Willstrop staying focused on singles challenge

from England Squash & Racketball

James Willstrop will be focusing on his own game this week and no one else’s as he attempts to add to his Commonwealth Games medal collection in the men’s singles squash tournament in Glasgow.

With England team-mate and top seed Nick Matthew having had the preparations for his title defence disrupted by a knee injury, the temptation might have been for Willstrop to think his gold medal chances had improved.

SH7426However, the 30-year-old world no.6, who lost to Matthew in the 2010 Commonwealth final, firmly quashed that idea.

He said: “I don’t think about how it might affect my chances. I’m just trying to stay relaxed and balanced. Obviously I will be trying to win and I’ve been working hard to be in great shape, but I’m intent on enjoying it.

“Nick has had injuries in the past and come back very quickly. He’s a very shrewd trainer and knows what he’s doing. He’s got the right team behind him and wouldn’t play if he couldn’t. If his knee holds up, I’m sure he will be in good shape.

“You just have to concentrate on what you’re doing and staying injury-free, as all sorts of things can happen in a week.

“I’ve had my breaks here and there because of sports injuries, so I wish Nick well. It’s a horrible thing to be injured.”

Willstrop’s preparations for his third Games took in a trip to Dubai last week for a late-night exhibition match against Egypt’s Ramy Ashour, which he won 3/0.

SH7422“It was nice to get some match practice,” the second seed from Yorkshire explained. “It wasn’t about the result; it was just about getting into the routine of a match again.”

He is now looking forward to a first Games on British soil after mixed memories of his first two, in 2006 in Melbourne and Delhi four years ago.

“Melbourne was particularly special,” he recalled. “It was a wonderful place to have a Commonwealth Games, as the Aussies really got behind it. I particularly remember the crowds outside the squash centre stretching miles back before the quarter-finals. You don’t get that for a tour event.

SH7424“In Delhi there was a lot of media scrutiny because of the dengue fever outbreak, but it was still a very enjoyable Games.

“From what I’m hearing about Glasgow, they are also making a pretty big deal of it, as some of the top athletes will be there this time. The anticipation is high and the excitement is high – everything is going to be top class!”

Willstrop is particularly looking forward to the men’s doubles, where he is seeded three with Essex’s Daryl Selby.

“I’m excited about our chances,” said the former world no.1, a silver medallist in the 2006 mixed with Vicky Botwright. “We’ve been going pretty well in practice and we both have a lot of experience of big events, which hopefully will help us.”

from England Squash & Racketball