Harrogate squash star wins Commonwealth silver

Harrogate squash star wins Commonwealth silver

Harrogate squash star wins Commonwealth silver

First published in Sport

JAMES Willstrop collapsed in his chair, physically and emotionally spent. He had nothing left to give, nothing left to say and no gold medal to show off.

But the scoreline doesn't do justice to the efforts Willstrop made to make the Commonwealth Games squash final, where arch-rival Nick Matthew proved an unstoppable force in a match that went the distance.

Six weeks ago Harrogate's Willstrop was told his career might be over after a scan on his hip, while world champion and fellow Yorkshireman Matthew had also been battling an injury that left his participation in doubt.

This match had more plot lines than a John Le Carre novel and the narrative of a gripping and gruelling game had just as many twists and turns. But there was no happy ending for Willstrop.

It was another silver, to match his medal from four years ago at Delhi 2010, and another defeat to Matthew - who he hasn't beaten in a top level match since December 2007.

"I have to put things in perspective, especially given what happened over the last month," said Willstrop. "You can’t really be upset with a performance like that.

“There is a twinge of disappointment and I’ll think what if but I left everything on the court. I went for shots, made some errors and I might live to rue them but I gave everything. “The pressure was more on him in some ways as he hasn’t lost to me in such a long time. We’ve had some antagonistic matches but in the end there is mutual respect despite us being very different characters.

“He was very humble at the end as he usually is after matches – he’s always sincere, which is easy to do when he beats you but in fairness he’s won the match. He was saying some good things about how we’ve both been through a tough few weeks.

“Nick was clearly not at his peak physically – maybe I’m not either but I’m probably better than him as I haven’t been on the operating table. But there’s nothing more if you give every point your maximum effort.”

Perhaps in time Willstrop and Matthew will realise how their careers have been so entwined and will forge a friendship of sorts, much like Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe have managed, though many years after they both retired.

"It’s not harder to lose to him than anybody else, if anything it’s less so because I haven’t had a good record against him," added Willstrop.

"The relationship between us is always going to be a bit strained as we’re very different. We have to deal with each other a lot and it’s fine – it’s not like we hit each other with cricket bats, we’re civil.

"I don’t know what it will take to beat him – that’s elusive for me. I’ve got an idea of how my strengths can negate him but I’ve got to be in great shape to achieve that."

Commonwealth Games England (CGE) leads and manages the participation of the Team England at the Commonwealth Games and Commonwealth Youth Games. We work with sports, Sponsors and Sport England to support the development of athletes and their sports, and to achieve success at Games-time.

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