Former World No.1 and three-time runner-up James Willstrop produced a sublime mix of accuracy and skill to defeat World No.6 Tarek Momen in the opening round of the 2016 Allam British Open, PSA World Series tournament being held in Hull.
Momen motored to victory in game one with the Egyptian storming to a 9-2 lead which laid the foundations for a comfortable start to the game.
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However, Willstrop responded magnificently in the second and third games with his incredible precision playing up to the nickname ‘The Marksman’ as he repelled Momen’s attempts to dominate the ’T’ with some expertly-placed volley drops. He built up a 7-3 lead in the second and an 8-1 lead in the third and didn’t relinquish either as he opened up a 2-1 advantage as Momen’s movement slowed.
The fourth game was the most competitive of them all with high-octane rallies sending each player into all four corners of the court with regularity as the action reached a fever pitch. Willstrop managed to go up a gear in the latter stages of the game and his excellence was rewarded with an 5-11, 11-4, 11-6, 11-7 victory to send him through to the next round and continue his recent form after he won the Wimbledon Open last week.
“It was a brutal first round match.” said Willstrop.
“These tough first rounds keep getting thrown up and it doesn’t make it very easy but you need to beat anyone at any time anyway. I approached it like a final because it’s such a tough game against Tarek. I put everything into it and I managed to pull out a performance because I had to play as well as I could today.
“To beat him 3-1 is a great result and hope it will give me confidence to go and play in the second round.”
Up next for Willstrop is a rematch with the man who knocked him out of last year’s tournament, World No.1 Mohamed Elshorbagy.
Willstrop was the victor at the pair’s most recent fixture, a quarter-final fixture in November’s World Championship. With qualification for the Dubai PSA World Series Finals entering its final stage, Willstrop, who sits 55 places adrift of a place amongst the top eight, may need another herculean victory over the world’s leading player if he is to stand any chance of making it to Dubai.
“I’m just thrilled and very happy to be able to play a big match again against Mohamed,” he said.
“I’m sure he is at the top of his game and he is the top player in the world. I can just go in there and give it as best a shot as I can. I feel like I’m in decent shape and, if I can beat Tarek, then I’m in good form so I’m happy with the shape I’m in.
“I played him here last year but things are different now. I’m in much better shape, even than I was a few months ago. I have to be confident, try to enjoy it and try to put in a performance. Hopefully with the performance comes winning games and matches.
“Qualifying for the World Series Finals is a long shot but I would love to be there. That’s not quite in the forefront of my mind because I don’t think it always helps things if you have too many targets floating around in your head. I’m just thinking about the target of getting through, resting well and playing well against Mohamed
“If I start thinking about the World Series Finals then I know that I will almost have to win this event and win in El Gouna. I just don’t think that’s a goal that needs to be at the forefront of my mind even though it is probably doable. I have to just think day-to-day at the moment.”
Result – First Round: Men’s Allam British Open 2016
James Willstrop (ENG) bt Tarek Momen (EGY) 3-1: 5-11, 11-4, 11-6, 11-7 (46m)