Whitlock and Evans despatch top seeds as Willstrop and Selby set up final showdown
The fifth day of the AJ Bell National Squash Championships in Nottingham produced two semi-final seeding upsets in the women’s event while the men’s top seeds battled through to the final.
The #3 seed, appearing in just her second Nationals semi compared to Waters’ 14th consecutive appearance, finished the first game better to take the lead 11-7 and then recovered from 2-7 to 9-all in the second before Waters levelled 12-10.
In the next two games the Colwyn Bay based Whitlock fired in winner after winner and Waters – despite requesting a change of ball for the fourth – could find no answer as Whitlocked stormed through 11-3, 11-2 to reach a first final.
“So I’m not surprised that I played like that, I knew I had it in me.
“I thought I had a chance to take the second but once I got back to 9-all she played two good rallies, so I thought just treat it like a best of three and go one up. She requested a change of ball for the fourth but I thought it will be just like the old one, keep going and play one more good game.”
“Delighted to be in the final, I was in the semis two years ago and a lot of things went wrong, so to come back now and get through feels great.”
Top seed Laura Massaro took on defending champion Tesni Evans, the third seed, in a repeat of their semi-finals of 2016 and 2018, which were shared.
Massaro held a slight advantage through the first as she took the lead 11-8 but Evans stormed back to take the second 11-1.
Both players were showing their fighting spirit, but it was Evans who made the recoveries, fighting back from 2-4 down in the third and 4-8 down in the fourth to claim them 11-7, 11-8 and book a return to the final.
“Laura is one of the toughest players you can meet, it’s always a right battle and today was no different.” said a delighted Tesni.
“At 4-8 in the th I was thinking about the fifth but managed to push through.
“I’m just happy to be in the final and looking forward to another great match.”four
The first men’s semi saw a third consecutive comeback five-game win for Daryl Selby as the second seed maintained his unbeaten record against Adrian Waller, playing in his 3rd semi compared to Selby’s 8th.
Waller took the first two games 11-8, 11-6 and it looked as though Selby’s previous exertions might be taking their toll.
But the 2011 champion fought back, again, taking the third 11-7 then recovering from 2-5 in the fourth to level 11-5.
With both players getting frustrated with some of the refereeing decisions, the calls went against Waller in the fifth as Selby forged ahead, eventually winning 11-6 with three consecutive stroke decisions.
“Very happy to get through, it’s not been an easy route!” said Daryl.
“Adrian outplayed me in the first two, I managed to see a few cracks in the third and rolled with the momentum.
“We were both getting a few calls we didn’t like, me earlier in the match and he got the worse of it at the end. I feel for him, he’s come close to reaching the final a few times, but I’ll take the chance of winning this prestigious title again.
“I need to get some good recovery in, but I’ll be giving all I’ve got.”
Top seed James Willstrop had been in sparkling form in his first two matches, winning both in under half an hour, but Greg Lobban, the first Scot to reach the semis for 12 years, gave the two-time champion a real test.
Lobban recovered from a 5-1 deficit to take the first 11-9, and then from 7-10 in the second to force extra points.
Had he taken that the outcome might have been different,but Willstrop levelled 12-10 and them made Lobban work very hard in the third, which Willstrop took 11-6, and the writing was on the wall for the Scot, Willstrop easing through the fourth 11-3 to reach his 10th Nationals final.
“Greg played really well in the first two,” said James, “I couldn’t break him down and he stopped me from getting chances to attack. It opened up later and I managed to get myself in front, but I had to stay with it in that period and stay alert to the end.
“It’s a big title to win, so to have another chance, and to be playing well at this crucial time of the season is a bonus. Daryl has had a hard route through but he’s always a tough opponent and I’m sure we’ll both be giving everything we have tomorrow.”
The finals start at 15.00 on Sunday.