominant and history-making performance.
“The last time I got through to the final it was a tough loss for me. It gave me a lot to go away with and work on, so I wanted to come into this week and put that right. It was before lockdown and COVID, so I had a lot of time to think about it and turn things around. I really wanted to come here, play well and put in a solid and professional performance and 3-0 – I was happy with that for sure,” the Welshman said.
“I like to out position people, that’s the part of the sport I like. Taking a lot of pace through the middle, volleying and taking early and working people – that’s what I enjoy about it and that’s how I like to play. I got that right this week.
“You could look at last year as being the first final that I’d made, but I wasn’t looking at it like that, I wasn’t happy with it. James [Willstrop] put together a brilliant performance and you have to take that on the chin, he played quality and he exposed some of my qualities but it gave me time to go away and work on it and that’s what you need sometimes.
“It’s exciting having squash back in the UK, especially with a proper crowd and hopefully it grows over the next few weeks. We enjoy it as professional players, it’s been a tough year for everyone and we’ve spent a lot of time in Egypt but we enjoy playing the UK events, so I’m looking forward to it and I should be sharp for next week.”
Waller said: “I’m quite proud with how I battled through this week. The last two matches were really long and really hard, finished late last night, so I’m pretty proud to come through those first three matches but today was probably one match too far and Joel was too strong.
“Otherwise, happy to be back playing and feeling stronger and just going to try and kick on from here in the next few weeks. Try to work forward from here.”