Perfect day for hosts England on Day Two
Birmingham 2022 hosts England enjoyed a dream start in their bid to capture Commonwealth Games medals on home court after every member of the England Squash team picked up victories in straight games in round two at the University of Birmingham Hockey and Squash Centre.
Former World No.1 James Willstrop was one of the stories of the 2018 Games when won a singles gold at the fourth attempt and the 38-year-old made the ideal start to his title defence today.
After receiving a first round bye alongside his England teammates yesterday, Willstrop was at his crowd-pleasing best against Gibraltar’s Christian Navas, putting on a typically smooth display to put away the 44-year-old.
Willstrop – who will play Nasir Iqbal tomorrow after the Pakistani’s compatriot 9/16 seed Tayyab Aslam was forced to withdraw through injury during their match – will be joined by all of his teammates tomorrow after No.2 seed Sarah-Jane Perry beat Jade Pitcairn, 3/4 seed Georgina Kennedy eased past Yemeni Kuruppu, and 5/8 seed Lucy Turmel beat Amity Alarcos in the women’s draw, while 3/4 seed Patrick Rooney and 5/8 seed Adrian Waller beat Julian Jervis and Jake Kelly.
Paul Coll, Willstrop’s opponent in the 2018 final, was also involved for the first time today as the top seed and World No.2 breezed past Niall Engerer of Malta.
“It was good fun. I’ve never played him before and it’s nice to play someone new. It was a great and clean match and he’s got great skills.
“It’s amazing seeing the New Zealand supporters. It’s my favourite time of year playing for New Zealand.”
Joelle King, Coll’s fellow Kiwi and top seed counterpart in the women’s draw, also went into her match, which was the first of the day on the show court and despatched Botswana’s Leungo Katse in 15 minutes.
Today also saw Rachael Grinham became the first Australian woman to compete in six Commonwealth Games as she went down to compatriot and 9/16 seed Donna Lobban.
he 45-year-old, who has won eight Commonwealth Games medals since she appeared at squash’s Commonwealth Games debut in Kuala Lumpur 1998, went into today’s match with a 5-5 head-to-head record versus Lobban, though Lobban had won the last three encounters.
It initially appeared that Grinham was going to write a fairytale and reverse this trend as she took a hard-fought first game 11-6 to the delight of the crowd.
Lobban, however, never looked flustered and levelled with an 11-4 win in the second game before taking the match with two 11-7s.
Afterwards, Lobban said: “It’s definitely bittersweet. We were gutted we had to play each other because we wanted to beat someone else! I have so much respect for Rachael as a teammate and a friend.
“She’s been World No.1 and World Champ and I was lucky enough to grow up looking up to her and with her inspiring me.”