Yorkshire’s James Willstrop, the top English male on the PSA Tour, says that he is looking forward to competing over a best-of-three games format when he lines up at the Citigold Wealth Management Canary Wharf Squash Classic.
Willstrop, 35, won the inaugural Canary Wharf Squash Classic back in 2004 and has been virtually ever present at the PSA World Tour Gold event since then, adding a further three titles to his collection, while he has recorded seven final appearances.
The Canary Wharf Classic has been a hotbed of innovation down the years, with developments such as video referees and the one-referee system currently in use on the tour being tested at the tournament. This year’s event will see a best-of-three games format trialled up to and including the quarter-finals for a second successive year. The semi-finals and final then revert to a best of five format.
Willstrop is a fan of the format and believes the format will help the sport appeal to a new audience.
“I’m very for it. I’m not saying the whole game needs to change to best of three, I don’t know whether that’s the right thing at all, but every sport seems to have different formats and I think cricket is a great example.
“New and innovative formats have really helped the game appeal to a different set of people, and I think that we would be very silly not to keep doing it as an idea. I’m also along the traditionalist line a little bit, I think squash is a wonderful game for finding people out over the course of a long match.
“There’s still that side of it, but I don’t know whether it’s the be all and end all, and there’s a big argument for and against best of three. But I loved it last year at Canary Wharf, it was a great tournament and it worked really well.
“I’d love to see it some areas, maybe it’s a different tour, a different part of the tour, or maybe just one or two tournaments. Who knows what it will end up being, but I think it’s worth pursuing.”
Tickets for the Citigold Wealth Management Canary Wharf Classic sold out in just four weeks, and the packed crowds at London East Wintergarden results in a crackling atmosphere – one which Willstrop says is one of the best on the PSA Tour.
“I love the atmosphere and I’m a big fan of [Tournament Director] Tim Garner, I love his tournaments and he’s a great guy to work with. His events are always a pleasure and he puts on an amazing event at Canary Wharf.
“It’s got a special place for me, I played the first one when it was best of seven games. I love it and it’s just a brilliant atmosphere, people have a few drinks at the top and get really into it, they shout and cheer and thats what we want as players, it’s really good.”
Willstrop gets his tournament under way against Egypt’s Mazen Hesham in round one, and is drawn on the same side of the draw as defending champion Mohamed ElShorbagy and World Championship runner-up Tarek Momen.
World No.5 Simon Rösner is seeded second, and he is predicted to meet New Zealand’s World No.7 Paul Coll in the semi-finals.